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First F-35 accepted by USAF  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Eight more production fighters are now complete

After hoards of delays, problems, and groundings, Lockheed Martin announced that it finally delivered the very first production F-35 Lightning II aircraft to the USAF. The USAF has accepted the F-35 into its fleet marking the first of a planned 1,763 production aircraft to be delivered.

The formal acceptance documents were signed and the jet will be known in the USAF as AF-7. The signing of the documents took place at the F-35 final assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas last Thursday. The first production F-35 had its maiden voyage in February in Fort Worth.

The first official flight of the production aircraft after being accepted into the USAF fleet was to fly from Fort Worth to Edwards Air Force base in California. The pilot flying the F-35 was Maj. Scott “Shark” McLaren with the 461st flight Test Squadron. The flight lasted three hours and was conducted with no issues.

“This first aircraft is the beginning of the modernization of U.S. Air Force, Marine and Naval Air power and for our coalition partners around the world,” said Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager. “The F-35 family of aircraft will bring an incredible increase in capability that our men and women defending us deserve. Today we begin to fulfill the vision of our government and international customers.” 

Lockheed Martin reminds that F-35 aircraft had flown more than 865 flights since flight-testing began in late 2006. Eight more production F-35 fighters have rolled off the assembly line and are ready for delivery. There is no word on when the other eight aircraft will be formally accepted into the USAF fleet.

The F-35 will eventually replace the A-10 and F-16 in the USAF, the F/A-18 for the Navy, and the F/A-18 and AV-B Harrier for the Marine Corps.

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A-10 replacement? Please.
By icemansims on 5/10/2011 12:00:48 PM , Rating: 5
There's no way this plane will replace the A-10. It's too fragile and too aerodynamically unstable to fly low and slow like the warthog.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By MrBlastman on 5/10/2011 12:01:27 PM , Rating: 2
It in no way is meant to replace the A-10. It is intended to be a replacement to the F-16 and F-18.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By nafhan on 5/10/2011 12:23:31 PM , Rating: 5
Replacing the A-10 was one of the original intentions of the F-35 program... At some point, they realized that just wouldn't work out, though. A-10's going to be around until the 2020's. Will probably get replaced with something unmanned.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By gamerk2 on 5/10/2011 12:33:15 PM , Rating: 3
I think the A-10 has been extended to 2038, or about the same time the "2038 bomber" is due to replace the B52/B1's as the primary US bomber.

The A-10 was designed to fly low, slow, and bomb everything in front of it. It was designed to survive a wing, engine, and tail being blown off. The JSF is too fragile and doesn't have the carrying capacity to replace the A-10.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By CharonPDX on 5/10/2011 1:31:30 PM , Rating: 2
My two favorite Air Force aircraft were the SR-71 (my ROTC Colonel was a former Blackbird pilot,) and the A-10. Both designed for exactly one mission, to perform that one mission perfectly. Both "zero-compromise" aircraft for their mission.

As for the 2038 bomber... B-52 pilots have a saying "When they retire the last B-1, the pilot will ride home on a B-52." I fully expect us to continue using the B-52 100 years after the first airframe was built. (Not 100 years after the oldest still-in-service airframe was built, though.)

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Solandri on 5/10/2011 3:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
I was working on a low-cost simulator projector for the USAF (using PCs with 3d video cards instead of $6 million Silicon Graphics mainframes) about the time the A-10 was retired. The topic came up while talking with the USAF Colonel who was our liaison for the project (a very practical man, who saw no point in spending millions of dollars on something which could be duplicated for a few hundred thousand).

His take on it was that the USAF brass likes shiny planes. They want planes which can go fast, fly high, maneuver like a hummingbird, and look good while doing it. Everything the A-10 is not. They want glamorous movie star planes, not the ugly betty who works 9-5 but gets her job done damn well. They resent being "forced" by the government to provide a ground support vehicle for the Army. So while the A-10 was eminently useful for the military overall, the USAF brass was wielding pitchforks and axes trying to get it killed. Basically, every plane in the USAF arsenal has lots of USAF brass who want to get it funded and protect it from the beancounters in Congress come budget-cutting time. Every plane except the A-10.

A 12 year-old could have seen that the F35 could not replace the A-10. That was probably just a bullet point thrown into a Powerpoint presentation by some USAF brass to help justify shutting down the A-10 program so the funds could be used on the F35 instead.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 7:48:31 PM , Rating: 2
What? Wasn't the A10 just flying missions in Libya.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Belard on 5/11/2011 11:13:24 AM , Rating: 2
What retirement are you talking about?

Last order for A-10s were in 2007, 242 were ordered. There is at least another 20 years of service they will get from these flying tanks.

What that pilot says, maybe true... and it is STUPID. The A-10 isn't as sexy as an F22, but it gets the job done that an F35 can't. There is a place for the A10, until they make something that is better. The F35 isn't it.

