CATO – By Christopher Preble
This article appeared in Federation of American Scientists on November 15, 2012.
… In truth, however, neither Democrats nor Republicans are committed to reducing government spending, and both sides have chosen to focus on possible cuts in the military to score political points. President Obama’s party hopes to convince Republicans to agree to higher taxes to spare the Pentagon’s budget.
Such cuts, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said, would be akin to “shooting ourselves in the head.” Members of the GOP, for their part, have attempted to protect the Pentagon by appealing for more cuts in domestic spending, although some have signaled a willingness to abandon the “no new taxes” pledge in order to keep the money flowing.
According to the AIA’s studies, authored by George Mason University Professor Stephen Fuller, defense cuts under sequestration would result in a decline of about $86.5 billion in GDP in 2013, and the loss of 1,006,315 full-time, year-round equivalent jobs.
Fuller even broke the job losses down state by state, providing convenient talking points for politicians in the heat of an election year. Virginia will lose 122,800; Florida will shed 39,200. And so it goes.
Several scholars have challenged the AIA’s conclusions. The Brookings Institution’s Peter Singer noted that only 1 out of every 70 American workers were involved in aerospace and defense, and no more than 3.53 million jobs — direct, indirect, and induced — were sustained by that industry.
Economist Benjamin Zycher showed why they weren’t. In a study published by the Cato Institute, Zycher documented how Fuller’s study (and others like it) grossly exaggerated the harmful economic effects of spending cuts.
Military spending has historically contributed very little to GDP growth, and Zycher therefore concluded that cuts would have little long-term impact on GDP in the future.
But the AIA’s approach to spending cuts, and particularly to Pentagon cuts, reveal a deeper conceptual flaw: they ignore the beneficial effects that would result from shifting resources from the military to more productive sectors of the economy. Pentagon spending cuts can be expected — all other factors being equal — to generate greater economic activity elsewhere.
Such transitions are certainly difficult for the workers directly affected. But that applies equally to booksellers or music stores as to jet fighter machinists.
Competition from Amazon and Kindle drove Borders out of business. The iPod killed Tower Records. In a similar vein, unmanned aerial vehicles and improvements in radar and missile technology may be most responsible for the obsolescence of the F-22 fighter.
The bottom line on sequestration? The Pentagon cuts currently under consideration are small relative to its gargantuan budget, and consistent with those of past post-war draw downs.
The United States will maintain a substantial margin of military superiority over any conceivable combination of rivals even if it spends far less than it does today. And cuts in military spending should pay dividends for the economy over the long run.
S&S – By Heath Druzin
The Afghan National Security Council announced Sunday that foreigners are forbidden from arresting Afghans or operating prisons in the country, potentially complicating NATO’s war effort in Afghanistan.
A statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office calls foreign-run prisons “a breach of … national sovereignty.”
“No foreigners have the right to run prisons and detain Afghan nationals in Afghanistan,” according to the statement.
The decree stems in part from a spat between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United Kingdom, whose defense minister said detainees captured by British forces cannot be handed over to Afghan authorities because of fears of ill treatment. Karzai’s statement specifically referenced the dispute and promised to transfer any remaining British prisons to Afghan control.
It is unclear whether the decree carries the force of law and Karzai’s office did not immediately respond to a Stars and Stripes request for comment.
Control over prisoners has also been a long-simmering issue between the U.S. and Karzai, who has criticized the American military for the slow pace of their handover of detainees to Afghan authorities, since Washington signed a memorandum of understanding in March agreeing to turn over Parwan prison to Afghan authorities within six months. The U.S. subsequently missed the deadline and had to negotiate an extension.
In September, the U.S. handed over control of Parwan prison, a major detention center on Bagram Airfield. But Karzai has publicly criticized the U.S. for continuing to hold a number of prisoners, including Afghans.
Two weeks ago, Karzai called for the “full Afghanization” of the detention center, saying that some prisoners ordered released by the Afghan courts were still being held by U.S. forces.
Afghan prisons have long been criticized by human rights groups for poor conditions and torture, fears that have heightened with the appointment of Assadullah Khalid to head the country’s National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. Khalid has been accused by a top Canadian diplomat, who worked with Khalid, of running an underground torture chamber in Kandahar.
