USAF Prepares to Start F-35 Opeval Tests

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spazsinbad

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Unread post16 Jul 2011, 03:59

USAF Prepares to Start F-35 Opeval Tests By DAVE MAJUMDAR : 15 Jul 2011

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i= ... =AIR&s=TOP

"Even as the first F-35 Lightning IIs arrive at the training unit at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the U.S. Air Force is preparing for operational testing of the aircraft, said the service's deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.

"There are going to be 422[nd Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES)] guys flying the F-35 at Edwards [AFB, Calif.,] right away," Lt. Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle said. "As the F-35s are going to Eglin, there's F-35 [operational test pilots]… that are going to Edwards and do Operational Test and Evaluation."

The soon-to-be-activated Edwards detachment will do its initial operational evaluations at the California base, but the remainder of the evaluation will be done by the main body of the 422nd TES at Nellis AFB, Nev. One series of tests is planned for the Block 3C software needed for initial operational capability, as well as the preceding software blocks, Carlisle said.

The service, along with the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), is still working on a Test and Evaluation Master Plan, slated for release in November.

"The JPO is currently estimating Ops Test of Block 2B to commence in early 2015 and complete in early 2016, and the [Operational Test] for Block 3C IOC capabilities to commence in mid-2016 and to end in early 2018," said Air Force spokesman Maj. Chad Steffey.

The service's Air Combat Command has not set a new IOC date for the F-35.

Carlisle said that the F-35 could be a valuable combat asset even with the earlier Block 2B software.

"Block 2B has capability that if the combatant commander needed it, we would deploy it. Would it be IOC? No," he said.

"We in the Air Force designated a set of capabilities to include [Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses], [Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses], air-to-ground and some air-to-air capability that we consider the minimum required for initially operational capable," he said.

He noted that the Air Force has deployed many aircraft that had not yet formally entered service, including the F-15E Strike Eagle, MQ-9 Reaper UAV and the E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) surveillance plane.

The F-35 even outpaces its larger twin-engine cousin, the F-22 Raptor, in certain areas, including electronic countermeasures and electronic counter-counter measures. Carlisle also praised the jet's infrared sensors and air-to-ground radar as "phenomenal."

Carlisle said the Raptor retains a huge kinematic advantage - "at 51,000 feet and [Mach] 1.7, it's a pretty hard target to hit" - but said the F-35 can "take out those [integrated air defense] systems and to penetrate using all of its attributes to the point that it can do incredible damage."

Carlisle said the operating cost of the both the F-22 and F-35 are a major concern. But he said that F-22 operating costs would likely decrease over time. The service is learning how to better maintain the jet's stealth coating, and many lessons have been learned that will carry over to the F-35. Further, he said, while the operating costs estimates for the F-35 are high, they are speculative at this point because there is very little real world data to backup those estimates.

In the meantime, the Air Force has started to seriously look at the capabilities it will need in the jet that replaces the F-22 and F-35.

"We're definitely thinking about a sixth-generation fighter," he said. "But it's 2030-plus."

He said that the U.S. must continue to invest in new technologies.

He said the Chinese and Russians are making slow progress in stealth, a tough technology to master. Neither has yet developed a good pilot vehicle interface, which is an important aspect of building fighters but is particularly important for stealth aircraft because of the need to manage radar signatures in-flight, Carlisle said.

"They're getting better than they used to be, but they're still a long ways behind us in pilot vehicle interfaces," he said.

Carlisle is a veteran fighter pilot who in his earlier years was part of an elite group of Air Force aggressor pilots selected to fly Russian and Chinese aircraft acquired via various means.

The problem for the United States will be that though the country will continue to lead the world in military technology, other nations will able to match those capabilities far more quickly than in years past due to cyber threats and globalization. Instead of decades at a time, the U.S. edge will last for years at a time - but he reiterated that that does not mean the U.S. is falling behind.

"Given the world we live in today," Carlisle said, "My belief is that we'll continue to continually push the technological envelope… I just think that our ability to have that technological advantage will be for a shorter period of time."
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Unread post16 Jul 2011, 04:36

In the meantime, the Air Force has started to seriously look at the capabilities it will need in the jet that replaces the F-22 and F-35.


If LM doesn't get its act together on F-35 cost and schedule, that's gonna happen a lot sooner than anyone imagined. :)
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Unread post16 Jul 2011, 05:35

Hopefully there won't be *a* jet that replaces *both*. If it's better than the F-22 it'll be too expensive to replace both and if it's cheap enough to replace both it won't be better than the F-22. With the J-20 coming on so much sooner than anticipated (apparently- I still wonder if it had something to do with the cutting short of F-22 production) and development taking so long these days, they'll want to start serious work on the F-22 replacement.
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Unread post16 Jul 2011, 11:38

spazsinbad wrote:
The F-35 even outpaces its larger twin-engine cousin, the F-22 Raptor, in certain areas, including electronic countermeasures and electronic counter-counter measures. Carlisle also praised the jet's infrared sensors and air-to-ground radar as "phenomenal."

