Good to see the first British pilot making a sea-based take off and landing of the F-35B. Of course (God bless the Ministry of Defence for its logic!) it was an RAF pilot and not a Fleet Air Arm pilot.
Navy/Marine Corps Team: Testing F-35B Lightning II Aircraft Aboard USS Wasp
AT SEA, ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) — Two F-35B Lightning II jets (BF-01 and BF-05) touched down aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) Aug. 12, kicking off week of Development Testing II (DT-II) where Wasp Sailors and Integrated Test Force (ITF) team members are testing and further validating the F-35B.
DT-II is the second of three test phases encompassing numerous milestone events including the first night operation at sea as well as the first launch and recovery of the F-35B at sea by a U.K. test pilot. The goal of this testing is to further define F-35B operating parameters aboard amphibious ships such as Wasp.
The F-35 Lightning II is the next generation strike aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, as well as eight international partners. The jet combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Wasp is testing the F-35B, which has short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) capability, enabling it to operate from a wider range of ships and in support of expeditionary operations.
“It’s a significant milestone for the F-35 program,” said Capt. Erik Etz, Director, Test & Evaluation F-35 Naval Variants. “We’re providing an envelope that will be utilized by Marine Corps and U.K. aviators when they go out and employ the aircraft in a real environment. The ability to operate at night is critical and so certainly the testing we’re doing here will provide a significant amount of data so we can clear the envelope and clear the aircraft to operate day and night, when the Marine Corps takes the F-35B to initial operating capability in 2015.”
Wasp and the ITF completed a major milestone when Lt. Col. C. R. Clift launched from the flight deck and landed safely, marking the first successful night launch and recovery of the F-35B at sea.
The pilots were pleased with the progress that the first night landings at sea represent. “It all went extremely well,” said Clift. “Throughout the night we conducted eight successful launches and landings, so we’re on target and quickly gaining experience with F-35B night operations at sea.”
Launch and recoveries filled the first, second and third days at sea creating smooth, synchronized daytime operations. Wasp flight deck crew members were trained in advance of DT-II to prepare them for F-35B operations at sea, ensuring all those involved were ready to support DT-II.
“The crew itself has spent quite a bit of time up at Patuxent River working with the F-35B understanding how the aircraft operates,” said Capt. Brian Teets, Wasp’s commanding officer. “What we’ve been able to bring is a consistent platform to the F-35B to support their testing. It’s the same ship with the same capabilities, providing consistency and stability as a reliable test platform. Employing a consistent test platform allows the team to find ways to optimize this new aircraft in the Marine Air Combat Element.”
U.K. Squadron Leader Jim Schofield, a Royal Air Force pilot became the first international pilot to conduct sea-based launch and landing in the F-35B.
“It’s exciting to see the integration of this new plane with the amphibious assault ships,” said Schofield. “After a year leading up to this evolution, it’s awesome to get here and start. And the crew has been especially accommodating and efficient at running these tests smoothly.”
The historical milestones were not lost on Wasp crew members, but for most it was “business as usual”, focusing on safety and effectiveness during flight operations at sea. Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Ashley Geary gave the signal to launch BF-05 for the first night flight operations.
“It was fun knowing we’re making history,” said Geary. “We worked with the test team at Patuxent River for a week, learning about the F-35B and its operations. They took our suggestions on flight deck procedures, ensuring we were one team working together towards a successful mission. The launch went well, without a hitch.”
The F-35 Lightning II is scheduled to replace 13 different legacy aircraft in the current U.S. defense inventory. Sea trials for the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier variant are scheduled at the end of 2014.
Yikes! A kick in the budgetary backside for the Pentagon as tough choices are being made between smaller forces, less new equipment, and reduced operations.
But this does not just affect the US military. There are 10 international partners involved in the F-35 boondoggle. In particular, Britain’s Royal Navy has predicated its entire 21st century naval aviation programme on the F-35B STVOL variant. Its new aircraft carriers are under construction without the cats & traps that would permit an alternative (such as the F/A-18E/F) to be substituted affordably.
Is it too late to restart the AV-8B production line?
Pentagon considers cancelling F-35 program, leaked documents suggest
Leaked documents from a Pentagon budget review suggest that the agency is tired of its costly F-35 fighter jets, and has thoughts about cancelling the $391.2 billion program that has already expanded into 10 foreign countries.
Pentagon officials held a briefing on Wednesday in which they mapped out ways to manage the $500 billion in automated budget cuts required over the next decade. A slideshow laid out a number of suggestions and exposed the Pentagon’s frustration with its F-35 jets, which are designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. based out of Bethesda, Md. The agency also suggested scrapping plans for a new stealthy, long-range bomber, attendees of the briefing told Reuters.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to reporters on Wednesday and indicated that the Pentagon might have to decide between a “much smaller force” and a decade-long “holiday” from modernizing weapons systems and technology.
Pentagon briefing slides indicated that a decision to maintain a larger military “could result in the cancellation of the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 program and a new stealthy, long-range bomber,” Reuters reports.
When officials familiar with the budget review leaked the news about the F-35s, the agency tried to downplay its alleged intentions.
The F-35 program is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system. A fleet of 2,443 aircraft has an estimated price tag of $391.2 billion, which is up 68 percent from the projected costs measured in 2001. Earlier this year, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program manager, condemned the manufacturer for “trying to squeeze every nickel” out of the Department of Defense.
