How F-35 Middle East deployments are shaping future ops

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spazsinbad

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Unread post19 Aug 2020, 05:47

How F-35 Middle East Deployments Are Shaping Future Ops
18 Aug 2020 Brian W. Everstine

"Air Force F-35As from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have patrolled the skies of the Middle East continuously for the past 16 months, dropping bombs on the remnants of the Islamic State group and testing new tactics that will shape how the Joint Strike Fighter is used in the future. The 34th Fighter Squadron’s deployment to the region from October 2019 to June 2020 checked off a lot of firsts for the F-35A, including the type’s first short-notice deployment and the first time the jet practiced agile combat employment—operating from both its home base of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and a small forward-deployed location.

“We proved that with the F-35 we can carry out a variety of mission sets. The requirements in CENTCOM go from close air support, all the way to opposed offensive and defensive counter-air and maritime support in the swing of a single day,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Cavazos, commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron, in a statement to Air Force Magazine. “You have to be ready for everything. We were doing everything from strafing in close air support, which wouldn’t normally compute in your brain with the capabilities a fifth-generation fighter brings, to running maritime escort for Carrier Strike Groups in the span of a single day.”

[...]

Much of the [34th FS] squadron, while deployed, operated out of Al Dhafra—the base that has hosted Air Force stealth fighters deployed to the Middle East in recent years. But the squadron also forward deployed a third of its of Airmen and aircraft to an “undisclosed location” without the same level of support and infrastructure to conduct ongoing combat operations for about three months. The step was a real-life example of the agile combat employment effort the Air Force is practicing in other commands.

“Successfully implementing split operations was the biggest takeaway for us,” Cavasos said. “To be able to bed down in a forward location means that we now have unpredictability against potential adversaries. They are so used to us showing up in country, staying in the same place for half a year, doing the same things and leaving. They know it. We know it. Now we proved we can be more agile. That principal can carry over operationally to other regions and any potential adversaries there.”

While the broader F-35A fleet is still plagued by maintenance issues—only registering a 61.6 percent mission capable rate in 2019—the squadron was able to fly its first combat sortie within 24 hours and it didn’t lose one sortie due to a maintenance issue at either location while deployed, said Capt. Susan McLeod, the officer in charge of the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, in a statement to Air Force Magazine. This at a time the F-35 enterprise is dealing with the continued problems of the Autonomic Logistics Information System, as the program moves toward its replacement.

[...]

The squadron returned to Hill in June, its deployment extended because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, and they have been replaced in theater by Hill’s 421st Fighter Squadron. The Utah base is the Air Force’s only operational F-35 location in the continental United States, and for the 34th, the deployment included pilots who had never deployed with any airplane as well as many young maintainers who had not worked in that environment before.

“I had guys straight from the basic F-35 course who got to see live combat, see how joint operations work, and the unpredictability of warfare. This experience is only going to help them going forward
. It was a confidence booster and that perspective that will improve how they train back home,” Cavazos said. “Operationally, we’re becoming our own F-35 community. We aren’t a hodge-podge of pilots from other air frames anymore.”"

Source: https://www.airforcemag.com/how-f-35-mi ... uture-ops/
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Unread post19 Aug 2020, 13:50

Thanks for sharing that!
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Corsair1963

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Unread post20 Aug 2020, 03:40

DITTO :D
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Unread post20 Aug 2020, 11:25

Something that I think never gets said enough...

People often talk a lot about how bad the mission capable rate is of the F-22, F-35 or (take your pick) airfcraft. Yet when called upon to deploy in theater, our people always seem to step it up - and that figure almost always improves considerably. Maybe its just me and the stories I read, but stuff like this happens a lot. Another example: Prior to DS, the F-15E supposedly "wasn't ready" for action.

Boy, did that change real fast.

This is a tremendous testament to the people in USAF/USN etc, usually much moreso than the equipment. It's great to see. I just wish they were funded and taken care of as well as some of the weapons systems..
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Unread post20 Aug 2020, 19:11

mixelflick wrote:Something that I think never gets said enough...

