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18 July 2011


Lots to report from the last month – first we’ll look at the Status of the Navy.  Unfortunately, that great graphic we were presenting has been stopped by the powers-that-are because of security concerns.   

This issue continues with “ALL HANDS ON DECK”, a few articles covering the need for naval power and recent “discussions” surrounding the Navy budget and carrier construction.  ALL HANDS! –   we need to be involved.  We need to carry our mission …to educate and encourage an interest among the general public as to the importance of Naval Aviation in the defense of the United States and its allies….” to every place and every person.  It is vital that we educate the American people as to how the security of our Nation depends on a strong Navy and Marine Corps and Coast Guard centered on the myriad facets of Naval Aviation.  Current combat operations are proving that daily and, while we do not know from whence will come the next threats to our security, we do know that Naval Aviation will be on scene wherever in the world it may be needed, ready for whatever it must meet.  Tell your friends, your neighbors, your local representatives, your Congressmen - they must resist any actions that will weaken Naval Aviation. 

After ALL HANDS, there are quite a few articles on F-35 – lots of news as the programs continues to make progress.  Finally, the latest “Executing the Maritime Strategy” and Air Plan #18 round out this issue.



Reunions and Information Requested

All Hands on Deck!!

The Oldest and the Newest


The Last A-3

F-35 News

Executing the Maritime Strategy 7 July 2011 and AIR PLAN  #18 July 2011


Each title above  is a hyperlink.  Use the CTRL key and click on the link to go to the article.

Status of the Navy July 18, 2011

Navy Personnel

Active Duty:   328,744

Officers:   53,620

Enlisted:   270,521

Midshipmen:   4,603

Ready Reserve:   101,527 [As of 11 Apr 2011 ]

Selected Reserves: 65,112

Individual Ready Reserve: 36,415

Reserves currently mobilized:   5,007 [As of 05 Jul 2011]

Personnel on deployment:   46,235

Navy Department Civilian Employees:   204,271


Ships and Submarines

Deployable Battle Force Ships: 284

Ships Underway (away from homeport): 132 ships (46% of total)

On deployment: 116 ships (40% of total)

Attack submarines underway (away from homeport): 30 subs (56%)

On deployment: 14 subs (26%)

Ships Underway


              USS Dwight Eisenhower (CVN 69) - Atlantic Ocean

              USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) - Pacific Ocean

              USS George Washington (CVN 73) - 7th Fleet

              USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - 5th Fleet

              USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) - 5th Fleet

Amphibious Warfare Ships:

              USS Wasp (LHD 1) - Atlantic Ocean

              USS Boxer (LHD 4) - 5th Fleet

              USS Bataan (LHD 5) - Mediterranean Sea

Aircraft (operational): 3700+




The Jacksonville BALD EAGLES Squadron is trying to find anyone that was in VF-9 in USS LEXINGTON in 1945.  If that’s you or you know of someone who was, please contact Dutch at


A VP-24 reunion will be held at the Jacksonville Riverfront Crowne Plaza in Jacksonville Florida
November 3rd through November 6th 2011.  This is the weekend of the NAS JAX Airshow featuring the Blue Angels.

Contact Jim Burris, 8342 Chessman Court, Jacksonville, FL 32244

Phone:  (904) 778-8507



HC-7 REUNION  22 April 2011 Tucson, AZ.  Details on the Sea Devils web site at   If you need additional information please contact

The rescue log is at if you want to see which of our friends & associates they have picked up over the years.





The Necessity of U.S. Naval Power


Our maritime forces provide an unmatched advantage.


All our citizens, and especially our servicemen and women, expect and deserve a thorough review of critical security decisions. After all, decisions today will affect the nation's strategic position for future generations.

The future security environment underscores two broad security trends. First, international political realities and the internationally agreed-to sovereign rights of nations will increasingly limit the sustained involvement of American permanent land-based, heavy forces to the more extreme crises. This will make offshore options for deterrence and power projection ever more paramount in support of our national interests.

Second, the naval dimensions of American power will re-emerge as the primary means for assuring our allies and partners, ensuring prosperity in times of peace, and countering anti-access, area-denial efforts in times of crisis. We do not believe these trends will require the dismantling of land-based forces, as these forces will remain essential reservoirs of power. As the United States has learned time and again, once a crisis becomes a conflict, it is impossible to predict with certainty its depth, duration and cost.

That said, the U.S. has been shrinking its overseas land-based installations, so the ability to project power globally will make the forward presence of naval forces an even more essential dimension of American influence.

What we do believe is that uniquely responsive Navy-Marine Corps capabilities provide the basis on which our most vital overseas interests are safeguarded. Forward presence and engagement is what allows the U.S. to maintain awareness, to deter aggression, and to quickly respond to threats as they arise. Though we clearly must be prepared for the high-end threats, such preparation should be made in balance with the means necessary to avoid escalation to the high end in the first place.