The A10 is actually NOT ugly... odd, yes. But its features is WHAT makes it a damn good plane.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By eggman on 5/10/2011 3:17:52 PM , Rating: 3
The A-10 is an amazing plane. When I was younger, I mean much younger, they use to fly around rural Southeastern Indiana where I lived. They would do terrain following practice and fly really low. My wife drove a school bus and they came across her one day. They were behind a tree line and could not be seen and then they popped over the trees and and did a fake cannon run on the bus. Since buses run on pretty routine schedules out in the country her and the kids got to see this on a regular basis. The kids loved it and so did she!

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By VooDooAddict on 5/10/2011 12:34:13 PM , Rating: 2

UAVs are already being deployed for many situations where the A-10 was previously used.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By theaerokid on 5/10/2011 1:14:09 PM , Rating: 2
UAVs are already being deployed for many situations where the A-10 was previously used.

I'm no hater of UAV's. In fact I've spent 10 years in the unmanned industry and I love them. But nothing is going to replace the A-10 in those down and dirty situations where the situational awareness of two human eyeballs make all the difference.

There may be many CAS scenarios where UAV's can be effective, but the low/slow action that the A-10 is designed for is no place for a UAV. When you have a Special Forces team about to get overrun asking you to spot the ditch where they're taking cover and dropping your bombs 100 meters North, I have a hard time seeing how you could effectively do that with a UAV.

I'd love to see the technology necessary to get closer to that, but I don't see it happening soon, and it may not be the direction the DoD wants to go anyway.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By nafhan on 5/10/2011 3:09:16 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see it happening soon
That's probably why the A-10 is going to be around for another ~20 years :)
I was throwing the UAV thing out there, because I believe that's where combat aircraft in general are headed. In fact, it's very possible that 20-30-40 years from now the soldiers on the ground will be doing their own CAS from the front lines. How cool would that be?

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 7:52:15 PM , Rating: 2
The Apache is the only thing I can think of and it doesn't have anywhere near the firepower.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 7:50:49 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but UAV's can fire a couple of hellfire's remember what A10's did to the retreating Iraqi army during the first gulf war?

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By LancerVI on 5/10/2011 11:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
"Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster."

William T. Sherman

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By MrBlastman on 5/10/2011 1:08:34 PM , Rating: 2
Right. UAV's have a far greater chance to replace the A-10 eventually as a slower flying-loiter aircraft. The resolution and SA they provide though is the main limiting factor with them. That will change with time though.

As of now, the A-10C is a pretty darned neat airframe.

Putting the F-35 on A-10 duty is a complete waste of the plane. It is far better suited to in and out fast surgical support strikes.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By drycrust3 on 5/10/2011 2:45:36 PM , Rating: 2
It in no way is meant to replace the A-10. It is intended to be a replacement to the F-16 and F-18.

I thought the F16 and F18 cost considerably less than F35.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By MrBlastman on 5/10/2011 3:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
Sure they do. They also have weathered airframes that will eventually be full of stress-fractures, outdated radar, inferior datalinking and most importantly, considerably higher radar cross sections.

I love the F-16. I think it will continue to be useful for years into the future. The F-35 will just take us by its hand and help lead us into the future--slowly... and deliberately.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 7:44:09 PM , Rating: 2
The F18 is an all purpose plane, I think the F35 will pretty much just replace the F16. The F22/F35 combo replaced the F16/F15 combo.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By kattanna on 5/10/2011 12:46:00 PM , Rating: 2
when stationed at ft drum i could always tell when they were out on the practice range. man those cannons make a very distinct sound when they fire.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By eggman on 5/10/2011 3:04:02 PM , Rating: 2
I could hear them from 20 miles away. I will never forget that sound.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Reclaimer77 on 5/10/2011 3:55:21 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure we NEED an A-10 anymore.

The A-10 was designed to ward off massive Russian tank and armor assaults in Europe. A popular Cold War scenario at the time. It's slow, has no defense against other aircraft, and requires a LOT of support to be effective.

Weapon system's and avionics have developed so much since the A-10, we just don't need a huge, slow, non stealthy flying gun in our inventory anymore.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Reclaimer77 on 5/10/2011 4:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
Clarification: I do NOT believe, however, that the F-35 can replace the A-10. In case anyone thought I meant that. The F-35 can't replace anything unfortunately. It's a product of politics.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Master Kenobi on 5/10/2011 6:39:50 PM , Rating: 2
Bullshit. For both Afghanistan and Iraq the A-10 was utilized heavily in taking out troops and vehicles on the ground. Why? Because the damn Apache (The original A-10 replacement) is too fragile against AK-47 fire at close range. The A-10 can handle the heat and drop shit tons of dumb bombs on target. The ordnance loadout of an A-10 is twice that of any other CAS aircraft. There is a damn good reason why it is still being utilized, because it does its job very, very well.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Reclaimer77 on 5/10/2011 7:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure where you read in my post that I said the A-10 wasn't good at doing it's job.