... when called upon to deploy in theater, our people always seem to step it up - and that figure almost always improves considerably. Maybe its just me and the stories I read, but stuff like this happens a lot. Another example: Prior to DS, the F-15E supposedly "wasn't ready" for action.


One of the blessings I had being assigned to a Q(KC 135Qs) squadron was we didn't have the peacetime BS framework. Everything whether SR-71 or U-2's or dragging F-14s across the ocean was a "operational deployment." never worried about peacetime procedures and protocols. You did what you had to do, even landing on 6,000 ft runways with a nearly 300,000 lb airplane. or flying over "neutral" countries' air space. Let the diplomats sort it out..

However, and this is not to be taken lightly. The 6,000 ft runway airframe shelled an engine the next month, and Taiwan got very upset with un flightplanned flights over Taipei. There is a price to pay for that stuff.

FWIW,
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Unread post20 Aug 2020, 20:09

dragging F-14s across the ocean


Couldn't they find the boat? :D
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Unread post21 Aug 2020, 06:40

outlaw162 wrote:
dragging F-14s across the ocean


Couldn't they find the boat? :D


They were "Geranium" :wink: F-14's for the Shah

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usnvo

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Unread post23 Aug 2020, 20:09

mixelflick wrote:People often talk a lot about how bad the mission capable rate is of the F-22, F-35 or (take your pick) airfcraft. Yet when called upon to deploy in theater, our people always seem to step it up - and that figure almost always improves considerably.

[...]

This is a tremendous testament to the people in USAF/USN etc, usually much moreso than the equipment. It's great to see. I just wish they were funded and taken care of as well as some of the weapons systems..


That and a testament to how having spare parts ready on hand to fix things changes the capability rates. Mission Capable rates are often artificially low due to unrelated factors. For instance, if you have several aircraft waiting for new canopies, that will suppress readiness for the entire fleet until you fix the issue. But the ones they deploy have already fixed it or have spares on hand and priority to get more. Until you have a mature, fully funded maintenance and supply systems, you really can't put a lot of credence in fleet mission capability numbers. It is also why forward deployed readiness is not a good gauge of overall health. Unfortunately, spare parts are always the first thing to be cut in the budget cycle. As an example, when SECDEF required 80pct readiness, the F-18E/F MC rates went up dramatically after the Navy dumped an additional $2B into spare parts and funded the depot closer to the required level. Will miracles never cease.
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Unread post23 Aug 2020, 21:11

“That and a testament to how having spare parts ready on hand to fix things changes the capability rates. Mission Capable rates are often artificially low due to unrelated factors...Until you have a mature, fully funded maintenance and supply systems, you really can't put a lot of credence in fleet mission capability numbers. It is also why forward deployed readiness is not a good gauge of overall health. Unfortunately, spare parts are always the first thing to be cut in the budget cycle. As an example, when SECDEF required 80pct readiness, the F-18E/F MC rates went up dramatically after the Navy dumped an additional $2B into spare parts and funded the depot closer to the required level. Will miracles never cease.“

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Unread post24 Aug 2020, 00:25

usnvo wrote:Until you have a mature, fully funded maintenance and supply systems, you really can't put a lot of credence in fleet mission capability numbers.


Plus how can anyone reasonably expect high numbers when there's a building fleet of 2,400, growing at 130 to 155 per year? Obviously availability of a rapidly building fleet (and parts supply need) is going to be constantly playing catch-up for the first 15 years of such a build until the rate slows. That's as much an artifact of the scale and build rate, which would look even worse if 200 to 300 more were built several years sooner.

RAAF seems to be pleasantly relieved how well the initial availability has worked out. A big deal if the availability were not there, it would require a sudden buy of Superhornets, and they would not be selling classics off to Canada, if there was any significant doubt about how F-35A would pan out.
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