The versatility of maritime forces provides a truly unmatched advantage. The sea remains a vast space that provides nearly unlimited freedom of maneuver. Command of the sea allows for the presence of our naval forces, supported from a network of shore facilities, to be adjusted and scaled with little external restraint. It permits reliance on proven capabilities such as prepositioned ships.

Maritime capabilities encourage and enable cooperation with other nations to solve common sea-based problems such as piracy, illegal trafficking, proliferation of W.M.D., and a host of other ills, which if unchecked can harm our friends and interests abroad, and our own citizenry at home. The flexibility and responsiveness of naval forces provide our country with a general strategic deterrent in a potentially violent and unstable world. Most importantly, our naval forces project and sustain power at sea and ashore at the time, place, duration, and intensity of our choosing.

Given these enduring qualities, tough choices must clearly be made, especially in light of expected tight defense budgets. The administration and the Congress need to balance the resources allocated to missions such as strategic deterrence, ballistic missile defense, and cyber warfare with the more traditional ones of sea control and power projection. The maritime capability and capacity vital to the flexible projection of U.S. power and influence around the globe must surely be preserved, especially in light of available technology. Capabilities such as the Joint Strike Fighter will provide strategic deterrence, in addition to tactical long-range strike, especially when operating from forward-deployed naval vessels.

Postured to respond quickly, the Navy-Marine Corps team integrates sea, air, and land power into adaptive force packages spanning the entire spectrum of operations, from everyday cooperative security activities to unwelcome—but not impossible—wars between major powers. This is exactly what we will need to meet the challenges of the future.

Mr. England is a former secretary of the Navy. Mr. Jones is a former commandant of the Marine Corps. Mr. Clark is a former chief of naval operations.




Rep. Forbes: Navy May Nix One Aircraft Carrier And Delay Another

Navy officials are considering removing one aircraft carrier from its plans as the Pentagon trims its budgets, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said Tuesday.

As the Defense Department and other national security agencies prepare to cut $400 billion over 10 years — and perhaps more — each military service will be asked to shrink its budgets.

It remains unclear just how much the Navy will be directed to cut from its annual budget.

During a House Armed Services Committee Readiness subcommittee hearing, Forbes said cuts of those sizes concern him. The potential ramifications on the sea service's fleet could be big, he said.

Forbes noted Navy officials are considering delaying buying the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) by two years, which was first reported by Defense News this month.

Then Forbes said he has heard the Navy also is considering stripping another future carrier from its long-term shipbuilding plan. That eyebrow-raising remark likely will send ripple waves across the Defense community

Lawmakers from districts and states that are home to U.S. carriers and their related industries are likely to make a lot of noise if such plans are included in the sea service's 2013 budget plan.

Two senior admirals testifying at the session did not directly respond to Forbes's questions about either alleged change in aircraft carrier plans.

The aircraft carrier JFK is expected to cost around $10.3 billion, according to a recent Congressional Research Service study. The following aircraft carrier, CVN-80, is slated for delivery in 2018 with a projected cost of around $13.5 billion, according to CRS.

While the services will do everything possible to spare hardware platforms, big-ticket items like aircraft carriers can produce big savings quickly. But, notably, ones that are planned could also be added back in down the road.



The 95,000-ton elephant in the room

The 95,000-ton elephant in the room

By Philip Ewing
Posted in DOD Buzz

Has the Obama administration put the Navy’s future aircraft carriers on Washington’s proverbial “table” as part of the high-stakes, long-term budget negotiations?

“Your guess on that is as good as mine,” said Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, the Republican chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee. But Forbes warns that where there’s smoke, there could be fire: “We know that there have been these rumors circulating out there, which they didn’t deny, and they told us they’re going to give us confirmation on that. They’ve already stretched the carrier build time to five years, so they could stretch it to seven years, or they may be thinking of doing away with one of the carriers altogether … Nobody came back and said, ‘oh we’re not going to do that unless we do a threat assessment’ — it sounded to me like an acknowledgement that, yep, we can put that on the table.”

“They” were two top Navy officials, Vice Adm. Bill Burke and Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, who appeared Tuesday before Forbes’ committee to talk about the Navy’s plans to reverse the degradation of its surface fleet. Admirals and generals don’t like to step “outside their lane” — least of all when talking to Congress — so neither witness responded to Forbes’ questions about carriers. But they also didn’t say, ‘Give up one or more carriers? No frickin’ way, bro!”