Although the warplane is the most expensive combat aircraft in history, its quality is lacking. In February, the US military grounded an entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters because of a crack found on a turbine blade on one of the jets, marking the fourth time that a fleet was grounded because of manufacturing problems. In April, Bogdan told a Senate committee that he doubted the planes could withstand a sophisticated cyberattack.
But before the sequestration took effect this year, the Pentagon secured several contracts with Lockheed Martin to ensure the continued production and maintenance of the costly F-35s. This week, the Defense Department struck another deal with the company to produce 71 more jet fighters, claiming the costs per aircraft have been reduced by about 4 percent – an insignificant reduction when compared to the 68 percent price increase that has occurred since 2001.
After news broke of the Pentagon’s prospect to cancel the program, officials tried to control the damage of such an alarming statement that runs counter to the claims they publicly make.
“We have gone to great lengths to stress that this review identified, through a rigorous process of strategic modeling, possible decisions we might face, under scenarios we may or may not face in the future,” Pentagon Spokesman George Little told Reuters in an email when asked about the slides. “Any suggestion that we’re now moving away from key modernization programs as a result of yesterday’s discussion of the outcomes of the review would be incorrect.”
An unnamed defense official familiar with the briefing told Reuters that the leaked budget document indicated possibilities for a worst-case scenario. He admitted that the Pentagon considered scrapping the program, but said it was unlikely, since “cancelling the program would be detrimental to our national defense.”
Regardless of the Pentagon’s intent, Congress is responsible for authorizing Department of Defense spending, and has often forced the agency to make costly and unnecessary weapons purchases.
Last year, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that the US has no need for new tanks. But even though senior Army officials have repeatedly stated that there is no need to spend half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds on new 70-ton Abrams tanks, lawmakers from both parties have pushed the Pentagon to accept the useless purchases.
Earlier this year, an investigation revealed that lobbying efforts by Northrop Grumman have kept a costly Global Hawk drone flying, despite the Pentagon’s attempt to end the project. A defense authorization bill passed by Congress requires the Air Force to keep flying its Block 30 Global Hawks through at least 2014, which costs taxpayers $260 million per year.
The US spends more money on defense than any other nation, but lawmakers from both parties often insist that the agency continue to buy tanks and keep ships and planes it no longer needs. Although the Pentagon has expressed its frustration with the costly F-35 fighter jets, there is little the agency can do without congressional support.
70-years ago today…
Soviet minesweeper T-904 (557 GRT) struck a mine laid by U-625 (Kptlt. Hans Benker commanding) in the Yugorsky Strait.
USS Pompon (Lt.Cdr. E.C. Hawk commanding) torpedoed and sunk the Japanese cargo ship Thames Maru (5871 GRT) and torpedoed and damaged the Japanese troop transport Kinsen Maru (3081 GRT) north of the Admiralty Islands.
HMS Safari (Lt. R.B. Lakin, DSO, DSC, RN commanding) sunk the Italian minesweeper FR70/La Coubre (120 GRT) with torpedoes and gunfire west of Elba.
HMS Unrivalled (Lt. H.B. Turner, DSC, RN commanding) sunk the Italian tug Iseo (80 GRT) with gunfire 1-mile south of Cape Vaticano.
Soviet Malyutka class submarine M-112 fired 2 torpedoes at a German barge off Yalta. Both torpedoes missed their target.
HMS Tally-Ho (Lt.Cdr. L.W.A. Bennington, DSO, DSC, RN commanding) sighted two unidentified U-boats in the Atlantic (one at position 45°50’N, 05°17’W, the other at 45°54’N, 05°18’W)
Operation Gomorrah begins:
The saturation bombing of the German port city of Hamburg began on 24 July 1943 and lasted for 8-days and 7-nights. The Royal Air Force conducted night raids while the USAAF carried out daylight raids. During the raids, firestorms occurred, creating an 1,500 °F (800 °C) inferno with 150mph (240 kmph) winds. Over 42,000 German civilians were killed during the raids.
Entering the fray:
HMS Tantivy (Cdr. Michael Gordon Rimington, DSO, RN commanding) was commissioned into the Royal Navy.
Here’s an old drum that I like to pick up and bang. Nobody else really wants to hear the tune any more, but it’s still a personal favourite.
Let’s crunch some basic numbers.
- F/A-18E/F Super Hornet £44m ($67m)
- F-35B Lightning II £130m ($197m)
Price per (36 aircraft) carrier air wing:
- F/A-18E/F Super Hornet 1584m ($2412m)
- F-35B Lightning II 4680m ($7092m)
So the savings to the British taxpayer (remember them… the people that elect the
clowns politicians that make these mistakes decisions) on a carrier air wing of 36 aircraft would have been £3276m ($4680m). Two air wings (1 for each carrier) would amplify the savings to £6552m ($9360m).
SIX-POINT-FIVE BILLION POUNDS!
That’s enough to fund the entire Type 26 frigate programme of 13 vessels and increase that programme to an operationally-efficient 16 (16x £350 = £5600) and build an eighth Astute-class submarine (£800m) and order 3 more River-class OPVs (£150m).
Yes, I am aware that my accounting is simplistic. Yes, I am aware that folks in the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force want shiny new F-35 aircraft and would consider the F/A-18 as a “make do.” Yes, I am aware that money was already wasted redesigning the carriers for “cats & traps” then back again. Yes, yes, yes. But I still like my old drum and I still like the simple tune I play on it.