The National Directorate of Security runs prisons throughout Afghanistan.
The top spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, Gen. Gunter Katz, said Monday he was not aware of the decree. Officials with the international military coalition declined comment on the issue.
… The aircraft has been designed to deliver a highly stealthy configuration at low cost, with a heavy weapons load capability over a wide combat radius, says Avic.
The model is a single-seat, twin-tail, twin-engine aircraft with a high wing, like the real aircraft seen in unattributed photographs on the Internet. As described at the show, the fighter has a typical takeoff weight of 17.5 metric tons, is 16.9 meters (55.5 ft.) long and 4.8 meters high with a wingspan of 11.5 meters.
The aircraft that flew last month has two Klimov RD-93 engines, which project engineers do not regard as sufficiently powerful, industry executives say. As fitted to the JF-17 (or FC-1) single-engine export fighter from Shenyang’s rival, Chengdu Aircraft, the RD-93 produces 19,000 lb. thrust.
Regardless of the RD-93’s power, Shenyang needs a Chinese engine if it is to avoid Russia holding a veto over J-31 sales. Judging from photographs of the prototype, the nacelles may be designed for engines larger in diameter than the RD-93, a derivative of the MiG-29’s RD-33. The alternative may be the reported WS-13 Taishan from the Guizhou plant of propulsion specialist Avic Engine.
Avic says the J-31 has a combat radius of 1,250 km (780 mi.) on internal fuel or 2,000 km with external tanks. Maximum speed is Mach 1.8, takeoff distance is 400 meters and its landing distance 600 meters.
“Operational effectiveness will be higher than current or upgraded fourth-generation fighters or almost equivalent to typical fifth-generation,” says Avic. The reference to fifth-generation aircraft presumably indicates the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35.
… The J-31 is known to come from Shenyang because the company displayed a flyable model of a similar fighter last year with the designation F-60 and because a wrapped object that was presumably the real aircraft was trucked in June from Shenyang to Xian, where China has a flight-test center.
The designation “J-31” may be no more valid than the widely assumed but unconfirmed moniker “J-20” applied to a larger fighter from the Chengdu fighter works.
The Shenyang aircraft is also sometimes called J-21—again, without any certain validity. The J-20 was revealed in late 2010 and appears to have made its first flight in January 2011. It was not promoted at Zhuhai.
And therein lies a key piece of evidence of the status of the J-31. The J-20 was not at Zhuhai because it is not for sale and because China does not want to reveal too much about it. It is intended for the Chinese air force.
Conversely, because the J-31 was exhibited at Zhuhai and is promoted as an export product, the Chinese air force obviously does not want it. Early production of a fighter intended for Chinese service would be reserved for the air force, as has been Chengdu’s J-10, the current Chinese medium-weight fighter.
Why, then, has Shenyang developed it? There are a few possibilities. It could be a technology demonstrator funded by the military, one that the company’s management thinks has good potential for full development as an operational fighter.
Alternatively, it could be an internally funded program for the export market, as the company seems to suggest, encouraged by the knowledge that not all countries have access to Western fighters.
The J-31 would mainly be a competitor to Russian fighters—though Shenyang might also be calculating that buyers of Western equipment will want more choice as some U.S. and European types go out of production over the next decade or two. Importantly, the Chinese fighter should be cheap, as the JF-17 is, while offering at least the prestige of stealth technology.
… And yet that could all be far away. There is a world of difference between, on the one hand, flying an aircraft that from the outside looks like a fighter and, on the other, building an operational combat aircraft.
The F-35 will go into service almost 20 years after the first flight of its X-35 technology demonstrator. Similarly, Shenyang may so far have little more than a bare aircraft that an “export” customer would be expected to help fully develop, or at least fund, as Pakistan has with the JF-17.
Avionics immaturity may be the reason why the J-31 is an export-only aircraft, even though it seems well-sized as a successor to the Chinese air force’s J-10 and as a cheaper, large-production complement to the J-20.