Forbes and other Virginia lawmakers have a huge stake in whatever happens on this carrier question — billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in Hampton Roads depend on Navy shipbuilding . But if the Pentagon or the White House think that delaying or deleting future ships can make the numbers work out in a deal with Republicans, they might hold their noses and make that deal, given all the unique implications here:

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding is the only yard in the country that can build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and although it would be hurt by delays or cancellations in new aircraft carriers, it would not close. The yard also builds submarines, and does the refueling and complex overhauls on the Navy’s existing carriers, halfway through their service lives. If the Navy changed its long-term carrier plans as part of a budget deal, and then America becomes prosperous again in a few years, DoD could try to change its shipbuilding program back again, betting that Newport News could survive the interim and then get back to full steam building supercarriers.

How would Congress respond to such a proposal? In short, it would go bonkers, as would the many devotees of aircraft carriers whose legendary ferocity has helped safeguard the big ships from budgeteers for so long. But in Austerity America, there are no good choices, and you could even argue that the Navy would be getting a good deal, since it would keep its existing carriers and air wings, rather than losing those too. The fleet would have to stretch the units it has even more, but the U.S. wouldn’t lose much of its ability to project power.

All or none of this could be real, and people always talk about carrier cuts as a possibility around budget time — for years, many Navy-watchers were convinced that then-Secretary Gates would support big fleet reductions after he questioned the need for 11 carriers. But it never happened. The question today is whether this is just another scare or whether the dire U.S. fiscal situation means it’s a serious possibility.


Pentagon May Change Carrier, SSBN(X) Plans

Jul 14, 2011

Top of Form


By Michael Fabey
WASHINGTON U.S. Defense Department is considering delaying, cutting back or canceling planned future aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines to meet its budget-reduction mandates, says U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Northrop Grumman concept

 “We’re looking at all the options,” Cartwright said July 14 following a Defense Writers Group breakfast interview session.

Cartwright acknowledges the Pentagon is considering delaying deliveries of the proposed next-generation Ford-class carriers — or even more severe options such as canceling one of the carriers and reducing the overall carrier fleet size.

Further, he acknowledges, the Pentagon is mulling whether to cancel the proposed SSBN(X) ballistic missile submarine replacement and instead use a more “evolutionary” approach by elongating SSN Virginia-class attack subs.

“It’s certainly something that’s being considered,” he says. “Nothing is off the table.”

The Pentagon is “relooking” at its overall strategy to determine not only how carriers, for example, can be used, but what types of other ships or assets could be employed or deployed with what kind of capability and at what cost, Cartwright says.

Referring to Cartwright’s comments, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Danny Hernandez said, “Specific details and discussions are pre-decisional and part of program objective memorandum (POM) 13.”

While none of these ideas are particularly new, they seem to be getting much greater traction as Defense Department officials struggle to make deeper budget cuts than they had thought they would have to.

Some analysts started to question whether the Pentagon should more seriously consider cutting the aircraft carrier fleet when the Defense Department started to rely more on large-deck amphibious ships in recent conflicts and disaster-relief missions that normally would have been tasked to carriers (Aerospace DAILY, July 14).

Plans to use Virginia-class subs for ballistic missile missions date back nearly to the sub’s inception, but the idea seemed to be more or less abandoned as the nation decided to use larger D5 missiles that essentially are incompatible with the vessel’s design, analysts say.

However, as naval analyst and author Norman Polmar notes in a July article for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings magazine, the Virginia could be redesigned for a missile compartment and related fire-control and berthing spaces to carry 12 or more Trident C4-sized missiles.

The redesigned Virginia would cost about $3.5 billion, Polmar says, compared with the SSBN(X) vessel slated to cost between $5 billion and $7 billion per vessel — provided the design and building of the new class plays out as planned.

“Most important,” Polmar writes, “the actual cost of building a Virginia-class SSN is a known factor, while the current SSBN(X) cost estimate is ephemeral, at best.”

Further, Polmar contends, it would be better to supplement the boomer fleet now with the redesigned Virginias while working a truly modern ballistic missile sub design that would be much more survivable given the threats likely to exist in the latter part of this century.



Oldest and Newest

The Navy's oldest aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), right, passes the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).


 110621-N-JL826-002 RED SEA (June 21, 2011) The Navy's oldest aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), right, passes the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), during a transit of the Strait of Bab el Mandeb. George H.W. Bush arrives in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to take over operations for Enterprise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr./Released)





R 132141Z JUL 11
UNCLAS //N01650//
ALCOAST 332/11
NC ON 01 OCTOBER 2009.




The Last A-3 Skywarrior

The last Douglas A-3 Skywarrior lands at Pensacola





 “Taking STOVL to a New Level”, a good technically informative video on the F35B by Lockheed Martin can be found at  





FORT WORTH, Texas – Since the last F-35 flight test program update issued March 31, Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] F-35 Lightning II aircraft have conducted 125 test flights, bringing the total number of flights for the year to 331.

