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Marine and Navy pilots took first night flights in January

An F-35A fighter took off from Eglin Air Force Base on its first nighttime training mission late last month. Prior to this flight, the Air Force version of the advanced fighter was prohibited from operating at night or during adverse weather.
One of the issues which prohibited nighttime flights involved symbols displayed to the pilot that traditionally differ between the Air Force and Navy/Marines versions of aircraft. The Air Force has a different airworthiness authority, AFLCMC, than the NAVAIR standards already incorporated into the F-35 night systems.

[Image Source: Lockheed Martin]
“Back in [training] the displays the pilots were looking at were confusing to Air Force pilots but not confusing to Navy and Marine Corps pilots because a lot of the symbology was of Navy origin," described Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan.
To get around this issue, the Air Force trained 15 pilots on simulators at Elgin and at the plant in Ft. Worth until the Air Force was sure its pilots were ready for night operations.
Despite the recent good news that South Korea chose the F-35 as its next generation fighter, there are still lingering fears that software delays could continue to set the program back.

Source: Defense News

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By chromal on 4/3/2014 10:38:01 AM , Rating: 1
I wonder what fighter aircraft designers active 40-50 years ago would have through at the development cycle of the F-35 variants. I thought these were a lot closer to operational status than they obviously actually are if they're only getting these birds in the air under night time or IFR this many years into the program.. I realize this was more of a duplication-of-effort between service branches issue, but still.

RE: bleh
By inperfectdarkness on 4/3/2014 11:06:14 AM , Rating: 2
The F-86 provides a great example. They were known as LT-eaters, because of how difficult they were to fly. Back then, the USAF just kicked them out and it was literally sink or fly.

Fortunately, we have come to adopt better standards. Both because losing jets costs money, and because losing pilots costs time/money/experience.

Without exception, practically every argument I see levied against weapons system procurement in the 21st century is guilty of Parmenides fallacy. Specifically, the arguments presented compare our current state of affairs with how things were in the past--vice comparing it to an alternative current state of affairs, one in which their hypothesis is true.

The days when a "front line fighter" consisted of a pilot, 50 caliber machine guns, and and engine....are gone. No one likes to admit it, but if all that was fielded were WWII era fighter planes, there would be no need for an air-force; modern IADS could swat every single one of them out of the sky.

I've heard dozens of "armchair strategists" who think they know better about what the USAF's fighter jets should be. Meanwhile, no one likes to think about the fact that the F15/16 were designed before the Apple II existed--and that technology (let alone the internet) has rapidly changed in the interim. So unless you're 100% certain that all of the USA's potential enemies for the next 50 years will be using 1960's airframes outfitted with 1980's technology, there is a distinct and urgent need for better weapons systems.

RE: bleh
By gamerk2 on 4/3/2014 11:25:43 AM , Rating: 3
I for one am not opposed to having a large AF, I'm opposed to the JSF. It does NOTHING better then planes we already have. I'd rather build more F-22's [which are now CHEAPER], and keep the A-10 and F15-E around for the ground attack role. This approach would be a lot cheaper then building 2000 JSF's, and grant more capability.

RE: bleh
By MrBlastman on 4/3/2014 12:47:46 PM , Rating: 2
Those that don't want a JSF fail to understand the importance and usefulness its existing cousins, such as the F-16 and F-18, provide.

RE: bleh
By inperfectdarkness on 4/3/2014 2:04:23 PM , Rating: 2
I would rather have had the F22's as well, but the armchair strategists were out in full force cheering congress on when they decided to axe product before we hit the 200 unit mark.

The A-10 needs to go. It's a great plane, but everything it does would be done better by a drone. Put an MQ9 on steroids and you have a viable alternative to the venerable A10.

We don't have nearly enough F15's for ground attack, and the navy can't use them at all. What the JSF does "better"--at this point--is simply provide lower Mx-per-flight-hour operating costs, and that's fine with me. F16's and 18's are so long in the tooth that they just cannot stick around much longer. The F18E/F did nothing to substantially improve upon the F14 (in fact, it's worse in many areas), but the Mx involved in keeping it airworthy is night and day. That's the same thing that we see now with the F16/18's. Sucks, yes, but flying a plane will make it wear out. You simply cannot design a plane to fly forever. Every DC3 in existence has pretty much had every rivet, every rib, every inch of skin replaced.

RE: bleh
By corduroygt on 4/4/2014 12:04:05 AM , Rating: 2
A-10 is great but not needed. Drones + AC-130 can do everything it can

RE: bleh
By chromal on 4/3/2014 1:02:34 PM , Rating: 2
I made a comment about designs 40-50 years ago, e.g.: Vietnam era US F/A planes, not WW II, which would have been designed 75 years ago. Even though this era of service plane entered into the, what, 3rd generation, followed by 4th gen fighters-- my comment was meant more to compare the developers and the process than the final product. I think everyone can agree this technology is a moving target. Certainly other air forces aren't pausing, and we can expect F-35 variants could be facing the Su-35S et al.

RE: bleh
By danjw1 on 4/3/2014 2:33:34 PM , Rating: 2
Much of what you say is true, but the F-15 and F-16 have both had block upgrades over time. So the electronics in them isn't as antiquated as you are suggesting. That said, it is time for a new generation of fighter attack aircraft.

I do have an issue that the program is way over budget. These cost plus contracts just don't do any good for anyone other than the manufacture(s). The pentagon needs a system to better control the costs of their programs. Much of this is mission bloat; everyone wants their pet feature in the finished product. I do understand how complex the systems are and that their will always be issues with systems integration, but the F-22 and the F-35 are truly out of control. The F-35 was supposed to be the "cheap" work horse fighter.

RE: bleh
By US56 on 4/3/2014 5:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
The F-86 provides a great example. They were known as LT-eaters, because of how difficult they were to fly. Back then, the USAF just kicked them out and it was literally sink or fly.

What an odd slander against one of the greatest combat aircraft in the history of aviation. Far from being difficult to fly, the F-86 was an easy transition for most pilots. The F-86 in general and the F-86A in particular are considered to be some of the best flying jets ever built. For sheer ease and joy of flying, few, if any, aircraft exceeded the F-86 until the introduction of the F-16. About the only other aircraft which could compare to a Sabre amongst the early generations of U.S. built jets might be the early variants of the A4D/A-4 Skyhawk which were given the nickname "Scooter" for a good reason.

RE: bleh
By inperfectdarkness on 4/4/2014 3:19:37 PM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected, that was the F-84 (and arguably the F-100). I stand by my point though about the USAF being more apt to pushing a new design out the door before being fully vetted. By the end of the 80's, the USAF had lost enough F-16's to accidents to outfit an entire WING.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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