The air force may well have decided that Chinese industry has enough of a challenge in improving the J-10 and integrating systems for the J-20. But yet another possibility is that Shenyang or Chengdu is cooking up something more advanced than the J-31. With no clear answer, that probably remains the key mystery about the J-31: Why does the Chinese military not want it?
Reviewing the J-31’s configuration, it appears that the designers have aimed for an aircraft that has stealth but also conventional fighter versatility, and they are not trying to achieve supersonic flight without afterburning, as the F-22 does.
The choice of a quad aft-tail arrangement—two horizontal and two vertical stabilizers—indicates the designers wanted to combine low radar reflectivity with high angles of attack and therefore easier handling in combat, which that would have been hard to do with a canard configuration.
The aft-tail layout also puts hard points close to the center of gravity, probably making the carriage of stores easier and thereby promoting versatility. Photographs of the aircraft at an airfield in September revealed the doors of a large ventral weapons bay.
The model has only moderate sweep on the leading edge of the J-31’s wing. To minimize radar reflections, air inlets for the engines have no boundary-layer diverter plates. The nose volume is not large, leaving room for only a modestly sized radar antenna.
Even though its departure from combat in Afghanistan is still a year away, the Air Force is rapidly evolving into the next version of itself: becoming smaller, but highly capable, and keeping at least one technological step ahead of potential adversaries, while living within its financial means. The end state of the reinvention, however, is not yet fully in view.
So said top USAF and defense leaders at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, held in September just outside Washington, D.C. Newly installed Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III set the stage in his keynote speech, saying, “For the last 20 years the enemy’s been changing. Now here we sit at another one of those turning points. Where are we going to be when we grow up? It’s time to think seriously about that. … It might not be who we were.”
… The Air Force, Carter said, is “well-suited” to the new national strategy, by virtue of its long reach and technological orientation.
“We need to continue to invest in future-focused capability,” Carter asserted. “We must protect the seed corn of the future.” Those investments will emphasize “cyber, space, electronic warfare, unmanned aerial vehicles, the long-range … strike family of systems, all of which are so important to the Air Force and will be so important to our future operations.”
… In remotely piloted aircraft, for example, Welsh said the Air Force has invested more than $55 billion on “the infrastructure, the communications architecture, the PED [processing, exploitation, dissemination], the people, the training, the entire complex.”
But regional commanders have an insatiable demand for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance products that RPAs provide, Welsh said. “The requirement is now 65” 24-hour RPA patrols, he said, “with a push to go to 85, although [Donley] is holding the line.”
Welsh said he understands “if you’re getting shot at, you want more” ISR. However, “we’re going to have to get engaged seriously in the mental process … of how we define the ISR requirement for the future, because there isn’t enough money in the universe to fund the requirement that we have in the Department of Defense.”
Later, in a press conference, Welsh allowed, “we have a problem with so many [RPAs] right now that I don’t know what we’re going to do with them when they come back from Afghanistan. So buying more right now probably doesn’t make much sense” although “it probably does make sense down the road.”
Welsh said he finds the idea of the jet-powered Predator C “a pretty interesting system,” though he was noncommittal about whether USAF still plans a stealthy MQ-X to follow on to the MQ-9 Reaper. He also expressed interest in having RPAs controlled from manned aircraft.
The good news is that while the Air Force has been heavily focused on ISR for 20 years, the rest of the world hasn’t been, and “they’re lagging [behind] us,” Welsh noted. But what does that mean?
“Do we slow down?” Welsh asked rhetorically. “Do we create partnerships that will actually allow us to build capacity in other nations that we can use as parts of coalitions? Or do we just keep running on this? This is a big debate” within the Pentagon, he said, observing that the regional commanders will “frame” the debate but it will be up to the Air Force to figure it out.
“It’s our job to do the thinking on this,” Welsh asserted. “How much we can afford has to be factored in. Do you need an orbit for every squad on the ground? Maybe for some missions; certainly not for all.”
Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, deputy chief of staff for ISR, said his organization is transforming largely through the way it handles the vast amounts of data coming in. Rather than have all analysts in-theater, more and more of them will be at Distributed Common Ground System nodes in the US and elsewhere, thus minimizing their forward footprint.
