RAF's 17 Sqn assumes control of F-35 test and evaluation

F-35 unit & base selection, delivery, activation
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Unread post10 Feb 2015, 23:33

RAF's 17 Sqn assumes control of F-35 test and evaluation
10 Feb 2015 Beth Stevenson

"The Royal Air Force’s 17 Sqn has assumed control of the test and evaluation of the UK’s first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, marking the start of independent operational testing by the UK of its future Joint Strike Fighter.

The aircraft – dubbed BK-1 – is based at Edwards AFB, California, where 17 Sqn has now begun to test and evaluate without the assistance of US forces that have until now supported the test campaign for the UK’s aircraft.

Both RAF and Royal Navy personnel make up the squadron, which will work to ensure that the aircraft is interoperable with the UK’s regulations and its other assets – including the RN’s new aircraft carriers – ahead of initial operational capability clearance for the aircraft, which is earmarked for 2018. The UK has a current requirement for 138 of the B-model short take-off and vertical landing version of the type, and the UK is the first of eight international partners to begin operational testing, the Ministry of Defence says.

“The F-35 has a myriad of sensors and technologies, which means every aspect of the aircraft is constantly being tested,” PO Gary Lister, who is responsible for ejection seats, crew escape systems and weapons management, says.

“This means when snags are found, they aren’t just fixed, but analysed and scrutinised to help future fault diagnosis and streamline the maintenance effort; it’s a hugely complex aircraft which will give both the navy and the RAF a superb capability.”

In parallel to BK-1 undergoing testing at Edwards AFB, the UK’s first operational aircraft – BK-3 – was delivered to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina on 3 February, where it will be flown by UK personnel. This is in preparation for the establishment of 617 Sqn, which will be the UK’s first frontline Lightning II unit, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk...."

Source: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articl ... on-408880/
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Unread post21 Dec 2017, 17:13

Six Page PDF of this article attached below - some relevant quotes excerpted nevertheless - info about QE CVF Testing.
Black Knights of Edwards
Jan 2018 Jamie Hunter AirForces Monthly

"...Jamie Hunter meets No 17 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron ‘Black Knights’, part of the F-35 operational test team at Edwards AFB, California.

...No 17(R) TES stood up in 2014 at Edwards as the UK’s F-35 operational evaluation unit and is now embedded within the F-35 JOTT [Joint Operational Test Team]. It is equipped with three F-35Bs, all of which are ‘orange wired’ with test instrumentation.

Cdr Ian Tidball, Royal Navy, is Officer Commanding No 17(R) TES, an appointment that reflects the true joint nature of the UK Lightning Force. “It’s a real privilege to be selected to command an RAF squadron,” he told AFM in his office at Edwards. “It shows that the UK Lightning Force truly is a joint organisation.”

With RAF and RN engineers being trained at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and pilots being similarly readied as an embedded element of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 ‘Warlords’ at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, the UK is building towards the stand up of No 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’ at RAF Marham, Norfolk, in 2018.

“We are the sole UK sovereign F-35 squadron at the moment,” explained Tidball. “617 [Squadron] is still operating under US Marine Corps regulations at Beaufort and will continue to do so until they move back to the UK. The maintainer schoolhouse at Eglin is also very much based on US policy. The method in which we maintain our aeroplanes is a little bit different. So, in addition to our test duties we have additional personnel from 617 and from 207 Squadron [the UK Lightning Operational Conversion Unit] who are here with us effectively receiving UK-specific training prior to returning to the UK in the summer.”

Stressing the F-35
The ‘Black Knights’ have been keen to build hours on their three jets in a bid to expose any early issues. However, being part of the JOTT brings with it the benefit of shared data across the US Air Force, US Marine Corps, US Navy and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. While acknowledging that the Lightning II is still relatively immature, Tidball says that the nature of the programme means that experiences and data are shared, which is a massive benefit.

“Our jets are early-build examples, so they’ve had to go away for up to six months for fairly extensive modifications. We are coming out of that now and we expect availability to improve, which is welcome because we’ve got a lot of things going on.”

Although the JOTT squadrons don’t pool aircraft, they share their findings and regularly fly alongside one another. “It’s essential that we are tied in. There will always be some unique things in certain areas that we look at separately, but 90% of the activities we are fully involved with. We are also tied in with the development test team of the Integrated Test Force [ITF] here at Edwards,” he added.

The squadron is currently involved in UK ‘mission effectiveness testing’. Tidball said: “There have been things that we’ve tweaked, and sure there are a few growing pains, but ultimately the F-35 is light years ahead and it will be an extremely solid performer. It’s a very software-driven platform, which helps ensure that keeping the aeroplane ahead of the threat is an easier task. To help ensure we do that, we will stay in lockstep with the US whilst continuing to develop UK-specific capabilities.”

The immediate focus for the ‘Black Knights’ is on weapons testing. Development test work on UK-specific weapons has been completed by the ITF and operational testing beckons.

“We are taking a staged approach to weapons evaluation,” explained Tidball. “The squadron is currently engaged in ground trials and verifying the documentation to load the weapons both internally and externally. We will start carriage trials in the first quarter of 2018.”...

...The UK element of the ITF will lead the Queen Elizabeth flight trials out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, off the east coast of the US, with the ‘Black Knights’ in support. It will see the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) F-35Bs and test pilots from ‘Pax’ taking the aircraft to the ship for the first time.