Several flight test key milestones were accomplished since the last report:

The F-35 program flew the most flights ever recorded on one day (May 6) when a combined total of eight test flights were completed at all three of its flight test locations. (Edwards AFB, Calif.; Fort Worth, Texas, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.)

The U.S. Air Force accepted into its fleet the first of a planned 1,763 production-model F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters when AF-7 was delivered to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on May 6.  It is the first aircraft from Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lot one delivered.

The first F-35A production aircraft that will be delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., accomplished its first flight on May 6. Known as AF-8, the aircraft will be delivered to Eglin for pilot and maintainer training later this year. This jet is the first aircraft to fly from Low Rate Initial Production lot two.  

The second F-35C carrier variant (CV), known as CF-2 completed, its first flight April 29.  Later this month it is scheduled to be delivered to the F-35 test fleet at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., (PAX).

The program recorded the 300th System Development and Demonstration flight of 2011 on May 6.  

At Edwards, F-35s passed the 250 flight mark of the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant on May 5.  The first test jets, AF-1 and AF-2, arrived there on May 17, 2010.  

Two more F-35B short takeoff /vertical landing (STOVL) jets, BF-3 and BF-4 performed their first vertical landings.  BF-4 flew its mission on Apr. 27 and BF-3 on Apr. 29. STOVL jets have conducted 94 vertical landings to date in 2011. 


The following totals and highlights capture the overall flight test activity since March 31, and cumulative totals for 2011:

F-35A (CTOL) aircraft conducted 57 flights.  In 2011, CTOL jets have flown 146 times.

F-35B (STOVL) aircraft conducted 43 flights.  In 2011, STOVL aircraft have completed 144 flights and 84 vertical landings.

F-35C (CV) aircraft accomplished 25 flights.  In 2011, CV jets have flown 41 times.

From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through Tuesday, F-35s flew 878 times.



Factbox: Key facts about the Pentagon's biggest arms program

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) is developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. military and eight international partners at a projected cost of more than $382 billion, making it the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program. Following are facts about the program:


* The company and subcontractors Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and BAE Systems (BAES.L) are developing three variants of the plane, a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) model for the Air Force; a short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the U.S. Marine Corps and Italy; and one with wider wings for the Navy to use on aircraft carriers.

* The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the conventional model; the Navy will buy 680 of the short takeoff and carrier variants for a total of 2,443 for the U.S. military.

* The foreign partners on the program -- Britain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy and Australia -- will contribute $4.8 billion to the development of the plane, and plan to buy more than 700 production aircraft.

* Israel, the first foreign military sales customer, signed a $2.75 billion preliminary agreement in October 2010 to buy 19 F-35s, with an option for one more. Over time, the country plans to buy about 75 of the fighter jets.

* Other countries interested in the F-35 include Singapore, South Korea, Finland, Spain, Greece and Belgium. Lockheed expects to submit a proposal to the Japanese government this fall as part of that country's new fighter competition.

* The latest Pentagon acquisition report to Congress estimated the average cost of each F-35 fighter to be $110 million in 2002 dollars, including research and development costs, up from the previous estimate of $97 million.

* Excluding development costs, the average price per airplane is estimated to be $91 million, also in 2002 dollars, up from $79 million per plane in December 2009.


* Last week, the Air Force accepted the first production plane, dubbed AF-7, and it was ferried to Edwards Air Force Base in California for testing. The Air Force is expected to accept delivery of a second production plane later this week.

* The U.S. Navy plans to conduct sea trials of the Marine Corps' short-takeoff variant on the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, off the coast of Virginia this October.

* In late June, the carrier variant will begin testing on land of a catapult launching system and a hook that keeps the plane from sliding off the deck of a carrier.

* On May 23, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter and other top defense officials are scheduled to review progress on the F-35 program and an updated independent cost estimate. The military services are also expected to submit revised dates for when they plan to begin using the new planes.

* The new fighter plane has executed 878 of 7,700 planned flight tests since testing began in December 2006. So far this year, the program has done 331 flight tests.


* The F-35 fighter jet is 42 percent built of composite materials. The plane is just over 50 feet long and can travel at a speed of Mach 1.6. The variants have a range of up to 900 to 1,200 nautical miles and carry 15,000 to 18,000 pounds of weapons.

* The Pentagon estimates it will cost about $1 trillion to operate and maintain the three variants over the next 50 years. Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter wants a thorough review of that figure, saying it is not affordable.

* Lockheed officials say the plane's operation and maintenance costs will be about half that of older fighter planes. They say the plane will require half the spares of older planes and about 60 percent less testing equipment.



