UK MOD in a muddle over F-35C

Program progress, politics, orders, and speculation
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steve2267

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Unread post10 Apr 2021, 14:15

SCIF in-a-box?
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post10 Apr 2021, 21:22

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Unread post18 Apr 2021, 21:11

Misleading headline methinks - perhaps the headline writer does not understand JPALS versus PALS? I guess who cares.
PMA-213 completes PALS certification on UK’s new aircraft carrier
16 Apr 2021 NavAirSysCom PR

"NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. -- The Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office (PMA-213) completed Precision Approach and Landing System (PALS) certification on the United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), in March, completing a critical step in readying the ship for its first operational deployment.

The PALS system includes the AN/SPN-41B Instrument Carrier Landing System (ICLS), previously installed by PMA-213 as a foreign military sales (FMS) effort, and the AN/USN-3 Joint Precision and Approach Landing System (JPALS) system, installed as a U.S. asset to support the future embarkation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211’s F-35Bs aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth during its inaugural operational deployment.

The early phases of the installation were supported remotely by the Naval Air Warfare Center Webster Outlying Field (NAWCAD WOLF) Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems (ATC&LS) Division. Once the initial installation activities were completed, the NAWCAD WOLF team, led by Shawn Magoon, travelled to the United Kingdom in early February to finalize the installation and support the certification, but first had to overcome a few challenges.

The team faced heightened U.K. coronavirus travel restrictions, unique policy questions concerning the installation of the JPALS system on HMS Queen Elizabeth,...

...he NAWCAD WOLF team was joined by members of Naval Test Wing Atlantic ATC&LS Test Branch, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 to complete the at-sea portion of the certification. The ATC&LS Test Branch is the certification authority for all U.S. ships, and in this case for the U.S.-owned [?] JPALS installed aboard the British aircraft carrier, while also supporting certification recommendations for FMS installed systems. Coincidentally, the final certification flights for HMS Queen Elizabeth were completed on the same day another team from PMA-213 was carrying out PALS [aslo JPALS? see: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=20426&p=436457&hilit=JPALS#p436457 & viewtopic.php?f=22&t=20426&p=452710&hilit=WOLF#p452710 ] certification for the Italian aircraft carrier, ITS Cavour (CVH 550) off the U.S. east coast.

The success of the installation and certification of the JPALS and SPN-41B systems aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth was due to the close collaboration between PMA-213, NAWCAD WOLF, VMFA-211 and their U.K. counterparts, Watkins [Capt. Kevin Watkins, PMA-213 program manager] said...."

Source: https://www.navair.navy.mil/news/PMA-21 ... 62021-1442
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Unread post19 Apr 2021, 03:19

“Misleading headline methinks - perhaps the headline writer does not understand JPALS versus PALS? I guess who cares.“

A PALS certification is a NAVAIR certification process; JPALS is but one precision approach system that has been certified. There are others, eg SPN-35, and SPN-41.
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Unread post19 Apr 2021, 09:09

More details of the upcoming UK Carrier Strike Group deployment emerge
15 Apr 2021 formerlySTRN now Navy Lookout

"...Subject to change… [I don't see any graphics / maps or anyfink - anythang is always "LOADING" endlessly]]
One of the great strengths of naval forces is their inherent flexibility and plans may be changed at short notice in response to political requirements or other events. Other issues such as weather conditions, logistical or mechanical problems may also require the plan to be revised. Only a limited number of people will know the exact course for the deployment and for security reasons the RN never gives precise details about the timing of port visits more than about 48 hours in advance. There may also be sensitive missions planned to be conducted within the voyage that will not be mentioned before or after. For example, the RN has provided virtually no detail of its operations in the South China Sea during the last few years.

It should also be remembered there are many separate moving parts to the enterprise. The carrier group will not remain together for the whole time and ships are likely to be detached to make port visits on their own. Aircraft may be flown off for visits to airbases and if complex maintenance is needed, there is now a global network on nations that can support F-35 and Japan provides this option. The USS The Sullivans and HNLMS Evertsen may also temporarily detach to conduct missions in support of their nation’s interests. Other vessels from partner nations are likely to join the group for periods for exercises, familiarisation and for the purpose of making a political statement.