Additionally, the Air Force is investing in machines that will do the drudge work of watching RPA video feeds for hours at a time, alerting crews only when there’s something important to watch, James said…
The F-22 is still rewriting the rules of air combat, he said, flying higher than anything besides the U-2 and maneuvering forcefully even in that thin air. The F-22 is a world-beater, and that will provide some cushion as USAF sorts out its future, he explained.
“It does things I have never seen airplanes do before, … and I still can’t believe it,” Hostage said. “It’s amazing. The best thing about it is our adversaries watch it carefully, and it scares the hell out of them, which is a good thing.”
Pacific Air Forces chief Gen. Herbert J. Carlisle, at a press conference during the AFA conference, echoed Hostage’s point that the Air Force can no longer assume it will be vastly better than any potential adversary it may face.
Asked about the recent appearance of a second Chinese stealth fighter prototype—this one bearing strong resemblance to the F-22 and seemingly optimized for high maneuverability—Carlisle acknowledged that China’s technology is improving rapidly.
“With respect to stealth capability, they are behind us, but they will develop and they will get better, and we certainly can’t rest on our position,” he said. The lag time between the introduction of an American military innovation such as stealth and the appearance of similar technology in other air forces will steadily shrink in the future, he said.
“I think whatever advantages we have technologically … won’t last as long,” he predicted…
He’s less optimistic about fighter force structure, which has already been reduced by hundreds of aircraft in the last few years.
“I think our fighter fleet … will be the first thing to come under pressure,” Welsh asserted. “I think we’ve got to be careful about that.” While 181 F-22s “sounds like a lot, it’s not,” especially if two demanding scenarios—Welsh mentioned Syria as one—pop up at the same time.
If called to fight in Syria, the Air Force “would be using the F-22,” Welsh said flatly. But to split the fleet with “a concern in the Pacific somewhere, there aren’t many airplanes. In this business, quantity does have a quality all its own.”
Lt Col Christopher J. Niemi, USAF
The ATF’s overly specialized design constituted a fundamental flaw in the uncertain post–Cold War environment. The Air Force subsequently missed the best opportunity to adapt the F-22 when it issued the EMD contract without modification to ATF requirements.
Throughout EMD, the service remained overly focused on the F-22 at the expense of A-10, F-15E, and F-16 recapitalization.
When acquisition eventually shifted to the F-35, the Air Force largely ignored its F-22 experience and failed to plan for inevitable developmental problems with the F-35.
Despite massive cost overruns and schedule delays, the Air Force continues to hope that the F-35 can solely recapitalize 1,770 aging F-15Es, F-16s, and A-10s. However, continuing developmental problems and the emerging national fiscal crisis threaten to undermine this strategy.
Although stealth is a powerful enabler for offensive systems, its greatest advantage lies in its ability to dramatically increase aircraft survivability against radar-dependent threats. Consequently, stealth’s utility depends on the presence of those threats.
By insisting on acquiring only stealth fighters (regardless of the cost), the Air Force assumes that future adversaries will not counter stealth technology and ignores the fact that many air combat operations continue to occur in low-threat environments.
For example, allied fourth-generation fighters operated freely over large portions of Iraq (both in 1991 and 2003), Serbia, and Libya from the beginning of those conflicts.
Future hostilities likely will continue this long-standing historical trend, and currently fielded stealth assets can mitigate risk to operations in highthreat environments where fourth-generation fighters are most vulnerable.
An all-stealth Air Force fighter fleet deserves reconsideration even today. Stealth technology demands significant trade-offs in range, security, weapons carriage, sortie generation, and adaptability.
Stealth provides no advantage in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan or Iraq (since 2003), and (despite its obvious utility) it cannot guarantee success in future struggles with a near-peer adversary.
Most importantly, the cost of F-22s and F-35s threatens to reduce the size of the Air Force’s fielded fighter fleet to dangerously small numbers, particularly in the current fiscal environment.
These facts suggest that the Air Force should reconsider its long-standing position that fifth-generation fighters are the only option for recapitalizing its fighter fleet.
Flight Global – By Dave Majumdar
The Department of Defense has reached an agreement in principle with Lockheed Marin to build 32 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters under the lot 5 contract for low-rate initial production (LRIP-5).