And the only Apache that might have been brought down by AK-47 fire was allegedly some fluke shot by a peasant farmer. It's not even confirmed because it was a claim made by the Iraqi state, and we KNOW how good they were at reporting the truth...

The Advanced Apache Longbow helicopter has radar, infrared, and night-vision equipment, a machine gun mounted under its nose, and up to 16 missiles for use against tanks or other aircraft. All of these are intended to keep the helicopter a relatively safe distance from enemy forces. So if you're taking fire from something as short ranged as an AK, well, you're just having a bad day.

Apache's destroyed hundreds of Iraq tanks in Gulf '91 and distinguished itself in Afghanistan and Iraq. You're making it out so be a slouch, which it certainly isn't. And while they can't take as much punishment as the A-10 (hell what can?), they CAN take battle damage and make it back. We've come a long way from Vietnam, where we lost nearly 5,000 choppers due to machine gun and small arms fire.

The A-10 is a relic from the Cold War. I love that flying bath tub, don't get me wrong. But I was merely stating a fact.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 8:01:13 PM , Rating: 2
Helicopters and bullets aren't a good match, there are way to many critical parts and they run all the way to and including the tail-rotor. The russian Ka-50 Hokum co-axial rotor is probably much more combat survivable, plus I believe they make less noise.

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By LancerVI on 5/11/2011 12:00:05 AM , Rating: 2
Every war since World War II and Korea, every war the US has been involved in has been a police action or an 'asymmetrical' engagement.

'Relic of the cold war' is a short sighted statement that doesn't recognize that a return to symmetrical, set-piece engagements with traditional opponents (Russia, China, EU, etc) is not only possible, but based on history, very likely.

The US has a bad habit of preparing it's military for the last wars it was in. I think it's a mistake to go 'overly light', overly technological (UAV), overly insurgent based, rapid deployment, high intesity, small conflict militaries. I'm not saying we shouldn't develop these capabilities, we should. But not to abandon basic, "cold war relic" symmetrical, air-land battle docturine.

Sometimes, boots, rifles, gas engines, artillery, smoothbore guns and a flying tank killer are all that's needed and un-replaceable.

Like I quoted before,

"Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster."
~William T. Sherman

RE: A-10 replacement? Please.
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 7:41:53 PM , Rating: 2
No modern jet go get in so low and slow and maneuver like the A10. The crazy thing is the Air Force has kept trying to get rid of it and it keeps getting used because nothing else can do what it does.

Hot dang!
By MrBlastman on 5/10/2011 11:47:39 AM , Rating: 2
Now lets go bomb some enemy forces with it! :) Nothing speaks diplomacy better than some good ole' fashioned iron bombs with JDAM kits on them.

RE: Hot dang!
By corduroygt on 5/10/2011 11:56:30 AM , Rating: 2
Too bad we can't afford the attrition and wear and tear on our equipment. Oh and I'd bet all the money I have that we're not going to get even close to buying 1000+ of these planes, it'll be cut to 400-500 MAX.

RE: Hot dang!
By Iaiken on 5/10/2011 1:00:08 PM , Rating: 3
The General Accounting Office has routinely demonstrated that the accuracy of guided munitions is dramatically overstated.

Success rates are stated as being 90% accurate, but the problem is that the Pentagon is quoting controlled test success ratios.

Tomahawk missiles only destroyed their intended targets 45% of the time, the remaining 55% either experienced guidance failures and crashed or struck the wrong target.

The problem is, when ground troops went in to corroborate the strikes, success became a relative term. The opening 4 shots of Iraqi Freedom not only missed their target, but struck neighboring civilian structures for a 100% failure rate. Of the first 50 bombs, only 10 actually managed to damage their intended target, let alone destroy it.

Even when the target is struck, neighboring civilian buildings are almost certainly destroyed:

To say that you can drop a 2000lb JDAM on a target within a neighborhood without warning and without civilian casualties is a flat out lie. Over 90% of the casualties in the Iraq war have been civilians, and over 70% of those were killed by guided munitions and the remainder were killed by either insurgent bombings or direct fire from coalition soldiers.

This is a story that has retold itself over and over and over again over the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is a story of arrogance and overconfidence in the myths associated with "smart" weapons that continues to cause us to be more willing to use them.

A friend of mine is a Canadian Forces Captain working on a base in Khandahar where they were watching a mobile target via UAV whose destruction had been signed off on and they were going to strike it with a JDAM. They were to strike the target at an intersection just beyond a set of 4 houses. The bomb was dropped, but instead of continuing on to the intersection, they stopped at the houses. He ordered they guide the munition to the neighboring field instead of risking the destruction of the houses.