Many ports cannot accommodate HMS Queen Elizabeth alongside and she may anchor a little way off in deeper water. She is well equipped for this scenario, carrying 3 dedicated passenger transport boats that are lowered from bays in the sponsons that overhang the side of the ship. Convenient passenger access can then be provided via pontoon lashed to the purpose-built platform and companionways at the stern of the ship.

The ships will go into a COVID-secure state prior to sailing for exercise Strike Warrior and then will remain so until they returns home at the end of the deployment. This means visitor and media access will be limited and strict protocols have to be adhered to regarding who can leave or come onboard the ship. This is a considerable frustration as it will limit the diplomatic impact that would normally be achieved by hosting guests on the carrier and reduce the media coverage. It will also restrict the opportunities for runs ashore which would are a big part of the excitement for the sailors when going on a global deployment.

Which way home?
Although the deployment is slated to last around 6 months it is unclear exactly by what route the group will return to the UK after operations off Japan. There are essentially 3 options.
1) circumnavigation of the globe, ie, crossing the Pacific, round Cape Horn and into the South Atlantic. This is probably unlikely this requires a long time at sea and diplomatic benefits are limited.

2) Head South from Japan, possibly visiting Australia or even New Zealand but then return home roughly the way they came via Suez and the Mediterranean.

3) Return on the westerly route but via Africa, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and visiting West African nations. Option two would seem to be the most likely."


Source: https://www.navylookout.com/more-detail ... nt-emerge/
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Unread post27 Apr 2021, 02:25

British name enormous carrier strike group heading for the Indo-Pacific
26 Apr 2021 Andrew Chuter

"LONDON – The largest fleet of Royal Navy warships to deploy internationally since the 1982 Falklands War is heading to the Indo-Pacific region next month as the British government seeks to raise its presence in the Far East. The maiden deployment of a UK carrier strike group led by the Royal Navy’s new 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth has been on the cards for months but this is the first time the MoD has detailed the destinations, ships, aircraft and submarines involved.

Aside from the carrier, the surface fleet comprises Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender and HMS Diamond; Type 23 anti-submarine frigates, HMS Kent and HMS Richmond; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s logistics ships Fort Victoria and Tidespring. An Astute-class nuclear submarine will also be part of the force....

...The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and a Dutch frigate, HNLMS Evertse, complete the line-up of surface warships accompanying HMS Queen Elizabeth on the 28 week deployment.

Eight British F-35B Lightning strike aircraft will be deployed on the carrier, with the bigger part of the warship’s fast-jet strike force made up of 10 US Marine Corp F-35s. To date Britain has only ordered 48 of the short-take-off, vertical-landing aircraft version of the F-35, with deliveries standing at 21.

Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin laid out the expected F-35 and carrier capability development path in a Parliamentary answer last November.

“The current, agreed F35-B Lightning procurement profile will see the U.K. reach 48 aircraft in quarter four of 2025. … In December 2023, when full operational capability carrier strike is scheduled to be declared, the UK F35-B Lightning force will have a total of 37 F35-B aircraft which will support two frontline squadrons and the Operational Conversion Unit. The full complement of 48 aircraft will be available in 2026,” he said.... [then lots of stuff already noted earlier]

Source: https://www.defensenews.com/global/euro ... o-pacific/
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Unread post27 Apr 2021, 02:29

What a much of BS.....37 F-35B's are not enough to support two front line Squadrons plus a OCU.



....and let not forget No 17 Squadron in California. Maybe only 2-3 aircraft. Yet, you still have to count them!
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Unread post28 Apr 2021, 05:38

"VMFA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers”, recently touched down at RAF Lakenheath, England, and will soon be embarking aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment." 28 Apr 2021 3rd MAW https://twitter.com/3rdmaw/status/1387172290945683456?form=MY01SV&OCID=MY01SV
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Unread post30 Apr 2021, 21:12

Blended U.S. Marine, U.K. Royal Air Force Air Wing Aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth Will be Largest F-35 Deployment to Date
29 Apr 2021 Mallory Shelbourne [LONG ARTICLE - LOTS OF DETAIL NOT EXCERPTED BELOW - best read at source]

"...After participating in workups last year aboard U.K. Royal Navy HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the Marine Corps F-35B squadron and the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” – 10 fighters with the Marines and eight with the Brits – will begin a seven-month deployment in May that will take them across the Indo-Pacific region with what the Marine Corps is calling “the largest fifth-generation carrier air wing in the world.”