The agreement ends more than 18 months of contentious negotiations that led to complaints on both sides.
“It’s been a long journey, but I’m pleased we’ve achieved an agreement that is beneficial to the government and Lockheed Martin,” says Vice Admiral Dave Venlet, F-35 programme executive officer. “Production costs are decreasing and I appreciate everyone’s commitment to this important negotiation process.”
For LRIP-5, Lockheed will build 22 US Air Force F-35A-model jets, three US Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jets and seven US Navy F-35C aircraft.
The company had already started building the aircraft last December under an undefinitized contract. LRIP-5 also includes funding for manufacturing-support equipment, flight test instrumentation and ancillary mission equipment, Lockheed says.
Lockheed is already under contract to build 63 F-35s under LRIPs 1-4. Of those, 29 low rate production aircraft have been delivered along with 19 jets built under system development and demonstration contracts.
Reuters – By Andrea Shalal-Esa
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force affirmed on Thursday its plans to buy 1,763 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp in coming years, as Lockheed and the government neared agreement on a multi-billion dollar contract for a fifth batch of planes.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told an investor conference that the service remained committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which alone accounts for 15 percent of the service’s annual investment spending, and had no plans to revise its projected purchase of 1,763 of the new radar-evading jets.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to revisit that anytime in the near future,” Donley told the Credit Suisse conference, underscoring his support for the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program.
He said it was not feasible to consider cutting orders or make other major changes to the $396 billion F-35 program, which has already been restructured three times in recent years to allow more time for technology development and to save money.
The Pentagon is looking closely at every aspect of its budget given mounting pressure to cut defense spending, and programs as large as the F-35 are always potential targets.
But Lockheed executives argue that the Defense Department has already reduced production of the new plane sharply from projected levels, cutting into the economies of scale that were supposed to make the new warplane more affordable.
Donley said he had heard proposals about cutting F-35 purchases to save money for other priorities, but said such ideas did not make sense at this point in the program.
“These are good theoretical discussions, but when you look at where we are in the program, it makes no sense to have these discussions until about 2025,” Donley said. “There is nothing in the near-term about this program that will change; there is nothing that it will contribute to deficit reduction in the next ten years with the exception of its cancellation.”
And cancellation of the program, he said, was something no one would recommend.
Donley said the U.S. government was “getting close” to an agreement with Lockheed about a fifth batch of F-35 jets.
Lockheed President Marillyn Hewson told the conference earlier on Thursday that talks with the Pentagon – which have been under way for about a year – were going well and an agreement was likely before the end of the year.
“Those negotiations are progressing well,” she said at her first major presentation to Wall Street investors since being named Lockheed president and chief operating officer earlier this month. “I do feel confident that we’re going to get to closure on Lot 5 this year,” she said.
Lockheed and the Pentagon were also making progress in talks about additional funding for early work on the sixth batch of F-35 jets, said Hewson. She will become Lockheed’s CEO in January, succeeding Christopher Kubasik, who was forced out after admitting to having an affair with a subordinate.
Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said Hewson had played a key role in the company’s talks with the Pentagon, and the two sides had “closed a lot of our differences.”
Details of the expected agreement were not immediately available, but sources familiar with the negotiations said they expected it to include a reduction in the cost for each F-35 fighter jet from the fourth production contract, although the number of jets to be ordered will not increase.
The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told Reuters on Wednesday that the two sides were “getting close” to an agreement on the fifth production contract.
He said he had “a very positive meeting” on Tuesday with Hewson about a range of issues, including the F-35.
Lockheed, the Pentagon’s largest contractor, and its suppliers are already building the fifth batch of F-35 planes under a preliminary contract, but the two sides have been struggling since last December to finalize the deal.
In September, Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan, who is moving up to head the F-35 program next week, said ties between Lockheed and the U.S. government were “the worst” he had ever seen in his years working on big acquisition programs.
Hewson told analysts earlier this month that the F-35 program would be one of her top priorities in her new job.
Agreement on the terms of the fifth F-35 contract would free up additional funding for early work on a sixth set of planes, which the company has been funding on its own for some time.
