First combat operational F-35s arrive at Hill Air Force Base

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By Jeff McAdam

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Hill Air Force Base is now home to the first two combat operational F-35s in the country. The two new aircraft landed at the base Wednesday afternoon as a crowd looked on and clapped.

"It flies similar to an F-16," said Colonel David Lyons, Fighter Commander. "It's very stable, has a powerful platform, and great engine."

The addition of the F-35 comes as the F-16 is slowly phased out. By 2019, Hill Air Force Base will have 72 F-35 fighter jets.

“I would think with the F-35 here, it will keep Hill viable for years," said Lieutenant Colonel Yoseph Morris.

Pilots say one of the plane's best assets is it's stealth ability, and easy functioning.

"If a pilot does something wrong, it will forgive it and fly them out of it kind of thing,” said Colonel Lyons.

Hill Air Force Base officials say the price tag for each plane runs about $100 million. They say, as of now, there is no clear date for when the F-16 will be completely phased out of operation. The fighter planes are current in Afghanistan and Iraq.

7 comments

  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    The F-35 will be a appalling air power asset, effectively vulnerable to enemy air defences, beatable in air combat and bringing in a host of unreliable sensors etc.

    The F-35 is not the all-singing, all dancing platform that was once envisaged or expecting in some quarters, though at the same time it will be much more incapable and inflexible aircraft than any tactical aircraft that has gone before.

    F-35 advocates/supporters have wrongly and continue to be proven wrong to point out that close-in dogfighting is the sine qua non of air combat. I emphasize that the F-35 pilot unaffords its pilot with no opportunity to see and kill the enemy at Beyond Visual Range (BVR). Because the nose geometry of the F-35 limits the aperture of the radar. This makes the F-35 dependent on supporting AEW&C aircraft which are themselves vulnerable to long range anti-radiation missiles and jamming. Opposing Su-30/35, PAK-FA and J-20 aircraft have a massive radar aperture enabling them to detect and attack at an F-35 long before the F-35 can detect the Sukhoi. The F-35 will be hopelessly outclassed in Within Visual Range (WVR).

    It is an unmitigated disaster in the history of air warfare.

  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    German Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. This point was well demonstrated during the Vietnam War during air combat engagements. The doctrine at the time, starting in the late 1950s, claimed the days of dogfighting were over, and all combat would take place where planes would defeat the enemy from a distance solely using air to air missiles.

    As a result, the F-4 Phantom was equipped with a superb air search and targeting radar, no less than eight air to air missiles, four longish-range AIM-7 Sparrows, and four shortish range AIM-9 Sidewinders. Because the days of dogfighting were supposedly over, the F-4 Phantom was designed without a gun. There was criticism from, among others, Colonel John Boyd, who stated that an aircraft with greater energy manoeuvrability would win, a cause taken up by the so-called Fighter Mafia. They were ridiculed by the establishment.

    Then came the moment of truth. The might of the United States, with the highly sophisticated F-4 Phantom, was supposed to easily destroy opposing enemy fighters like the MiG-17. The obsolescent MiG-17 had no air combat radar or long-range missiles, but the aircraft had guns. In combat, the missiles did not work as advertised, and the agile MiG-17 caused the F-4 all sorts of problems. In fact, the US did not get on top until late in the war, after the F-4 had been fitted with a gun.

    As a result of these lessons, the so-called “teen generation” of fighters were designed as highly energy manoeuvrability fighters, such as F-15, F-16 and F-18 fighters that were introduced in the 1970s. Boyd and the Fighter Mafia were proven correct; however, the Pentagon ensured the brilliant Boyd was never promoted beyond Colonel.

    Fast forward 50 years, and we find the lessons of Vietnam forgotten. We have a fighter with excellent radar and all sorts of other sensors. It also carries four longish range air-air missiles internally, but no short range missiles carried internally. We are again being assured that dogfights are history, and that the missiles will do the manoeuvring. However, we were assured, by both the Defence Department and Lockheed Martin, that the F-35 “Just So Failed” (JSF) would have energy manoeuvrability equivalent or better than the teen generation fighters, and outperform them if the teen generation fighters were loaded with external stores.

    What has recently been found is that the F-35 was comprehensively outperformed by a 40-year-old design F-16. Lockheed Martin now does not dispute this, as it was one of their own test pilots that belled the cat. The test pilot’s report is interesting because it is clear the F-35 will be dead meat if it ever comes to close range combat with decades-old fighters. This is especially frightening considering the supermanouevrable fighters that can cruise at supersonic speeds without using afterburners that are currently entering service.

    What is especially concerning is that independent analysts have calculated the lacking aeropropulsive performance nearly a decade ago. What happens when the F-35 comes up against peer threats, and the missiles and stealth do not perform as advertised? They won’t even have heat seeking missiles, as they are carried externally, and either they will significantly degrade the F-35’s stealth or, if not, then the stealth of the aircraft is not what it is cracked up to be.

    Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, stated that war is deception. The idea is to deceive the enemy. Self-deception, almost by definition, aids and abets an enemy. Given Defence’s credibility gap on the issue of energy manoeuvrability of the F-35 (and in this, they are either complicit or ignorant, and I am not sure which is worse), how are we to believe them in terms of the “baloney classified” capabilities the F-35 has? After all, anyone with even a small amount of technical ability in analysis would have been able to see that the F-35 will not cut it in terms of energy manoeuvrability. Time for Defence and Lockheed Martin to fess up and correct the record.

    Time for US and its allies to do due diligence on the purchase of a lemon.

  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    The fact is that the F-35 has NO legs, no loiter time, poor acceleration, poor turning performance, no titanium armour, and an extremely limited amount of ordnance that it can carry. It is prohibitively expensive and for all that expense, in the end it is a total compromise aircraft that may be able to do many missions, but can’t do any exceptionally well. Yes, the sensors and weapons systems are fancy, and if applied to other aircraft designs would probably be decisive if those aircraft designs were mission specific. This aircraft will NEVER be the equivalent let alone the superior to the A-10 in close air support. No armour, legs, manoeuvrability, loiter time, an inferior smaller gun with 180 rounds (versus almost 1,200 rounds in the Hog) and fewer onboard weapons that must be carried internally to preserve the “all important” stealth capability in an environment where stealth isn’t really that necessary. The bad guys on the ground can see the “Hog” rolling in them because it’s in the weeds rooting them out, not flying at 10,000 or higher’ and trying to find the bad infantry and take a few of them out with a $100,000 smart weapon when a few $100 30mm rounds will do. If there is a significant threat of radar controlled AA or missiles in the environment, put a stealthy aircraft there prior to the Hogs to take those threats out. An IR guided system can be effectively handled by A-10’s and have been for decades.

    The F-35 is a terrible performer and not cost effective by any stretch. All of the advantages of the A-10 are also there over the F-35 when it comes to Combat Search and Rescue support (with the possible exception of speed, but getting there fast with no loiter time doesn’t really help much…, especially since the CSAR helo’s will still need to get there.

    How can you affectively provide close air support with an aircraft who cannot fly lower than 10,000 ft because it is so expensive CAS means get down and dirty, not fly high and pretty? Retiring the A-10 is going to cost lives of the Army brothers and sisters

    Ask the troops and they will favour the A-10 covering them over the F-35 any day. Planes like the F-35 don’t stay over the battle field very long. The A-10 pounds the enemy relentlessly and just keeps coming back with another pass. Captured enemy combatants have stated the A-10 is the plane that they fear the most. The kinetic energy of the A-10 bullets can actually throw an enemy soldier 15 feet into the air. Because of this fire power an A-10 can tear up an enemy compound in minutes. Everything from armoured vehicles to enemy soldiers is completely obliterated during an A-10 attack. For this reason the A-10 is the perfect weapon for the mission it finds itself in today. With powerful supporters in Congress the A-10 will be doing this mission for the next decade.

  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    There is another problem. Stealth technology can already be detected by long (low band) wavelength VHF/UHF radar.

    Stealth is a myth, a scam, a multi-billion dollar boondoggle and is based on a lie. Because quite frankly I’m starting to talk about other areas how very vulnerable the F-35 will be up against the anti-access & area denial threat environment.

    A growing trend in Russian and Chinese radar could make U.S. stealth fighters easier to see and — more importantly — easier to target for potential adversaries. The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II or Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) — are protected by stealth technology optimised only for higher frequency targeting radars but not for lower frequency radars.

    The F-22 is protected from higher frequencies in the Ku, X, C and parts of the S bands. Also the F-35 is stealthy only in forward quadrant against the higher frequencies in the Ku, X, C and parts of the S bands. A conservative estimate for the frontal RCS (Radar Cross Section) of the F-35 would be 0.0015 square metre which is only stealthy in the front, this is what I call “Partial Stealth”. Parts on the fuselage of the aircraft will be detectable from the behind, the upper side and from the lower sides.

    It is supposed to be invisible for radar which it never was. It just reduces the cross section and visibility, making the plane look smaller on radar than it is. Nothing more or nothing less. The only problem is precise location which is already slowly been resolved by computerised signal processing and integrations of other radar wavelengths for search, location and targeting, with improved computing power, low frequency radars are getting better and better at discerning targets more precisely.

    Stealth is useful only against short-wavelength radar of the kind that might be carried on an interceptor or used by a radar-guided missile. Physicists say no amount of RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) coating will protect you from 15ft to 20ft wavelength radar of the kind the Russians have had since the 1940s.