“We have never seen a ship with 18 F-35s out there that is going to transverse half the world like we’re going to do,” Lt. Col. Andrew D’Ambrogi, the commanding officer of VMFA-211, told USNI News in a recent interview. “It’s a pretty bold statement. It’s about power projection.”

While the two squadrons used last year’s pre-deployment drills to show the two countries can operate and maintain the F-35B together from the British carrier, the Marines are hoping the deployment will also showcase what a large formation of F-35s is capable of.

“To have the opportunity to go to a ship – any ship, nonetheless a British ship that’s designed for F-35 – is going to allow us the space and the mission sets to allow us to kind of really test what an entire F-35 squadron can do,” D’Ambrogi said. “So I’m very excited to gather that data and determine if we’ve got it right or give the feedback on how to make it better.”...

...While the Marines have deployed F-35Bs as detachments aboard Navy amphibious ships, the deployment aboard the British carrier will be the first chance for the service to deploy a full 10-aircraft squadron with all of its personnel since Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger cut the number of jets in its F-35 squadrons from 16 aircraft to 10.

The change came out of Berger’s force design initiative to prepare the Marine Corps for a potential conflict in 2030, for which Marine Corps officials have argued the service must shed its heavier equipment so it can operate as a lighter force on islands or shorelines in a region like the Pacific.

Last year’s force design report cut the number of aircraft per squadron to 10 and said the Marine Corps needed to do more experimentation to better ascertain how it would use the F-35Bs and Cs. This month’s update from the Marine Corps after a year of experimentation raised concerns about having sufficient maintenance personnel to sustain the F-35 aircraft....

...With 10 jets and 180 U.S. Marines forming the squadron, the deployment will help the Marine Corps determine not only whether it has the right number of aircraft, but also if it has the correct number and kind of personnel and overall maintenance procedures....

...Marine Corps officials previously told USNI News that the two squadrons during pre-deployment training flew in formations with both U.S. and U.K. planes and swapped parts for the aircraft....

...Deploying with VMFA-211 is also a team of 18 ordnance sailors from aircraft carrier USS John Stennis (CVN-74), which is currently awaiting the start of its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul in Virginia. Lt. Mike Brown, an aviation ordnance officer with the Navy, told USNI News that his team is deploying with the squadron because U.S. Marines do not build their ordnance when operating on an American ship. This is a task completed by the ship’s company.

While policy does not allow the U.K. and U.S. to build each other’s ordnance, Brown said the objective during the deployment is for his team to learn from the U.K.’s air weapons party how it builds its ordnance.

Because it’s been years since the U.K. operated an aircraft carrier, Brown said his ordnance team will help the British team with its methods and noted the Royal Air Force had been building the U.K. team’s weapons.

Brown, who also trained last year aboard Queen Elizabeth, said his team will need to assemble ordnance differently on the U.K. carrier than it would on an American ship because of how the British organize the magazines in the ship...."

Source: https://news.usni.org/2021/04/29/blende ... nt-to-date
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Unread post01 May 2021, 17:03

More than anywhere else, I think the F-35's attributes really shine when deployed on these smaller carriers.

18 aircraft vs. what, 70-90 on our CVN's? Fortunately the F-35B can do a little of everything (except tank). Great air to ground/strike platform, shouldn't require a fighter escort of any sort, part E/W aircraft and excellent SEAD/DEAD platform as well. All in a supersonic, stealthy package that promises to transform the battlespace.

Quantum leap vs. the AV-8B...

The Royal Navy has really stepped it up. Just hoping they stay the course on the number they originally planned to buy..
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Unread post02 May 2021, 01:30

mixelflick wrote:More than anywhere else, I think the F-35's attributes really shine when deployed on these smaller carriers.