Lockheed last month told investors that it faced a potential termination liability of $1.1 billion on that sixth batch of planes, unless it received more funds soon.
The Pentagon has refused to release any more money for the sixth batch of planes until the two sides resolve their differences and sign a contract for the fifth batch.
From Lockheed Martin:
The F-35 Flight Test Update concluded with the record-setting month of June 2012 with the Integrated Test Force completing 114 test flights and 1,118 test points.
Since then, the team set new records of 135 System Development and Demonstration, or SDD, flights for 239 SDD flight hours and more than 1,100 test points in August 2012. With training pilot checkouts at Eglin AFB, Florida, and test pilot qualifications at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, fifty-four pilots have now flown the F-35 Lightning II.
Weapon testing has progressed as F-35 pilots dropped the program’s first 1,000- and 2,000-pound inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, and the first AIM-120 AMRAAM separation test was carried out. The team also completed air-start testing for the F-35A and F-35B variants to collect critical data for upcoming high angle of attack tests.
Through 20 October 2012, the F-35 program had accrued 986 test flights for more than 7,800 test points in 2012.
– 9 July 2012: First F-35B Night Flight
US Marine Corps pilot Maj. Richard Rusnok took off in F-35B BF-2 at 9:57 p.m. EDT for the B-model’s first night flight. The one-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in BF-2 evaluated the aircraft’s exterior lighting. It was Flight 204 for BF-2.
– 17 July 2012: First F-35C Flight With Block 2A Software
The first F-35C test mission with updated Block 2A software was piloted by Navy Lt. Chris Tabert in F-35C CF-3 for 1.1 hours from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Block 2A software provides additional capabilities for the F-35, such as the Multifunction Advanced Datalink, the current Link-16, maintenance datalink, and a mission debriefing system. The mission marked CF-3 Flight 68.
– 27 July 2012: F-35A Airstart Testing Complete
Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson completed airstart testing in F-35A AF-4 during Flight 131 over the Edwards AFB, California, test range. The 2.3-hour mission included the final four required airstarts, a critical step prior to the start of high angle of attack tests.
– 1 August 2012: First Air-To-Air MADL Exchange
F-35As AF-3 and AF-6 accomplished a high data rate exchange with the first F-35 air-to-air communication over the Multifunction Advanced Datalink, or MADL. Air Force Lt. Col. George Schwartz flew AF-3 on Flight 128 for two hours from Edwards AFB, California. Mark Ward piloted the 1.8-hour AF-6 Flight 104.
– 7 August 2012: First F-35B Airstart Mission
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Kelly piloted the three first F-35B engine spooldowns over the Edwards AFB, California, test range to signal the beginning of F-35B airstart testing. The 1.3-hour mission marked F-35B BF-2 Flight 212.
– 8 August 2012: First Weapons Separation
Flying at 400 knots at 4,200 feet altitude in F-35B BF3, Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Levin dropped an inert 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAM over the Atlantic test range. The 0.8-hour mission was the F-35 program’s first weapon separation. The milestone flight was BF-3 Flight 224.
– 10 August 2012: First F-35C Fly-In Arrestment
Navy Lt. Chris Tabert accomplished the first fly-in arrestment into the MK-7 arresting gear cable by an F-35C at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Using an interim arresting hook system, an engineering team composed of F-35 Joint Program Office, Naval Air Systems Command, and industry officials conducted tests to assess cable dynamics, aircraft loads, and performance on F-35C CF-3. During testing, Tabert achieved five of eight attempts into the arresting gear. Completing these tests enabled the F-35 program to improve the redesigned arresting hook system. Engineering design reviews will continue, culminating in initial sea trials projected for spring 2014.
– 13 August 2012: New Record 19 Flights In One Day
The F-35 program set a new record of nineteen flights in one day in production flights and test flights at five bases across the United States. F-35s were flown from Edwards AFB, California; NAS Patuxent River, Maryland; JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas; and Eglin AFB, Florida.
– 15 August 2012: F-35B Air-starts Complete
Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Canin piloted F-35B BF-2 for Flight 217 to perform the F-35B’s final airstart test mission. Pilots accomplished twenty-seven F-35B airstarts over the Edwards AFB, California, test range to complete the prerequisite for next year’s F-35B high angle of attack tests.