Two of these phases will clear the aircraft to operate in all configurations and recovery weights, in all deck conditions in carefully planned periods of specific testing. It will be followed by two operational test embarkations (OT-1 and 2) where No 17(R) TES will play front and centre. The first of these will be in mid- 2019, (HMS Prince of Wales will be used according to a report: https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/hms-pri ... in-rosyth/ ) again off the US east coast. “By then we will have all the clearances and we will be looking at things such as how we launch as a four-ship, mission support and loading weapons, that type of thing,” explained Tidball....

...“Generally for STOVL work we go down to MCAS Yuma, and we don’t expect any performance problems at the carrier. The simulator is so good that we don’t see a need to live fly our STOVL work on a regular basis. Compared with flying a Harrier, this is night and day. The aeroplane really looks after you – I can take my hands off the controls in the hover if I want to, even alongside the ship – it’s rock solid. The automatic deceleration means the pilot will get an indication as he or she approaches the ship, simply press a button and the aeroplane will come and hold station alongside the ship.

“Flying the Sea Harrier from the ship at night, in the back of your mind there was always the fact that you had to land back on the ship; it took up an element of your brain capacity during the mission. You can now feel complete confidence that – as long as you follow the procedures and use the aids provided – the aeroplane will take good care of you.”

When it comes to launching from HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, unlike the Marine Corps’ flat-deck carriers, the British ships have a ski-jump.

“Feedback from Pax River is that you simply line up and off you go,” smiled Tidball. “The aeroplane detects that you’re going up the ramp and configures the flight controls appropriately. You’ve got one hand on the throttle and the other guarding the control column. The aeroplane will put you at the optimum climb angle, in STOVL mode, and you accelerate out and can start control inputs once you feel comfortable.”

Future plans
Aside from the live-flying element of the F-35, synthetics are undoubtedly going to play a major role in day-to-day operations. Indeed, its advanced capabilities mean that for certain security considerations, there will be some training that will be conducted only in the secure environment of the simulator. “There are certain capabilities that we don’t want to use in the open air,” commented Tidball. “Also missions where we want a high density of threats, for example, the simulator is so good that you can actually do tactics development and validation. While we have embedded training modes in the aeroplane, there will be a lot that needs to be done in the simulator. In terms of live flying, I expect you’ll see British F-35s flying close air support and armed reconnaissance type missions, as well as some defensive counter-air.

“Live flying is important in that it makes you appreciate your vulnerabilities and your capacity to fly in the real world. We are looking at getting the right balance. The UK Lightning Force currently includes a lot of experienced pilots, but we also have ab initio pilots coming through now, so there’s a breadth of experience and it will be interesting to see how much live flying the new guys need over synthetics.”

The inevitable spiral development of the F-35 will see testing continuing throughout the life of the programme. There’s so much to be gained from the teaming arrangement it’s unlikely that the UK would want to diverge from the US and go off on a tangent. Thus, once IOT&E is complete, the JOTT could well dissolve, but the ‘Black Knights’ will remain in the US and will probably stay aligned with some of the American operational test units.

“For future testing it’s important that we are co-located with another F-35 user,” concluded Tidball. “We are all working to the same basic tactics, but we will have a specific UK manual that we are currently involved in producing. Ultimately, there’s a lot of smart people here working out the optimal way to effectively employ this aeroplane and make it as lethal and as survivable as they possibly can.”"

Source: AirForces Monthly Magazine January 2018 No.358
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Black Knights 17 Reserve Sqdn RAF UK F-35B Testers AirForces Monthly January 2018 pp6.pdf
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17(R)TESblackKnightsF-35BstovlBadge.jpg
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Unread post04 Nov 2019, 18:18

Found this 6 page PDF (attached below) the other day embedded in a larger PDF - Royal Navy News used to be online in PDF format but no more sadly one has to pay now. Thanks Royal Australian Navy News PDF format online is FREE.
KNIGHT VISION [17(R) Squadron RAF at Edwards AFB]
July 2015 Lorraine Proudlock [RN Navy News]

“MORE than 5,000 miles away from HMS Queen Elizabeth, a squadron of Royal Navy and RAF pioneers are ramping up work on bringing the F-35B Lightning II into service. Lorraine Proudlock joined them at Edwards Air Force Base in California....

...The helmets are now taken out to the aircraft dial-a-pizza style in foam-lined boxes (pilots used to carry them with them in a ‘shopping bag’ but this changed after a United States Marine Corps’ pilot suffered a ‘mishap’ when a handle snapped). Cdr Tidball [Senior Pilot/XO] was in the air for around two hours before returning for a hot-pit refuel, which takes about 40 minutes, 16 of them refuelling,...

...[Wg Cdr Beck] “We are flying the UK’s first two F-35Bs under sovereign jurisdiction, 5,600 miles from home – on top of that eight hours time difference – so the UK public rarely get to see what we achieve day by day....

...Cdr Tidball, 46 this month and who has more than 210 hours of flying the F-35B under his belt, will shortly be off to MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina and MCAS Yuma in Hawaii [but but but...] to complete his training to enable him to vertically land the aircraft....

...elements of 17 Squadron will remain at Edwards for the life of the aircraft.”

Source: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/-/media/ro ... ue-732.pdf (14.6Mb)
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USA F-35B Testing Edwards AFB RN navy-news-july-2015-issue-732 pp6.pdf
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Unread post05 Nov 2019, 02:46

17's like the "biggest" F-35B squadron... 3 F-35Bs with 80 personnel.

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