18 aircraft vs. what, 70-90 on our CVN's? Fortunately the F-35B can do a little of everything (except tank). Great air to ground/strike platform, shouldn't require a fighter escort of any sort, part E/W aircraft and excellent SEAD/DEAD platform as well. All in a supersonic, stealthy package that promises to transform the battlespace.

Quantum leap vs. the AV-8B...

The Royal Navy has really stepped it up. Just hoping they stay the course on the number they originally planned to buy..


There hasn''t been that number of aircraft in a USN CVN airwing since the 80's.

Current numbers in a USN Carrier Airwing are:

32 x F/A-18E
12 x F/A-18F
5 x EA-18G
4 x E-2C/D
5 x MH-60R - ASW Helicopter
6 x MH-60S - VERTREP and AShW
There's another 6 x MH-60R and 2 x MH-60S on accompanying escorts and auxiliaries with 2 C-2 for COD at a nearby base ashore. And this is the 'ideal' they don't always hit it.

In contrast QE's CSG will have:

18 x F-35B
7 x Merlin HM.2 - ASW and AEW Helicopters
4 x Wildcat HM.1 - ASuW and ASW Helicopter
3 x Merlin HC.4 - VERTREP and CSAR Helicopters.
Note: The attached US warship, the Arleigh Burke Class USS The Sulllivans is a Batch 1 AB so has no hangar so is not bringing along a helo, for some odd reason the Dutch frigate HNMLS Evertsen is also not carrying her NH-90 helicopter (probably relating to sustaining a single type over such a long deployment).

It's worth pointing out that this is far from the 'full' loadout that could happen when the Carrier reaches full operational capability in 2025 as planned, this is still a developing capability. The full planned capability is:

36 x F-35B
10-12 x Merlin HM.2 - ASW and AEW
4 x Wildcat HM.1 - ASuW and ASW
3 x Merlin HC.4 - VERTREP and CSAR

Thats more than twice as many F-35 as a US CVN is planning to have from 2030 onwards..To be fair the USN airwing is scheduled to grow a little by 2030 with an additional 2 combat aircraft. There is also doubt about if and when the UK will order beyong their initial 48 F-35B (the recent Defence Review said it would, but mentioned no numbers or dates). The 36 would therefore be a 'surge' whole fleet effort number a la Falklands War, with 24 being the normal maximum. In addition its only fair to say that until the full Block IV enhancements are carried out the UK's F-35B's won't have full combat capability with all planned munitions, and even when that occurs they will still be lacking a real anti ship missile and long range cruise missile capability unless something changes in the next few years.
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Unread post02 May 2021, 20:32

A TONNE of pics of CSG21 departing Portsmouth 01 May 2021: https://www.navylookout.com/the-uk-carr ... sets-sail/

Photo: "RAF and USMC personnel on deck for procedure alpha." https://www.navylookout.com/wp-content/ ... zabeth.jpg

The UK Carrier Strike Group sails https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJ6R1zNF7oo

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Unread post02 May 2021, 20:56

3 Merlins with Crowsnest and a Wildcat loaded with 20 Martlet missiles. That is something new.
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Unread post03 May 2021, 01:30

timmymagic wrote:
There hasn''t been that number of aircraft in a USN CVN airwing since the 80's.

Current numbers in a USN Carrier Airwing are:

32 x F/A-18E
12 x F/A-18F
5 x EA-18G
4 x E-2C/D
5 x MH-60R - ASW Helicopter
6 x MH-60S - VERTREP and AShW
There's another 6 x MH-60R and 2 x MH-60S on accompanying escorts and auxiliaries with 2 C-2 for COD at a nearby base ashore. And this is the 'ideal' they don't always hit it.

In contrast QE's CSG will have:

18 x F-35B
7 x Merlin HM.2 - ASW and AEW Helicopters
4 x Wildcat HM.1 - ASuW and ASW Helicopter
3 x Merlin HC.4 - VERTREP and CSAR Helicopters.
Note: The attached US warship, the Arleigh Burke Class USS The Sulllivans is a Batch 1 AB so has no hangar so is not bringing along a helo, for some odd reason the Dutch frigate HNMLS Evertsen is also not carrying her NH-90 helicopter (probably relating to sustaining a single type over such a long deployment).