– 17 August 2012: BF-2 Returns To Pax
The F-35B test aircraft BF-2 was ferried back to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, with Dan Canin at the controls following the completion of airstart testing. After an overnight stop at NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas, Canin completed the trip from Edwards AFB, California, with 3.4-hour BF-2 Flight 219.
– 22 August 2012: F-35B Formation Flight
Marine Corps Maj. C. R. Clift and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Burks flew F-35B test aircraft BF-2 and BF-4 in formation over the Atlantic Test Range. The flight, which originated from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, tested formation flying qualities at subsonic and supersonic speeds to provide data on F-35B handling characteristics. The 1.9-hour mission marked BF-2 Flight 221 and BF-4 Flight 130.
– 22 August 2012: 20,000th Test Point Complete
The SDD team accomplished 20,000 test points since the beginning of the test program with two F-35A test flights at Edwards AFB, California, and three F-35B test flights at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The overall F-35 SDD flight test program plan calls for 59,585 test points to be verified through developmental test flights by 31 December 2016.
– 23 August 2012: 1,000th F-35A Test Flight
The F-35A test fleet marked the program’s 1,000th conventional takeoff and landing test flight during three test missions at Edwards AFB, California.
– 27 August 2012: F-35B Radar Cross Section Testing Complete
Marine Corps Maj. Richard Rusnok piloted F-35B BF-5 for a 1.2-hour flight to complete baseline testing of the aircraft’s radar cross section on a series of flights from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The flight marked BF-5 Flight 51.
– 31 August 2012: New Flight Test Records
The F-35 test team accomplished 135 SDD flights for 239 SDD flight hours and more than 1,100 test points for a record-setting month in August.
– 12 September 2012: Five Jets Airborne At Pax
The Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, flew five simultaneous test missions: F-35B BF-2, BF-3, BF-4, and BF-5; and F-35C CF-2.
– 13 September 2012: 2,000 F-35A Flight Hours
The F-35 program’s 2,000th F-35A conventional takeoff and landing test flight hour on a 1.9-hour mission systems sortie occurred in F-35A AF-7 on its 123rd flight. Air Force Maj. Eric Schultz was at the controls for the milestone flight from Edwards AFB, California.
– 24 September 2012: External Weapons Formation Flight
Air Force Maj. Eric Schultz and Maj. Brent Reinhardt flew F-35A aircraft AF-1 and AF-2 in formation with external inert AIM-9X missiles. The 1.3-hour test flight measured formation flying qualities. The sorties, AF-1 Flight 250 and AF-2 Flight 279, originated from Edwards AFB, California.
– 4 October 2012: Pax Adds A Pilot
Marine Corps Capt. Michael Kingen joined the test pilot roster at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, with his 0.9-hour check flight. The first flight for the fifty-fourth F-35 pilot was F-35C CF-3 Flight 85.
– 4 October 2012: Production Jet Joins Pax Fleet
An F-35 production jet landed at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for the first time when F-35B BF-17 was ferried from NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas, with Bill Gigliotti at the controls. BF-17 will temporarily support the Integrated Test Force at Pax until it joins the Operational Test team at Edwards AFB, California. The 3.1-hour ferry flight marked BF-17 Flight 8.
– 16 October 2012: First F-35A Weapon Release
The F-35A completed the conventional takeoff and landing variant’s first inflight weapon release at China Lake, California. The weapon release followed the first F-35B weapon release in August. Air Force Maj. Eric Schultz released an inert, instrumented 2,000-pound GBU-31 from the aircraft’s left weapon bay over the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division ranges. The 1.3-hour mission, originating from Edwards AFB, California, marked F-35A AF-1 Flight 254.
– 19 October 2012: First F-35 AMRAAM Jettison
F-35A test aircraft AF-1 accomplished another testing milestone with the program’s first aerial release of an AIM-120 AMRAAM. Air Force Maj. Matthew Phillips jettisoned the instrumented AIM-120 from the aircraft’s internal weapon bay over the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division test range at China Lake, California, during a one-hour mission. AF-1 Flight 255 originated from Edwards AFB, California.