The F-35 is designed to replace the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 and A-10, the Marines’ AV-8B, F/A-18 and EA-6B, and to complement the Navy’s F/A- 18E/F. DAVID DRAIS/Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company /PRNewsFoto

By D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer    The Tulsa World 

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the Swiss Army knife of combat weapons versatility and lethality.

At $65 million to $112.5 million per aircraft at its drive-the-car-off-the-lot cost and $382 billion in total program costs, the F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program (see "Figuring F-35 costs" on E2).

But at more than twice the price of the newest commercial airliner, the fifth generation fighter may be worth it: more impervious to radar, performing more roles and replacing more aircraft in the nation's arsenal than any aircraft in history, industry and military officials said.

The single-seat, single-engine F-35 is designed to replace the U.S. Air Force's F-16 and A-10, the Marines' AV-8B, F/A-18 and EA-6B, and to complement the Navy's F/A-18E/F.

Its capabilities include conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) for the Air Force, short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) for the Marines, and aircraft carrier-based operations for the Navy.

Its combat missions include ground attack, reconnaissance and air defense - all with stealth or radar-evading capability, Pentagon and industry analysts said.

While the F-35 is a wonder of technological achievement, it is also wonderously expensive, its critics say.

But Richard Aboulafia, vice president of Teal Group, a company in Fairfax, Va., that analyzes the aerospace and defense industry, said the F-35 program's complexity was compounded by its timing: the Defense Department awarded the F-35 program to Lockheed Martin on Oct. 26, 2001 - six weeks after 9/11.

"The (fighter modernization) plan would have worked were it not for Iraq," Aboulafia told "National Guard" magazine last month. "It threw everyone's plans for sustainment for a loop."

Steve Callaghan, director of the F-35 program for Lockheed Martin and former Navy pilot who flew the F-14, F-16 and FA-18, said each of the armed services has different basing requirements for its combat aircraft.

The time may be past when the United States could afford multiple aircraft for the Air Force, Marines and Navy, industry officials say.

"The most efficient and cost-effective way to meet those requirements is to have one program - one airplane with three different variants," Callaghan said. "It's not just the cost of developing three different airplanes but, over time, your ability to sustain operating costs, which is less than it would be with three separate designs."

Callaghan and Pentagon officials said it is time for the Air Force, Marines and Navy to recapitalize their fighter aircraft capabilities. The fourth-generation aircraft the F-35 will replace are 20- to 25 years old, they said.

"The aerodynamics, mission systems, sustainment and stealth of the airplane are as good or better than the fourth generation aircraft," Callaghan said.

The stealth capabilities of the F-35 are built into the aircraft in the manufacturing process from the beginning, using a composite epoxy fiber mat as opposed to the high-maintenance coatings of legacy or existing stealth aircraft, Lockheed Martin officials said.

"Stealth gives the aircraft the ability to go deep into heavily defended airspace to heavily defended targets to prosecute (an attack) with lethal precision, bomb the target and return to base without being shot down," Callaghan said. "The airplane is designed for the threat of today, tomorrow and into the long-term future."

To date, the Defense Department is proposing to order 2,443 F-35s: 1,763 CTOL versions for the Air Force; 260 carrier variants for the Navy, and 80 STOVL versions for the Marines. Another 1,400 F-35s are expected to be produced for program partners the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia, officials said.

The F-35 also means 127,000 direct and indirect jobs at 1,300 supplier companies across the U.S., including Helicomb International and LaBarge Inc. in Tulsa, officials said.

LaBarge manufactures printed circuit card assemblies for the F-35.

Brig. Gen. Michael Hepner, commander of the Tulsa-based 138th Fighter Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, said his unit flies 21 F-16s that are 20 years old. "It's like a car, the older they get, the more maintenance they need," Hepner said.

The F-35s, which the 138th Fighter Wing expects to receive in the 2015-and-beyond time frame, has a range of capabilities, including stealth, sensors and communications, not available to fourth generation aircraft, Hepner said.

"It will be enhanced situational awareness for pilots and commanders controlling the air war," Hepner said. "It's about the size of a F-16, but it sits up a little taller than a F-16."

Asked about the cost, Hepner said the military must be good stewards of the taxpayers' money, but the mission is paramount.

"Who are you going to fight the next war against?" Hepner said. "There are fifth-generation airplanes out there - the Chinese have a stealth-looking fighter than looks like the F-22."

China's J-20 "Black Silk" stealth fighter made its first flight on Jan. 11 at Chengdu, China, said Defense Update - - the online defense magazine published in Israel.

Before the J-20's debut, many in the defense community doubted China had the technological expertise to develop a fifth generation fighter.