It's worth pointing out that this is far from the 'full' loadout that could happen when the Carrier reaches full operational capability in 2025 as planned, this is still a developing capability. The full planned capability is:

36 x F-35B
10-12 x Merlin HM.2 - ASW and AEW
4 x Wildcat HM.1 - ASuW and ASW
3 x Merlin HC.4 - VERTREP and CSAR

Thats more than twice as many F-35 as a US CVN is planning to have from 2030 onwards..To be fair the USN airwing is scheduled to grow a little by 2030 with an additional 2 combat aircraft. There is also doubt about if and when the UK will order beyong their initial 48 F-35B (the recent Defence Review said it would, but mentioned no numbers or dates). The 36 would therefore be a 'surge' whole fleet effort number a la Falklands War, with 24 being the normal maximum. In addition its only fair to say that until the full Block IV enhancements are carried out the UK's F-35B's won't have full combat capability with all planned munitions, and even when that occurs they will still be lacking a real anti ship missile and long range cruise missile capability unless something changes in the next few years.



I have little doubt the number of F-35C's on USN Aircraft Carriers. Will increase in the coming years. Yet, not so optimistic about F-35B's on Royal Navy Ships.
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Unread post03 May 2021, 01:47

I spoke to soon...........(just found this)

First F-35C Air Wing Ready to Bring 5th-Gen Fighters to Carrier Strike Group
By: Megan Eckstein

As the Navy approaches the first-ever deployment of its advanced carrier air wing – with the fifth-generation F-35C Joint Strike Fighter paired with the CMV-22B Osprey to serve as the carrier onboard delivery plane – leadership from USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and Carrier Air Wing 2 say they’ve ironed out many integration issues between the ship and the two new aircraft types and are ready for a final exercise this summer to prove they can deploy.

CVW-2 is wrapping up its advanced training at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada, honing the way the F-35C will interact with other aircraft types and use its new sensors and computing power to elevate the performance of the entire air wing, the deputy commander told USNI News in a recent interview. This air wing-only training event comes after a Tailored Ship’s Training Availability and Group Sail in February and March that got entire strike group together for the first time, allowing the air wing to operate from the carrier and coordinate with surface combatants to conduct missions.

Capt. Tommy Locke, the deputy air wing commander, said CVW-2 is a denser air wing than ones the Navy has deployed recently. Additional aircraft include an extra E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and two additional EA-18G Growlers in the air wing to help maximize the F-35 capabilities, he told USNI News in a previous interview.

“There’s a unique challenge with that from the yellow shirts, the flight deck officers, moving around the aircraft, where they’re spotting them, how we’re setting them up for recoveries. And we ironed out a lot of those issues during TSTA, which was really good,” Locke said in an interview this month with USNI News.
“Again, looking at things as simple as storage, what we’re going to have onboard, where we’re going to put them onboard.”

Locke said the planning for the integration between the ship and the new air wing began in late 2019 through wargames within the carrier strike group to understand logistics, deck density, how to move and spot aircraft on the deck and in the hangar bay and more. Though part of the air wing flew to the carrier in September 2020 for a deck certification event, TSTA was the first real chance to test out what the ship and the air wing had modeled.

Capt. P. Scott Miller, the Vinson commanding officer, said in a separate interview that, by the end of TSTA, “it seems like [the F-35C] has always been there.”

A lot of work went into preparing the ship and the air wing for the integration event, but the captain – a fighter pilot himself – said the new aircraft fit right into the carrier strike group environment.

“They more than fill the roles of their predecessors. They’re a little different, specifically the CMV-22. … We continue to work through the testing milestones, but it’s been seamless,” Miller said.

Asked what having the F-35C in the air wing means for the ship and how it can operate, Miller said, “it will enable us to push the fight further away, extend the range – so either supporting missions ashore or defending the carrier strike group – and make that be a further-away problem, which is always a good thing for us, protecting the high-value asset.”

