Royal Netherlands Air Force pilot flies first F-35 sortie

Production milestones, roll-outs, test flights, service introduction and other milestones.
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joost

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Unread post18 Dec 2013, 23:31

First Dutch F-35 Pilot Takes to Skies
Eglin Air Force Base
Story by 1st Lt. Hope Cronin


EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – The first Netherlands pilot took to the skies here in the F-35A Lightning II, making the Netherlands the second partner country to operate the fifth-generation multirole fighter.

Maj. Laurens J.W. Vijge, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Integrated Training Center training lead, completed his first flight after 210 hours of classroom training and 13 flights in the simulators.

[...]

The Netherlands currently has two aircraft stationed here where they will continue to train pilots for operational testing and evaluation of the aircraft starting 2015. The Netherlands’ aircraft and personnel are incorporated into the U.S. Air Force’s 58th Fighter Squadron at the 33rd Fighter Wing.

[...]

Source: http://www.dvidshub.net/news/118411/fir ... akes-skies
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Unread post19 Dec 2013, 00:29

Also see: First Dutch F-35 pilot takes to skies


Maj. Laurens Vijge, a RNlAF pilot, salutes his Lockheed Martin crew chief as he taxis out for the first flight in the F-35A Lightning II. Vijge became the first RNlAF pilot to fly the joint strike fighter and the flight marks the first sortie for the RNlAF here. [USAF photo by Samuel King Jr.]


Maj. Laurens Vijge, a RNlAF pilot, gets fit tested for his helmet mounted display for the F-35A Lightning II on December 11th, 2013 at Eglin AFB. On December 18th, Vijge became the first RNlAF pilot to fly the joint strike fighter and the flight marks the first sortie for the RNLAF. [USAF photo by SSgt. Nick Egebrecht]
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Unread post08 Jan 2014, 09:00

Dutch F-35 Flight: 2nd Foreign Operator of the F-35 06 Jan 2014

Video shows Dutch pilot flying the F-35 at Eglin AFB: http://vimeo.com/83495543
"Maj. Laurens J.W. Vijge, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Integrated Training Center training lead, completed his first flight after 210 hours of classroom training and 13 flights in the simulators.

“The jet handles great and is very easy to fly – in fact, it’s actually easier to fly than the simulator,” said Vijge. “I could not have been better prepared than I was for this flight, and it’s all thanks to the hard work and dedication of people working in the F-35 Academic Training Center.”

The Netherlands currently has two aircraft stationed here where they will continue to train pilots for operational testing and evaluation of the aircraft starting 2015. The Netherlands’ aircraft and personnel are incorporated into the U.S. Air Force’s 58th Fighter Squadron at the 33rd Fighter Wing.

“It was incredible – not only was my first flight in the first Dutch F-35, but I also got to fly this historic mission with Lt. Col. Matthew Renbarger (the 58th FS commander) as my wingman,” said Vijge, who is an experienced F-16 pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours. “It was truly amazing to start this day knowing that a lot of people, both in the U.S. as well as back in the Netherlands, have worked very hard to make this possible.”

The F-35 is designed to penetrate air defenses and deliver a wide range of precision munitions. This modern, next-generation aircraft brings the added benefits of stealth, increased interoperability with our allies and cost-sharing across U.S. services and partner nations.

“This first flight marks the start of an essential training program our pilots require, and it is a great example of the solid partnership between the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the United States Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Albert J. De Smit, Netherlands senior national representative for U.S. F-35 operations.

“The F-35 OT&E will be a cooperative effort with the United States Services and the United Kingdom. This is another example of the cooperative nature of the F-35 program,” added De Smit."

http://www.sldinfo.com/dutch-f-35-fligh ... -the-f-35/
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Unread post02 Jul 2014, 23:44

As noted earlier, this months issue of the Dutch magazine "Onze Luchtmacht" (Our Air Force) contains an interview with Maj. Laurens-Jan Vijge, the first foreign pilot to fly a F-35A. The editor-in-chief of the magazine has allowed me to post the entire interview, an opportunity I will happily use to provide some insights in the F-35A from a Dutch perspective. The translation may contain some mistakes for which I will apologize in advance.

By Willem Helfferich

Holland's first F-35A pilot

On December 18th, 2013, Maj. laurens-Jan Vijge wrote history when he became the first-RNLAF pilot to fly the F-35A from Eglin AFB in Florida. The aircraft in question was the first RNLAF F-35A, the F-001. Major Vijges wingman was his instructor Lt. Col. Matthew Renbarger, commander of the 58th Fighter Squadron (FS). With this sortie, Maj. Vijge became the first non-American who flew the CTOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The RNLAF thus became the second international partner aside the Royal Air Force / Navy with hours on the F-35. In preparation for its first flight Maj. Vijge had spent 210 hours spent in classroom and flew 13 sorties on the simulator. Why was Maj. Vijge selected as the first Dutch pilot to fly the Dutch F-001?

