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Opertional F-35 made its debut at Belgian Air Force Days

Verantwortlicher Autor: Gianluca Conversi Kleine-Brogel, 26.09.2018, 15:29 Uhr
Presse-Ressort von: Aviation-Report Bericht 6543x gelesen
Italian Air Force 32-09 F-35A at static display during Belgian Air Force Days
Italian Air Force 32-09 F-35A at static display during Belgian Air Force Days   Bild: L.Meikens

Kleine-Brogel [ENA] The Joint Strike Fighter program continues to reach new milestones. The F-35 Lightning II is the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter – providing unmatched capabilities to military forces around the world elevating international security by allowing for more integrated coalition operations.

Whether the F-35 is currently the most expensive airplane ever built (but it is not alone… Eurofighter Thyphoon costs were considerably higher than expected) and the target price per aircraft around 80 million $ will be reached in a couple of years, the efforts to reduce the service life costs just reached a fundamental milestone. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin have completed static, drop test & durability testing and early results indicate a potential for an increased service life certification for the F-35A variant.

Ground testing included a full scale durability airframe of all three variants, which were loaded in unique test rigs and laboratories to simulate ground and flight load conditions during fleet operations. The F-35 aircraft’s service lifetime is 8,000 hours, and each test airframe is required to complete two life-times of testing, or 16,000 hours. The F-35A vastly exceeded the requirement by completing three full life times of testing, or a simulated 24,000 hours, which gives the program confidence in a potential service-life increase.

Italian Air Force last delivered 32-10 F-35A Lightning II

As a comparison, the Eurofighter Typhoon is currently granted up to 6,000 flying hours. During September, an Italian Air Force operational F-35A (tailored 32-09) participated for the first time at an european airshow. The Belgian Air Force Days at Kleine Brogel airbase saw the 5th generation fighter jet assembled at F.A.C.O. Cameri (Final Assembly & Check-Out) at the static display and photographed in flight during the Spotter Day. The italian plant is also building 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and is in discussions to deal assembly of the danish F-35’s.

talian Air Force currently ordered 25 F-35 up to LRIP 14 having commissioned all long term required materials, 10 F-35A and 1 F-35B have been received by Italian Defense. A second F-35B, the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing version, is expected to be rolled-out in the next weeks. Belgium is the country that has to choose a new fighter jet shortly, the F-16 FALCON will gradually be replaced in the coming years by a newer fighter. Clear the goal of Lockheed Martin to push its 5th generation (and already operational) stealth fighter jet.

Eurofighter Typhoon, with an ideal Tranche 4 strongly pushed by Airbus that is also looked by Germany to substitute its ageing Panavia Tornado fleet, and Dassault Rafàle supported by the french government are the competitors to gain the deal with Belgium. Belgium and Netherlands worked together with Lockheed Martin in many projects, including the achievement and sustain of their currently in service ageing fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon in force with both air forces.

USAF F-35A Lightning II during The Royal International Air Tattoo 2018
USAF F-35A "F-35 Heritage Flight Team" performing its aerial display during RIAT 2018

Netherlands decided first in favour of the american-built fighter jet, now Belgium has to do its choice and the pressure against Government and Air Force could favorite many compensations for the local industry and at the end, a really best price. “We are preparing ourselves for the tasks of tomorrow” said Colonel Geert De Decker, MSc Commander Air Base Kleine-Brogel. Meanwhile, two american F-35A Lightning II came back to Europe this Summer participating at the Royal International Air Tattoo, at Duxford Air Show and at the Farborough 2018 exhibition.

The flight demonstration and the heritage flights performed with WWII planes showed advance aerial performance. Compared to the debut in 2016, a really lot of work has been done. In this current scenario, United Kingdom unveiled its future 5++/6th generation fighter concept with a really detailed mock-up, the Tempest; presented at Farnborough exhibition, it represents more than an idea about the aircraft that will substitute in late 2030 the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fleet. The agreement announced and signed by Germany and France in 2017 for a future fighter still remains an idea.

It’s clear that Airbus, one of the Eurofighter consortium partners, is pushing vs the Typhoon, but a T4 future line is still on the paper and for sure can’t compete and have 100% of the capabilities now offered by the Joint Strike Fighter, including the nuclear deterrent. F-35 has advanced stealth, exceptional agility and maneuverability, sensor and information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. This technology provides pilots with unprecedented survivability and situational awareness.

We will see in the next months which cards the industries are able to play and how the politics will influence military decisions. Facts are that in Europe only Israel, Italy, United Kingdom, Norway and Netherlands can deploy 5th generation fighter jets and Denmark will in the next decade as well. (Gianluca Conversi, www.aviation-report.com - https://piti.forumfree.it )

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