Locke said that, in terms of launching from, flying around and landing on the carrier, the F-35 was no different than any other jet. The CMV-22B tiltrotor, though, took some effort to integrate into cyclic operations. Its predecessor, the C-2A Greyhound, was a fixed-wing plane that used catapult launches and arrested landings to come and go, just like the jets. Though the Osprey can fly like a plane, it lands and takes off like a helicopter – which Locke said is much easier on the airframe and the passengers onboard – so it took some work between the “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 and the flight deck crew to integrate a vertical takeoff and landing into the quick pace of cyclic operations on a carrier deck.

After the integration opportunity during TSTA, Locke said he’s confident that the V-22 can quickly transfer supplies and people to and from the ship and that the flight deck crew knows the right places to land and park the aircraft without affecting the rest of the flight cycle.

Miller said the ship needed to do a little more work to complete its integration with the V-22, including ensuring it can perform certain alternate missions as well as the C-2A could. A recent exercise involved using the CMV-22B as a medical evacuation platform, to make sure they didn’t need to make any alterations to the aircraft, the gear or the process of getting an injured sailor on a stretcher onto the aircraft to be flown ashore.

He said upcoming work will include testing the turnaround time of bringing passengers onto the carrier, for example, and then stripping the seats out from the V-22 and getting it ready to take an F-35 engine back ashore.

“We keep exploring and expanding the envelop of operations to not only meet what we had with the C-2 Greyhound but also exceed in some areas, specifically like we’re talking about with the power module delivery,” Miller said.

Locke praised the CMV-22B as being more flexible and agile than the C-2A. It can go longer distances, is more comfortable for passengers and can operate at night for resupply missions – whereas the C-2 is limited to the day.
Air Wing Fallon

An F-35C Lighting II from the ‘Argonauts’ Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, left, an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the ‘Bounty Hunters’ VFA 2, center, and F/A-18E Super Hornets from the ‘Stingers’ VFA 113, right, sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Jan 30, 2021. US Navy Photo

Last fall the three F/A-18E-F squadrons and the F-35C squadron – the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 – conducted advanced readiness programs, including an air-to-surface program, as part of their basic training, Locke said. The air wing was able to bring the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and EA-18G Growler squadrons out to support those advanced readiness programs as a first chance to start exercising the whole kill chain in a basic mission: suppressing enemy air defense systems on the ground.

TSTA and Group Sail was a chance to get the air wing together to integrate with the carrier and surface combatants, but Locke said the air wing’s time at Naval Air Station Fallon for its advanced training syllabus has been a really special time to understand and refine the relationships between different aircraft types within the air wing and how they’ll work together to create the most lethal and effective air wing possible for the Vinson CSG.

Locke said the Air Wing Fallon training has been going on for several weeks and will wrap up in May, and that it has focused on a range of traditional missions, from close air support to maritime strike missions to air-to-air combat – but with a twist.

“What I would call traditional mission sets doesn’t really apply anymore; the way we’re training and the threat we’re training against, the problem set is tougher across the board, whether it’s with our air wing or any other air wings that are coming along nowadays,” Locke said.

“We are trying to use as much redundancy in the kill chains across the air wing organically as we can. … In our unique configuration, the advanced capabilities we have with the F-35C, E-2D, EA-18G Growler, we’re able to leverage more depth in each of those bends of the [find, fix, track, target, engage, and assess] kill chain. Which I think is significant. And what we’ve found here at Fallon is, that has definitely increased our tempo of executing missions, it’s increased our lethality, it’s increased our survivability across all the platforms. So we’re not just looking at one platform: hey, they’re super lethal, they’re super survivable. But when we put up a strike of 20, 25, 30 airplanes, whatever the case may be, we’re spreading that lethality and that survivability across the entire strike package or air wing, if you will.”

USNI News previously reported that the Air Wing Fallon syllabus was being revamped to focus more on high-end warfare scenarios versus striking land targets – meant to prepare forces for a maritime fight against a complex and technologically advanced adversary instead of supporting ground wars in the Middle East. Locke said the new syllabus, plus his air wing’s unique capabilities with the F-35C, meant that “the events that we have in the syllabus are exponentially more difficult than they were when I went through Fallon in 2010 in the air wing.”

Most important, he said, the new syllabus gives the squadrons and air wing leadership more time for critical thought upfront about how each asset would support each other and contribute to various situations that could arise. The air wing was given a problem set, had time to plan, and then took the plan to rehearse and go through what-ifs and see if the relationships between the different assets held up. They’d then take lessons learned and refine the plan before flying it live.

