Saturday, May 04, 2013

DTN News - U.K. DEFENSE NEWS: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Simply A Penomenal Flying Machine

DTN News - U.K. DEFENSE NEWS: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Simply A Penomenal Flying Machine
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Con Coughlin, Defence Editor, at Patuxent River Naval Base, Maryland 8:0AM BST 04 May 2013
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - May 4, 2013: The smile on the face of the test pilot as he completed a successful vertical landing of Britain’s newest generation of fighter jets said it all. “This is simply a phenomenal flying machine.”

After all the bitter controversy over the Government’s decision to scrap the iconic Harrier jump jet in 2010 as part of the defence cuts, a team of Britain’s top gun fighter pilots has now arrived in the U.S. to begin testing its successor, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Under the Government’s plans to build two new aircraft carriers equipped with state-of-the-art fighters, the role of the F-35 is crucial to the programme’s success. Like the Harrier before it, the F-35 has the ability to conduct vertical landings.

And last week at the American military’s Patuxent River naval air base in Maryland, I became the first British journalist to see one of the British pilots conducting a perfect test landing of an aircraft that is set to become one of Britain’s leading strike fighters for the next generation.

One of the most impressive aspects of Britain’s first stealth warplane is its Rolls Royce vertical landing system, which will enable the aircraft to land on the deck of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers that are currently under construction in Scotland.
During last week’s test flight I watched as one of Britain’s prototype F-35 fighters approached the landing area at around 150mph, before the aircraft slowly came to a complete halt. It then hung perfectly motionless in the sky for a full minute at around 100 feet before making a gentle landing on the tarmac.

“This aircraft is light years ahead of the Harrier in terms of what it can do,” said Peter Wilson, 47, the British test pilot who conducted the landing. A veteran Harrier pilot who has flown combat missions in Iraq, Bosnia and Sierra Leone, Mr Wilson, who is now one of Britain’s leading test pilots, said the Harrier was a difficult plane to fly, and required immense skill on the part of the pilot to conduct vertical landings. “We have learnt our lessons and the F-35 has all the Harriers faults designed out of it,” said Mr Wilson, from Whalley, Lancs.

A key element in the versatility of the Harriers, which played a vital role in the campaign to liberate the Falkland Islands and more recently saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan, was their ability to make vertical landings in the most challenging conditions, whether on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a driving gale or at a remote desert airstrip.

Now the team of British pilots and technicians working on the F-35 are making sure the new aircraft has the same capability. If all goes according to plan, and the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers are built on time, then the F-35s will available to fly off the decks on combat operations by 2020.

Apart from its flying capability, the F-35 is also fitted with the latest intelligence-gathering and stealth technology. Named Lightning II in honour of Britain’s supersonic jet fighter during the early Cold War era, the F-35 can fly at nearly twice the speed of sound and its stealth capability means it can penetrate deep into enemy territory without being tracked by radar. “The stealth factor means you can detect enemy aircraft but they cannot detect you,” explained Mr Wilson.

“It is a joy to fly,” said Lt. Commander Ian Tidball, 43, a former Royal Navy Harrier pilot who arrived in the U.S. four weeks ago to begin test flights. “It is very responsive compared to the Harrier, and has a far wider range of capabilities.”

These include a specially designed helmet that gives the pilot a 350 degree view around the aircraft simply by tilting his head, while the cockpit is filled with a multi-screen display consol that enables the pilot to collect and assess intelligence collected by the aircraft’s advanced sensors will assessing which targets to attack. In all the most advanced combat aircraft ever flown by the British military contains around eight million lines of software code.

“The helmet is like wearing a laptop on your head, while the cockpit has been designed with its own in-built i-Pad before the i-Pad had even been invented,” explained Group Captain Harv Smyth (correct spell), 41, another veteran RAF Harrier pilot who won the Distinguished Flying Cross during the Iraq War in 2003 and is overseeing the project. “The main problem we face is that the technology is now so advanced that we have to make sure it fits in with our air worthiness requirements.”

At $110 million (around £71 million) a piece, the Lightning does not come cheap and, like the previous Eurofighter project that produced the RAF’s Typhoon interceptor, the development programme has been beset by spiralling costs and serious equipment setbacks. During early trials pilots found that the helmets – which cost around £300,000 each – did not function when the plane hit turbulence, a potentially fatal failing in a combat environment, while more recently the entire test fleet was grounded earlier this year when cracks were found in the engine turbine blade.

Critics of the ambitious plan to provide a new generation of aircraft carriers with top-range fighters also say that at a time when the Government is trying to cut the deficit Britain simply cannot afford to continue with the most ambitious military project undertaken in recent British history.

But Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, who visited the American test site last week, said he remained committed to maintaining the £10 billion programme. He said Britain’s participation in the American-led F-35 venture will create 25,000 jobs and has the potential to earn an estimated £35 billion in exports during the life of the programme. In addition it will help to strengthen the transatlantic alliance.

“It’s great to be back in the business of vertical landing aircraft again,” said Mr Hammond. “This aircraft will enable Britain to have one of the world’s leading war-fighting capabilities for many years to come.”

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Con Coughlin, Defence Editor, at Patuxent River Naval Base, Maryland 8:0AM BST 04 May 2013
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*Photograph: IPF (International Pool of Friends) + DTN News / otherwise source stated
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News