"It was actually a combination of circumstances that eventually led to the selection of a Dutch pilot to become the first non-American to start the F-35A pilot training. And on the 28th of October, 2013, that pilot was me," says Maj. Laurens-Jan Vijge (39). "I entered service in 1995, flew F-16s for 15 years and became a weapons instructor in 2003. I then taught several courses in Leeuwarden, just around the same time when the 'JSF Operational Working Group' (JOWG) was established. The SDD-contract was signed in June 2002, so the RNLAF already knew that we would be involved in the development of the F-35A. The intention of the JOWG, led by former Colonel Emile van Duren, was to form some kind of knowledge and think-tank for the F-35. There were primarily staff officers at first, but they soon realized that they needed some of the younger pilots there - 'but those who do know what they are talking about'. They then made a selection of the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT) graduates from my year," remembers Maj. Vijge. "They selected one pilot per squadron, which is basically how I first came into contact with the JSF project. By then my interest was already strongly aroused. Everybody knew that the F-16 would have to be replaced one day."

Things became concrete when the decision was made to purchase two test aircraft and to participate in the Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) of the F-35A, especially among the operational pilots. "In the 2007-2008 time frame it became visible for pilots that it would take about five years before the first F-35A would require its first pilots. I don't think anyone knew about the exact plan and how it would all evolve. I personally was at a point in my career that I was wondering what I could do besides flying F-16s. I did not directly see any new challenges, as I already did everything I had hoped I could do. When my commander asked me what I would want to do, I simply replied that the JSF project was interesting me. It all revolved around something I truly believe in: replacing the ageing F-16s. That conversation did not go any further at that point."

However, that was not exactly the end for Maj. Vijge. The OT&E required a project manager. The yearly meeting between squadron- and base commanders who decide on which pilot gets posted where, picked former Lt. Col Bert de Smit for this position. Three additional pilots were also selected for the OT&E. "That is when my name came out of the hat. I became part of the team working and the F-35A and knew that I would eventually be one of the first of us to fly it. Who would be the actual first was of course still a mystery at that point. I don't think much of that changed in the start of October, 2013, because we didn't know if we could participate in the F-35A pilot training with one or two pilots. Neither did we know when we could start, which was still dependable on political decision-making."

"I surely didn't mind to be the first one to fly the F-35A. It is not like there was only one man capable of being the first to do so. Around 2008-2009 it was already set that the OT&E team would have to consist out of capable and motivated pilots, which I think is basically what a 'standard fighter pilot' should be like. They had to be weapons instructors at the very least, one of the requirements from the American side. Moreover, potential candidates had to be prepared to work on the project for long periods of time. Those who only wanted to do it for a year didn't fit within the trajectory we had set out earlier. I saw that the F-16 was rapidly nearing the end of its service. I liked the idea of a new aircraft and being involved within that whole replacement from day one" says Maj. Vijge.

OT&E team
Project manager and newly promoted Kol. Bert de Smit himself flew the F-35A on April the 8th, 2014. He started his training on February the 18th and graduated somewhere in May. Two additional pilots will follow, which will bring the overall number of Dutch pilots in the OT&E team to four. On September 13th, three technicians specialized in weaponry started their training, followed by three technicians with a sheet metal and painting background focused on repairs of the LO-skin. They were soon joined by six highly experienced crew chiefs and thee general aviation technology-specialists who finished their avionics-training in April, 2014. Two of those, one crew chief and one specialist, have already been working on the F-35 Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT&E) for over three years in Edwards AFB as part of the Dutch participation in the SDD-phase. After their placement in Edwards AFB, however, they were about to go back to the Netherlands.

"We then asked them to stay, but now as a part of our Eglin-based OT&E team. Fortunately, they were prepared to do so after the Ministry of Defense agreed. We are truly fortunate indeed, because they basically pull the cart in the area of technical and NCO issues. They really know what they are talking about. They have been working on actual flying airframes for quite some time now," says a satisfied Maj. Vijge. "Four of our guys have started working on the ICT-support system ALIS in May. They will start directly in Edwards AFB, because that is where we will be heading at the end of this year anyway. Edwards AFB is where it will all happen. What we're now doing in Eglin is basically a preparatory phase: learning how to work on and with the F-35A. The OT&E will eventually take place in Edwards."

With the addition of a security employee securing secret information in the program, two extra crew members in charge of flight equipment and two men in charge of logistics and support-equipment of peripheral equipment like hydraulic test-stands, the overall OT&E team will consist out of around 35 men and women.

Gigantic database
"We pilots still sometimes talk about the Dash-one, the manual or "Bible' of the F-16. This does not exist for the F-35 anymore. The overall information on the jet is all digital and is included in the Joint Technical Data (JTD), which covers everything you now find in textbooks and manuals. It also contains the Flight Series Data (FSD), which is basically what we now sometimes refer to as the Dash-one, as well as the Pilot Check List (PCL). At the moment I still have some paper checklists in the cockpit, but there is literally no Dash one to be found. This means there are no folders or files I can look through in the evening. I do have a computer program which I can use to read through some things, which is a drawback because I need to be at my desk and start my PC. On the other hand it's an advantage as it is all digital. If I want to know something about hydraulics, I only have to type it in and within a matter of seconds you have all you can know about hydraulics on your screen. In that sense it's more practical.