"However," Defense Update said, "today's flight substantiates the claims that China could have passed the technological barrier enabling the country to develop advanced military aircraft."

Hepner said the F-35 is an expensive airplane, but ..."You have to remember air dominance," he said. "You have to have control of the skies."

F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter specifications

Purpose: Multirole, multiservice international fifth-generation strike aircraft.

Aircraft ordered: 2,443 for U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines; up to 1,400 for eight nations.

Cost: $65 million (unit recurring flyaway cost) to $110 million (total ownership cost, including lifetime maintenance, parts and labor), in 2010 dollars.

Length: 51.2 feet to 51.5 feet.

Height: 14.3 feet to 14.7 feet.

Wingspan: 35 feet to 43 feet.

Speed (full weapons load): 1,200 mph.

Range: 1,035 miles to 1,380 miles.

Weight empty: 29,300 pounds to 34,800 pounds.

Maximum weight: 60,000 pounds to 70,000 pounds.

Standard internal weapons load: 25 mm GAU-22

A cannon, two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles, two 2,000-pound GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs (Air Force version); two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles, two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAM guided bombs (Marines version); two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles, two 2,000-pound GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs (Navy version).

Source: Lockheed Martin Corp.




U.S. Military May Deploy F-35 Before Formal IOC

The U.S. military may deploy the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) before the tri-service fighter is formally declared Initial Operational Capable (IOC), top uniformed officials told Congress on May 24.

While the U.S. Marine Corps has always maintained that it would declare IOC with interim Block 2B software, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy require that the aircraft be fielded with Block 3 software before the jet is formally declared operational. However, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, leaders from both services said they would consider deploying the fifth-generation stealth fighter into combat zones with interim Block 2B software provided that there were no safety concerns.

The Navy's director of warfare integration, Rear Adm. David Philman, who was also testifying, concurred.

"I don't see any reason we wouldn't be able to be told to go into theater, assuming all the safety considerations have been taken care of," he said.

Both the Navy and the Air Force would have some number of the aircraft prior to any IOC date, but the specifics of how many planes would be available is not yet known.

"We will have a number, probably on the order of a 100, airplanes delivered to operational units before we declare Initial Operational Capability," Carlisle said. "Clearly, although we may not declare IOC, we'll be training, we'll be doing the tactics, training and procedures with the Block 2."

The maintenance and logistical systems would also be built during that period, he said.

Philman said the Navy would have some aircraft available but not as many as the Air Force.

Marine Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, that service's deputy commandant for aviation, who was testifying alongside Carlisle and Philman, said that his service still plans to declare IOC with the interim Block 2B software and would have about 50 F-35s available near that time. He said IOC for the Marines is now estimated to fall between 2014 and 2015, which is a two-year slip.

Even with the interim software, the F-35 would be vastly more capable than existing warplanes, they said.

"There is a lot of capability even in the Block 2 airplanes that look very impressive," Carlisle said.

However, the Air Force and the Navy will both insist upon Block 3 hardware and software for their formal IOC declarations, both Carlisle and Philman said.

Insisting on the Block 3 configuration allows the Pentagon to keep the pressure on Lockheed Martin, the contractor that builds the F-35.

"I'll be perfectly frank: In a lot of cases, if you delay an IOC, you can maintain pressure on a contractor," Carlisle said.

IOC for the Air Force and Navy, like the Marines, will slip by about two years from 2016, Carlisle and Philman said. None of the three services has set a fixed IOC date, but Philman said the 2016 date is no longer valid.



U.S. Navy Gets 3rd and Final Test F-35C


The last of three F-35C Lightning II test planes arrived at Naval Air Sta­tion Patuxent River, Md., on June 3, the final major milestone before some go to New Jersey for testing and attempting one of the most com­plex feats in aviation: taking off and landing from an aircraft carrier.

It’s the latest benchmark in the Navy’s piece of the Joint Strike Fighter’s development. It comes af­ter the development time frame was expected in 2001 to take 10 years and result in aircraft costing $69 mil­lion each. Since then, costs have ex­panded to around $112 million per plane and development is expected to end in 2016 before entering full­rate production in 2018.

“It’s important to note that testing for the F-35B [Marine jump-jet vari­ant] and F-35C are progressing well this year, with more than 1,700 test points completed as of May 21, ahead of the plan of approximately 900,” Naval Air Systems Command spokesman Cmdr. Victor Chen wrote in an email.

The delivery of Lockheed Martin’s third and final F-35C fills out the or­der of the Navy’s test planes. Test flights at Pax River are expected to end this summer before heading to more carrier-specific assessments.