    If you are putting F-35 up against the newer generation of much, much more powerful long-wave length Russian radars, as well as the P-14 Tall King family of Cold-War era radars, some Nebo series of radars and some of the newer Chinese radars of a ground-to-air unit that would have no difficulty detecting and tracking an approaching F-35, F-22 and the B-2 aircraft.

    There is also a JY-26 Skywatch counter-stealth radar was on display at the Zhuhai Air show in China which I’m sure anyone is aware of it.

    China’s Nanjing defence electronics technology group is unveiling a new phased array radar iterating in the VHF/UHF waveband, designed for long range air surveillance and target acquisition role. Operating in the long wave band – VHF/UHF which enables the JY-26 to detect targets presenting low radar cross section (stealth aircraft) at the decimetric, centimetre and millimetre wave bands. The use of phased array technology also provides users the ability to increase the power transmitted at a certain location where a target presence is suspected, thus increasing the probability of detection of low-RCS targets.

    The manufacturer also claims the radar is designed with robust anti-jam and electronic counter-countermeasures, enabling it to face strike forces conducting advanced anti-access/area denial (a2/ad). It is using advanced, two dimensional digital, active phased array system, enabling high accuracy, target tracking and separation as well as operation at long ranges of up to 310 miles (500 km).

    The US was currently deploying advanced stealth aircraft in the Pacific, including B-2 stealth bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. Both have also deployed on missions near China, providing the Chinese the opportunities to test their new radars against those planes. Chinese designers at the Airshow in Zhuhai, China, claimed the JY-26 radar has already spotted the F-22 Raptor, as it flew in South Korea on exercises. The radar is being developed at Shandong, located just across the Yellow Sea, separating the Korean peninsula from mainland China.

    The F-35 will also be detected by the L-Band AESA which will be equipped on the Su-35S and PAK-FA. It is used for targetting which they’ll be able to track LO/VLO stealth aircraft, as well as the F-35. For further information here is the link – http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2009-06.html

    The F-35 has a very large exhaust nozzle which is extremely hot burning thirsty engine and has a very big heat signature. The back end of the F-35 in full afterburner is something like 1600 degrees (Fahrenheit). In terms of temperature, aluminium combusts at 1100. You are talking about something really, really hot. If you have got a dirty big sensor on the front of your Su-35S or your PAK-FA or whatever, it lights up like Christmas lights and there is nothing you can do about it. The plume because of the symmetric exhaust, is all over the place. It is not shielded, it is not ducted in any useful way. The Sukhois will be able to seek and destroy the F-35 when using the heat seeking BVR (Beyond Visual Range) AA-12 (R-77) Adder or AA-10 (R-27) Alamo air-to-air missiles.

    The Russian-made Su-35S Super Flanker-E and the T-50 PAK-FA low-observable fighter now in development is expected to be much more lethal in air-to-air combat against the F-35. The Su-35 and T-50 made appearances at the Russian aerospace industry air show known as MAKS. Both aircraft will include sensors and networking which can minimise the effects of the limited low-observable qualities of the F-35. They will also have higher performance, longer range (without refuelling), more powerful radars, advanced sensors, networking, data fusion capabilities and carry more air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons than an F-35.

    Further, new foreign rival warships are increasingly being built with both high and low frequency radars. Prospective adversaries are putting low frequency radars on their surface combatants along with the higher frequency systems. Even the Chinese warships like the Type 52C Luyang II and Type 52D Luyang III have both high and low frequency radars. I don’t see how you long survive in the world of 2020 or 2030 when dealing with these systems and if you don’t have the signature appropriate to that [radar], you’re not going to be very survivable. The low frequency radars can cue the high frequency radars and now you’re going to be a dead duck.

    Another problem with stealth aircraft is you’re getting a super complicated aeroplane that won’t be able to fly very much. The two main features of stealth design include a radar absorbent material coating and overall aerodynamic design changes that reduce the reflection of radar. Both of these approaches create tremendous challenges. Because stealth aircraft spend a lot of time around 50 or 100 hours inside in a special atmosphere controlled facility, which need to be retreated after every flight by applying RAM coatings and to prevent rain or dust from damaging them, which goes to show you how unbelievably expensive and very labor intensive. Further, the treatment requires the handling of toxic materials by workers. A lawsuit was filed in 1994 by five workers and the widows of two others alleging that the coating treatment from the B-2A Spirit strategic bomber caused the worker’s illnesses. Also pilots won’t get enough flight hours in the real aircraft (to refine their skills). Look at the cost per flight hour for stealth aircraft vs. non-stealth. You’ll be talking about somewhere $50,000, $60,000 or higher.

    Stealth technology certainly needs to be canned altogether.

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