Later, the American Air Group Commander demanded why he had ordered the bomb to be waived off in flight and was told that it was because his orders only allowed him to destroy the targeted truck and it's occupants, not the buildings and theirs. The American Commander then said "What's the difference? Their all terrorists! They wound up sending out Canadian ground troops to the houses and the follow up report determined that the people in the houses were goat herders and the truck had stopped in to fill up on water before continuing onward. They were co-operative and provided intelligence on where the target had probably gone into hiding. Terrorists indeed...

RE: Hot dang!
By Strandwolf on 5/10/2011 3:03:00 PM , Rating: 2
How dare you rain on the patriotic parade! This isn't only my considered opinion; you've garnered yourself a neg point already via some other bloodthirsty soul you've offended with your screed.

RE: Hot dang!
By Reclaimer77 on 5/10/11, Rating: -1
RE: Hot dang!
By Skywalker123 on 5/11/2011 10:30:05 PM , Rating: 1
Did Fox tell you different?

RE: Hot dang!
By invidious on 5/10/2011 1:05:37 PM , Rating: 2
"We" never planned to buy all of the F35s. That 1700 number was released by lockheed as the total estimated to be build and sold worldwide, not jstu to the USAF. Back in 2009 the foriegn market demand was for about 700 and the US demand was for 2400. Obviously the demand has changed but based on that ratio its still pretty safe to say the US is still over 1000 of that 1700 figure.

RE: Hot dang!
By e36Jeff on 5/10/2011 1:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
actually 1700 is still the current number the USAF intends to buy. In total, the US currently intends on buying 2300+ F-35 in all its variants. the USAF is replacing close to 2k F-16's. The total worlwide order is in the 3k-4k range.

RE: Hot dang!
By corduroygt on 5/10/2011 2:18:04 PM , Rating: 2
We were supposed to buy over 700 F-22's and got less than 200. I bet the same thing's going to happen with the F-35.

A good read...
By rangerdavid on 5/10/2011 2:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
Every time I see a DailyTech article about the latest-and-greatest multi-$$$$$ weapons system, I think of this:

Superiority by Arthor C. Clark

Please read it, it's awesome.

RE: A good read...
By MrBlastman on 5/10/2011 3:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
Aaaaaaand it is very true, especially in a wartime situation. It is precisely one of the main reasons that Germany lost World War 2 (thankfully). They're still overcomplicating things to this day.

We should not sit complacently in America thinking we have the ultimate world-killing weaponry and feel we can strike with the hand of God. For every whiz-bang gizmo we have, there are a thousand rock-throwing, poo-slinging, flower-picking savages that will surely stuff an axe through our heads, even if half their comrades have to die while trying.

May we never forget this. R.I.P. Arthur. Your continued contribution to science will be missed.

RE: A good read...
By Iaiken on 5/10/2011 3:10:07 PM , Rating: 2
German equipment in WWII was technologically superior that of the Allies. They also possessed numerous weapons systems for which the the allies had no equivalent until they had captured the scientists responsible and put them to work for a new master.

The raw industrial might of the US and Russia drown the superiorly equipped and trained German forces under a tidal wave inferior soldiers, equipment and seemingly unceasing replacements for both.

RE: A good read...
By Master Kenobi on 5/10/2011 6:51:11 PM , Rating: 2
The only saving grace right now is that China lacks the ability to mobilize their cheap poorly trained and poorly equipped troops. One thing the USA learned from WW2 is that you need the logistics to not only get troops anywhere in the world quickly, but the ability to support them and resupply them as well. To this day we still corner the market on power projection for that very reason, we can kick ass anywhere on the planet. China thus far is limited to their direct neighbors and India is growing far quicker.

RE: A good read...
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 8:10:23 PM , Rating: 2
China's economy is suppose to surpass ours by 2016. The have managed to get our top nuclear weapons technology right under our noses. They got a stealth plane flying way before we thought they could. I wouldn't underestimate them. On the positive note I don't think they are that likely to go around attacking everyone.

RE: A good read...
By Jeffk464 on 5/10/2011 8:06:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, they said the tiger tank could take out something like 7 shermans for every tiger, the problem is there was always an 8th sherman.

By culio on 5/15/2011 9:07:40 AM , Rating: 2
are you all serious ? do you realy thing, that so much planes made will actualy bring som effort for US ? please, be real ! if the government would chance his path, and would spend that money for something useful, you from US are still fighting for freedom and you dont realize, that you kill others for fun, glory, honor, please... you dont know these words, what they mean... but that O.K. everybody in the world knows, that americans are fat and stupid :D so be like you are and you will destroy yourselves some time and the whole world would just look at you...
pease from EU fools

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