A CMV-22B Osprey from the ‘Titans’ of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30, carrying Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander, Naval Air Forces, lands on the flight deck of Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Feb. 24, 2021. US Navy Photo

Locke said this new process helped immensely in understanding how to best leverage the new capabilities of the F-35C.

This work will inform the deployments of future air wings with the F-35C. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing today that the Navy was ramping up to a 50-50 mix of F-35Cs and F/A-18E-F Super Hornets in its air wings, and that “our goal is to have six aviation wings out of 10 that have the F-35 capability by 2025.”

After graduating from advanced training, Locke said, each squadron will have some readiness requirements to tackle for the squadron or for individual pilots, which they’ll work on until coming back to Vinson this summer for the composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), the final integration event prior to deployment. The ship, meanwhile, will be conducting pier-side maintenance until the start of COMPTUEX.

Miller said he hasn’t been told much yet about what to expect from COMPTUEX – whether it will hew to the traditional training events or be retooled to address the addition of the F-35.

“I can imagine that we would be both tested to the existing standard and then we would also explore the space and start seeing what expanded capabilities this aircraft does bring to the strike group, the air wing of the future in the strike group,” the ship captain said.

He said he talks to the air wing all the time about ideas for how to do things differently with the F-35C and the CMV-22B – whether it’s the way the carrier supports the air wing or the way the entire carrier strike group approaches its missions.

There’s constant discussion over “how we attack the traditional problems or even the changing problems that are being presented to us with our new air wing.”

“It’s a continuous dialogue between the warfare commanders, who are learning and looking for ways to apply the new capabilities that we have against the threats,” he added.

Specifically, the longer legs on both the F-35 and the V-22 are key.

“The gas is opportunity and decision space for us as we maneuver the ship and strike group. So the F-35 has a lot of gas in it,” he said. As a former F-18C Hornet pilot, limited gas was a known weakness for his plane, he said, and “so the extra fuel onboard does give us a lot of extra opportunities for just about every mission area execution.”
F-35 Engine and Logistics

Sailors with the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 load an F-35C Lightning II engine module onto a CMV-22B Osprey with the “Titans” Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 on the flight deck of Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). US Navy photo.

Going into F-35C acquisition and fielding, a key concern was the fact that the Joint Strike Fighter is a single-engine plane. The engine has proven quite reliable – in fact, during testing aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), an F-35C engine ingested debris from the basket of the Super Hornet that was refueling it mid-air, and the F-35C made it back to Lincoln’s deck safely. Still, the single engine is large – too large to be transported via a C-2A, which is why the V-22 was chosen to replace is for the COD mission – and many worried whether the Navy would be able to sustain the jets at sea if moving the engine around was so difficult.

The Vinson CSG says those fears can be put to rest: they not only conducted a V-22 movement of the F-35 power module, the main component of the engine, but they also demonstrated two other ways of lifting the power module to the carrier from a Military Sealift Command supply ship nearby.

“The engine obviously has been performing really well, it’s reliable, so that in itself keeps the stress level down. But there’s always unknowns that occur, and knowing that we have multiple paths to supporting the aircraft onboard, it’s just one less thing you have to worry about,” Locke said.

Rather than worry how close the carrier is to shore and if it’s within an easy flight for the V-22, he said, the carrier will always be supported by a supply ship for replenishment at sea for food, fuel and spare parts, and knowing that the engine can also come aboard that way, too, is one less thing for the air wing to worry about.

A civilian H225 Super Puma, front, and a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallion conduct the first vertical replenishment-at-sea of an F-135 engine power module load simulator from the USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) to the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on March 6, 2021. The exercise uses mock weight measured to the same capacity as the F135 engine power module to verify the capability of supplying the parts necessary to support future joint strike fighter deployments. US Navy photo.

Cmdr. Melissia Williams, the Vinson supply officer, agreed that normalizing the ability to receive an F-35 engine via a replenishment ship was important.

“We receive parts, materials during our vertical replenishment – normally it’s up to about 130 pallets, but this one was a little bit different for us because of the weight and the size of the power module,” she said during a separate interview with USNI News.