Carlisle said the Raptor retains a huge kinematic advantage - "at 51,000 feet and [Mach] 1.7, it's a pretty hard target to hit" - but said the F-35 can "take out those [integrated air defense] systems and to penetrate using all of its attributes to the point that it can do incredible damage."


Sounds like there really is alot of confidence in the F-35 as a top class weapon system, such a shame the economics of it aren't playing out favourably for it at the moment.

This is the first time I have heard ECM mentioned too, does anyone know what the F-35's ECM systems actually are?
(I was aware of the Barracuda EW suite btw but as far as I was aware it didn't have an ECM componet, is the ECM seperate from Barracuda?)
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Unread post16 Jul 2011, 23:54

The initial ECM for the F-35 will be handled by the APG-81 AESA radar. Later, if the customer wants, there is space in the wing leading-edge sensor bays for AESA based jammers to be installed.
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Unread post17 Jul 2011, 08:03

Ahh I see, thanks for that info. One question though and that is the radar only covers the forward arc so what about ECM against threats to the rear and side and above and below? Is that where dedicated jammers come into play or can ECM generated in the radar set have a limited all around effect? (it's something i'd doubt but thought it worth asking)
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Unread post17 Jul 2011, 08:15

The primary purpose of the APG-81's jamming is to keep the F-35 alive long enough to employ it's standoff weapons to deal with the radar sites. LAter, if the need arises, other jammers (internal or external NGJ) can be used.

They are also planning on something called "Cooperative EW" which sounds like every APG-81 (or associated onboard hardware) will automatically support the whole battlefield, not just the carrying F-35.
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Unread post17 Jul 2011, 17:57

He said the Chinese and Russians are making slow progress in stealth, a tough technology to master. Neither has yet developed a good pilot vehicle interface, which is an important aspect of building fighters but is particularly important for stealth aircraft because of the need to manage radar signatures in-flight..

"They're getting better than they used to be, but they're still a long ways behind us in pilot vehicle interfaces," he said.


Can anyone please elaborate what he means by pilot interfaces, specially as they relate to rcs management.?
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Unread post17 Jul 2011, 19:15

How does ECM works concerning a ECM pod, like a ALQ131 for instance?
All around, or covering the forward arc?
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Unread post17 Jul 2011, 19:51

popcorn wrote:He said the Chinese and Russians are making slow progress in stealth, a tough technology to master. Neither has yet developed a good pilot vehicle interface, which is an important aspect of building fighters but is particularly important for stealth aircraft because of the need to manage radar signatures in-flight..

"They're getting better than they used to be, but they're still a long ways behind us in pilot vehicle interfaces," he said.


Can anyone please elaborate what he means by pilot interfaces, specially as they relate to rcs management.?


A big part of being stealthy is knowing exactly when you can be seen by whom and from where. The pilot has to be able to know all this and get the info realtime.
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Unread post17 Jul 2011, 20:26

Can some outline the differences between basic flight testing and opeval?
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Unread post18 Jul 2011, 00:25

Flight testing determines whether the fighter performs up to spec. OPEVAL determines how the fighter will fit into the services's structure and plan. OPEVAL helps to determine tactics used and mission planning.

http://www.afotec.af.mil/
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Unread post18 Jul 2011, 12:33

m wrote:How does ECM works concerning a ECM pod, like a ALQ131 for instance?
All around, or covering the forward arc?


I would think podded ECM have 360 degree coverage though that's only an uneducated guess.
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Unread post18 Jul 2011, 13:36

shep1978 wrote:Ahh I see, thanks for that info. One question though and that is the radar only covers the forward arc so what about ECM against threats to the rear and side and above and below? Is that where dedicated jammers come into play or can ECM generated in the radar set have a limited all around effect? (it's something i'd doubt but thought it worth asking)


Presumably, the highest threats to the F-35 will be on the ingress portion of the mission. On the egress leg, the F-35 should be out of the WEZ for the majority of the potential threats(especially as it's still a low observable platform from that aspect).
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Unread post18 Jul 2011, 18:20

[quote="SpudmanWP"]..OPEVAL determines how the fighter will fit into the services's structure and plan. OPEVAL helps to determine tactics used and mission planning...

With the AESA in the SEAD/ DEAD roles, the F-35 acting as a node in a mesh network, it can pass targeting info to the right platform/ a/c with the right ordinance/ weapon to attack the targets without revealing its self from the stealth envelope. Whether injecting a virus, JDAM or a HARM, the F-35 may pass targeting info to a "teen" carrying the heavy iron. The tactics developing will be slightly changed from those of legacy a/c.
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