This summer, CF-1, the first F-35C test aircraft delivered to the Navy, and CF-3 are slated for testing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lake­hurst, N.J. CF-1 will go for deck heating, jet blast deflector panel cooling and other tests before re­turning to Pax River. Later in the summer, CF-1 will return to New Jersey with CF-3 for dual jet blast deflector tests, roll-in assessments and steam catapult launches. All three aircraft will return to Pax Riv­er for more carrier suitability tests.

Carrier tests are expected to be­gin in 2013. The carrier and the lo­cation have not been determined.

The Marine Corps is scheduled to receive its fifth and final jump-jet aircraft before the end of this year.

In January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the F-35B on a two-year probation, putting the plane closer to being canceled if technical problems are not fixed.

A Government Accountability Of­fice report released in May criticizes the development of all three F-35 variants, citing delays, engineering revisions and cost increases that have dogged the program. The re­port says a recent restructuring of the development and testing process brightens the program’s prospects but also brings initial cost increases and delays.

Overall, the program had “mixed success” in 2010, when it achieved six of 12 major goals. Developmen­tal tests were in the early phases; 4 percent of the plane’s capabilities had been proved. ■



Paris 2011: Multi-mission Supersonic Stealth May Be Possible, but Is the F-35 Affordable

By: Chris Pocock Aviation International News (Wednesday, June 22, 2011)


The Lockheed Martin F-35 development program has met or exceeded the revised flight-test schedule that was written following a technical baseline restructuring (TBR) last August, according to Lockheed Martin officials. But some significant technical issues remain, and affordability continues to be a key concern for the new-generation combat aircraft.

The Pentagon is expected to make further adjustments to the F-35 development and production plan shortly. Since around this time last year:

 • the fourth low-rate initial production batch was contracted, comprising 31 aircraft costing from $127 million to $158 million each, depending on version;

 • Israel confirmed that it would receive 19 F-35As worth $2.75 billion;

 • after a defense review, the UK switched its order from F-35B STOVL versions to F-35C carrier landing versions;

 • the Pentagon ordered a further stretchout in production, added 13 months and $4.6 billion to the development phase, and put the F-35B STOVL version on a “two-year probation.” Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney admitted four F-35B development problems, but described solutions for each one;

 • the new head of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) said the projected costs to produce and sustain the F-35 were “simply unacceptable.” He also said that initial operating capability cannot be achieved in 2016, as planned;

 • night-vision problems with the Israeli-designed helmet emerged. The F-35 has no head-up display (HUD), so this helmet is the pilot’s primary flight display;

 • work on the alternative F136 engine stopped when Congressional funding lapsed, although the GE/Rolls-Royce team pledged to continue the program on its own dollar;

 • the last four of 13 development aircraft made their first flights, and the first two F-35A production aircraft (AF6 and AF7) were delivered;

 • static testing was completed five months ahead of schedule with no failures (but a bulkhead on the F-35B fatigue test article cracked).

In a recent briefing, Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin vice president F-35 customer engagement, talked up progress. “We’re seeing very reliable flight-test airplanes. We are 20 percent ahead of the TBR on flight tests, and 30 percent ahead on test pilots,” he said. The development fleet has already flown more than 350 times this year, and more than 800 times in total. Another 500-plus test flights are scheduled this calendar year. (O’Bryan did not mention the in-flight generator failure last March, which was attributed to excess lubrication, but did not materially affect flight-test progress).

 “Software stability is good compared to legacy platforms,” O’Bryan said. The Block 1 software, which provides an initial training capability, is now flying on the next two production F-35As (AF8 and AF9). They are due for delivery to Eglin AFB, the F-35 training base, shortly. The pace of mission system software development will be accelerated by the addition of another test line manned by 190 people this summer, as mandated by the TBR.

The Block 2 software is now being loaded into the CATbird flying test bed. This adds about one million lines of code (LOC) to the six million already written for Blocks 0.5 and 1. Block 2 provides the F-35 with networking capability and therefore “an initial war-fighting capability.” It will be on the low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 3 and 4 jets.

Eventually, another two million LOC must be written and tested for the definitive Block 3 with full data fusion, which should be flying by 2015 in time for initial operational test and evaluation the following year. To speed the process, the TBR re-allocated three of the early LRIP jets to mission systems software development (and another three to other development tasks).

The first flights tests of the F-35’s low observability have produced “very, very good results,” according to JPO chief vice admiral David Venlet. Development aircraft AF3 flew against radars and signature measurement devices on the Nevada Test Range and validated the results previously achieved in ground tests.

Now the challenge is to replicate the same degree of stealth on each aircraft off the production line. And, for sure, the first two production aircraft–AF6 and AF7–did recently pass the stealth test in the anechoic chamber and in pole testing.