Because the F-35 is still being developed and continuously facing tests, not all information is to be found within the Flights Series Data, Maj. Vijge has found. "Precisely because we have about 100 F-35s flying, we sometimes discover things that we think should be looked at more closely. The FSD will then have to be updated to clarify those issues more precisely. For example, I sometimes see messages on the automatic warning systems in my cockpit while there is nothing I can do about it. My checklist will often times merely state that such a message is information only. This, thankfully, never involves critical issues and we will learn what kind of consequences are connected to those messages, but further explanations are often times not yet to be found in the FSD."

It is also unique that all the flight data is transferred into a recorder after each flight. This information is put into computer systems which will calculate the wear and tear of each individual component, scrutinizes each individual message et cetera. "That is basically what we are doing now," says Maj. Vijge. "Generate sorties, gain experience not only for ourselves but also for the support and maintenance crews with whom we are trying to create a smart and efficient organization. It's going to be a huge database with information which will basically be inexhaustible. Every flight we make improves our skill level, the aircraft and the F-35 air system."

700 Test- and Evaluation
The Dutch personnel stationed in Eglin is administratively part of the 700 Test- and Evaluation-squadron commanded by Col. Bert de Smit. This is a provisional designation as long as now official name is assigned. "I'm personally assigned as an instructor to the American 58th FS of the 33rd Fighter Wing. Our technical personnel is commanded by the Dutch maintenance lead, Maj. De Weme. This has basically nothing to do with the American squadrons or numbers. Our staff is now so scattered that it is difficult to explain where people exactly belong to, even for us. We're actually still in the phase of recruitment, educating and training people for the upcoming test-phase. We will come together as a club as soon as the OT&E starts. That's why we're now basically referred to as the Dutch OT&E team.

Configuration 1B/2A
The first Dutch F-35A, the F-001, was delivered in Block 1B configuration. The second, F-002, in configuration Block 2A. "I started with the Block 1B syllabus and sometimes flew Block 2A during that syllabus. When I was in training, the simulators were updated from Block 1B to Block 2A, which meant I eventually couldn't practice with the Block 1B configuration. But that doesn't really matter when flying is concerned. Block 1 is a training-configuration not suitable for operational testing. We're now starting to learn more about the Block 2 configuration, but will eventually be using Block 2B during the OT&E. With the 2A configuration, you have a bit more options and the software is more stable. Four of my colleagues from the 58th FS have flown during the night and the Dutch pilots will do the same later in the program. Flying by night is part of the training as well as the development-program," according to Maj. Vijge.

Fantastic device
"When I started my training, I heard about the issues this extraordinary helmet was supposedly suffering from. So I was naturally interested in the vibration and latency problems I had been hearing about. The inner liner of the helmet is based on a 3D-scan of the pilot's head, which meant that my head first needed to be scanned in order for the inner liner to be tailored specifically to my head. This inner liner is then put in the outer shell of the helmet, which is either medium, large or extra large. The electronics unit is attached to this outer shell. So when I put on my helmet and fasten it via the neck straps and a rotary switch, it fits like a glove. When I move my head, the helmet doesn't move an inch. It is genuinely a perfect fit. The ear pad are perfectly in place and when I put down my display, I have an extremely stable image of the world surrounding me. I haven't yet noticed any latency of vibration issues. Those stories came from test-pilots and are based upon the requirements which the helmet will eventually have to meet. Perhaps those issues will be more noticeable during night operations, but as of now I've never had a helmet I liked better! I now have the newest variant, Generation II. I think it's a superb device. According to the test-pilots, the latency and vibration issues will be history when the Generation III helmet is introduced."

Ideal platform
New to the RNLAF is the so-called Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses-role the F-35A will provide besides the more traditional roles of air-to-air and air-to-ground trasks. "This is an ideal platform for SEAD-tasks," confirms Maj. Vijge. "Thanks to the sensors and the Electronic Warfare-antennas, which the airframe is literally full of in each and every way. Combine this with an advanced radar, the Electro-Optical Targeting System and the Distributed Aperture System and you are provided everything you need to form a perfect picture of the battlefield. This is a must for SEAD as well as DEAD-missions, the latter revolving around the Destruction of Enemy Air Defences. We practice this SEAD-role every now and then in the F-35 simulator which is currently used to test and develop new software. As such we now already have a select group of RNLAF pilots which is no stranger to SEAD-missions. I'm looking already looking forward to be able to fly those missions with our very own aircraft".

Source: Helfferich, Willem (2014). "De Eerste Nederlandse F-35 Vlieger", Onze Luchtmacht, nr. 3-2014, p. 10-12.

With special thanks to the author and editor-in-chief, Willem Helfferich!
Last edited by treebeard on 03 Jul 2014, 10:27, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post02 Jul 2014, 23:57

Something went horribly wrong I guess.

Double, my apologies.
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Unread post02 Jul 2014, 23:58

Double, my apologies.
Last edited by treebeard on 03 Jul 2014, 10:06, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post03 Jul 2014, 02:09

'treebeard' Thanks very much for going to your trouble to translate the story. Very good to read about the pilot perspectives. Thanks again.
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