It took some extra planning because the H225 Super Pumas usually carry standard-sized pallets and not anything so heavy and wide, but the March 6 demonstration involving dry cargo ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) was important to show that the ship can take on a new engine even as it brings aboard regular stores.

“The important thing is, we are now able to get the not-ready for issue power module off of our ship, over to the replenishment ship to take back ashore to get it back into the repair cycle so that it’s ready for another F-35, or to be returned to us as a usable part,” she said.
“It’s a matter of speed for us, because when you have a broken aircraft, we need to get that up very quickly … and now that we have three avenues to do that we can kind of plan and source the requirement to one of the three, depending on the situation we’re in.”

Sailors with the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 load an F-35C Lightning II engine module onto a CMV-22B Osprey with the “Titans” Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 on the flight deck of Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on Feb. 11, 2021. US Navy photo.

Miller said there was extensive planning by the ship and VRM-30 ashore before the CMV-22 demonstration – everything from how to load the power module into the back of the aircraft, to how to get it onto a sled so it can go onto the carrier, to how to move the engine on the sled into the hangar bay and the engine shop. After power point presentations and walk-throughs, he said the execution of the demonstration on Feb. 11 went well.

The vertical replenishment from the MSC ship to the carrier was conducted two ways – via a Marine Corps CH-53E heavy lift helicopter and a Super Puma sometimes used for vertical replenishments.

“So now we have three aircraft independently that can deliver the same capability to the ship,” Miller said.

Williams said the F-35 power module was the biggest logistics challenge with the F-35 but not the only one – specifically, some of the fifth-generation fighter’s spare parts are considered classified, which meant overhauling the storeroom setup to create separate classified areas. Additionally, having parts for two new classes of aircraft “kind of stretches our storeroom a little bit,” but she said the Navy did a lot of work up front to map out what the storerooms should look like, which gave her team on Vinson a good starting point last fall.

“Big Navy helped us out a great deal. They spent years of planning our spaces on board the ship, so they planned out hangar bay space for where the parts and materials will go and also storeroom space where we will store the material and parts. So they basically told us where to put them, how to put them; and we bounced back with questions about, hey, your drawings are off; and then we kind of reconvened, redeveloped and were able to come to a common ground on some of the parts and materials that they had laid out in some spaces that were not able to be used,” she said.

Her supply department is also in contact with Lockheed Martin and Boeing to share lessons learned about how the new aircraft hold up and what the turnaround time is for getting spare parts while operating forward in the Pacific.

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallion from the “Wolfpack” of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466 transports a mock F135 engine power module from Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) during a vertical replenishment-at-sea (VERTREP) on March 6, 2021. This exercise was the first aircraft carrier VERTREP of a mock F135 engine power module, which serves as the basis for the single engine of the F-35C Lightning II, the only single-engine fixed-wing jet onboard Vinson and the latest in the Joint Strike Fighter series. US Navy photo.

USNI News understands that Vinson will bring along an additional F-35 power module on the deployment through an agreement with engine-builder Pratt & Whitney. In a recent hearing, lawmakers grilled the company and the F-35 Joint Program Office over jet readiness trends, which have suffered due to a backup at the depot that fixes the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine and the power module inside it, leading to jets that are otherwise operable but can’t fly while they await a new engine. Having a spare already on the carrier would buffer the Navy from this backup during the maiden deployment of the new aircraft.

“So basically, we’re testing the systems’ availability of parts and also how quickly we can turn those parts around that are no longer serviceable – we call them not ready for issue parts, not RFI parts – back into the supply system to get repaired,” she said.

Williams said her department is working with Naval Air Forces, whose logistics specialists developed the allowances for spare parts on the ship. Vinson will continue to work between now and deployment on getting the storerooms stocked to those allowances, and the upcoming COMPTUEX will help the department see first-hand whether those allowances turn out to be sufficient for keeping up with air wing operations.

“We’ve worked with the F-35 and the V-22s for a short amount of time during these past two exercises with them, so the more familiar we are, the better we’ll get out there, and also we’ll be able to pass on lessons learned to the next aircraft carrier that will be deploying with these two platforms,” she said.


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