The F-35 pilot’s helmet is supplied by Vision Systems International (VSI), a U.S.-based joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems. O’Bryan said it is flying successfully in daytime flight, although there have been reports of jitter in the projected symbology.

In addition, the challenge of providing night vision by importing medium-wave infrared imagery (MWIR) from the aircraft’s distributed aperture system has proved difficult so far. Therefore, Lockheed Martin has recently issued an RFP for “traditional” night-vision goggles hoping that this unanticipated add-on would require only a minimal modification of the aircraft’s cockpit displays.

An alternative view of F-35 development progress was offered by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its latest audit of the program two months ago. “As of December 2010, about four percent of F-35 capabilities have been completely verified by flight tests, lab results, or both. Only three of the extensive network of 32 ground test labs and simulation models are fully accredited to ensure the fidelity of results,” the GAO reported.

“Engineering changes continue at higher than expected rates...and more changes are expected as testing accelerates,” it added. Software development is a moving target, it noted; the total lines of code predicted to be needed for the F-35 is already 40 percent greater than originally anticipated.

What of the troubled F-35B program? Was U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates being unduly pessimistic when he spoke of the possible need to “redesign the aircraft’s structure and propulsion...changes that could add yet more weight and more cost to an aircraft that has little capacity to absorb more of either.”

According to O’Bryan, reliability problems with the STOVL version’s lift-fan actuators and rudder pedals that limited flight test sorties last year have been overcome. A design to strengthen the auxiliary inlet doors so that they can be opened at high speed (250 knots) has passed preliminary design review, and will be flight tested early next year. Driveshaft spacers that solve a thermal expansion problem have already been fitted to the five development aircraft. The problem of unexpected heating at the wingtip roll-post actuators will be solved by adding extra insulation. Additional cooling air may be supplied to the lift-fan clutch, which has also been overheating slightly.

A steel patch has been designed to strengthen the F-35B rear fuselage bulkhead, which cracked during ground durability tests. But this adds a bit more weight to an aircraft that may already be uncomfortably close to the maximum for vertical landings with a full weapons load, the so-called bring-back margin.

The weight that was saved in the big redesign of the F-35 structure in 2005 was driven by the F-35B’s power/weight ratio, but was evidently not enough to address this problem. The contractor and the prime customer (the U.S. Marine Corps) are still discussing what the final margin should be.

Could Pratt & Whitney provide some increased thrust in the F135? Possibly, but this might further raise engine operating temperatures and possibly negate the fixes to the driveshaft, clutch and roll post actuators described above. The F-35B may need all of the two years “probation” that has been directed by the program office.

A total of 63 aircraft have now been ordered in four LRIP lots. At Fort Worth, a further two final assembly stations are being added this summer, making seven and thus supporting a rate of four aircraft per month.

“Our learning-curve [reduction] is world-class,” O’Bryan claimed. Direct Touch Labor has declined from 250,000 hours for the first SDD aircraft to close to 100,000 hours today. This trend encouraged Lockheed Martin to agree to fixed prices for the 32 aircraft in LRIP 4. Negotiations for the 35 aircraft in LRIP 5 will start shortly.

Replacing seven legacy fighters (F-16s, F-18s, F-111s, A-10s, AV-8s, Tornados and AMXs) with one design was never going to be easy, especially when supersonic stealth was a key design driver. The F-35 program is proving that it can be done, although at a slower pace and a much higher cost than originally predicted. The total development tab is now predicted to be a breathtaking $56.4 billion. Setting that sunk cost aside, whether the F-35 can be affordably produced and operated still remains to be seen.


F-35C Begins Initial CVN ‘Suitability’ Tests

For the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II, this is where the rubber hits the road — in this case, the deck: The jet has begun the first stages of “carrier suitability testing,” the Navy announced on Tuesday, at the base formerly known as Naval Air Station Lakehurst, now known by the poetic name “Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.”

Navy engineers want to begin to get a clearer understanding of how the C interacts with the flight decks and equipment aboard the aircraft carriers that will be its home, according to an announcement:

“CF-2 and the F-35 integrated test team from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. are at the NAVAIR facility in Lakehurst for the first jet blast deflector (JBD) testing, in preparation for carrier shipboard testing in 2013. The team is at the JBD test facility to evaluate deck heating, JBD panel cooling, and vibro-acoustic, thermal, and hot-gas ingestion environments.”

The jet blast deflector is the big metal wall that rises up out of a carrier’s flight deck behind a jet on the catapult for launch — how, the Navy wonders, will the existing ones in the fleet stand up to the F-35’s powerful engine exhaust? Could carriers that take aboard future squadrons of F-35s need special modifications or procedures to accommodate the new aircraft? The Navy wants to answer these and many other questions as possible before the Lightning II actually makes its first cats and traps at sea



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