Monday, November 26, 2012

USMC stands up first operational F-35 squadron in Yuma

The Marines stood up their first operational F-35 squadron last week.  That's a significant milestone, although to hear the critics talk about it, it's a sham and a waste.

However that's to be expected from those with a vested interest in the failure of the F-35.

The significance, of course, is what it will teach the Marine Corps and it's pilots, maintainers, tacticians and operations people how to operate with the F-35 at squadron level.
The US Marine Corps has officially stood-up its first operational Lockheed Martin F-35B squadron when VMFA-121 turned in its Boeing F/A-18 Hornets for the new jets in a ceremony earlier today (November 20).
It is in VMFA-121 that the "SOP" (Standard Operating Procedures) for all aspects of the F-35 will be developed at a squadron level.  These are the people who will be writing the book about how the aircraft should be deployed, maintained, and the like.  It will also give pilots and operations personnel the opportunity to develop tactics and techniques for the use and deployment of the F-35.  And, probably as important as any of that it will let pilots fly together and test those tactics and techniques while developing a relationship that is critical when the F-35 is finally combat capable.

But, of course, the critics would rather trot out headlines that mostly prove they have a good grasp on the glaringly obvious, like "Marines’ First Frontline Stealth Fighter Lacks Vital Gear".

Well of course it does.  Who said it wouldn't?  The F-35 hasn't even completed its testing yet.  But, and here's that bad word again, here we see a "concurrent" event taking place.  As the aircraft continues it's testing, squadron SOPs, operations and tactics are being developed - concurrently.  The F-35 doesn't have to be fully combat capable to see that happen. But when it is, all of this will have been worked out previously.  Apparently that's not glaringly obvious and thus was missed.

My guess is they'll treat the first launch and recovery of a Chinese jet fighter from the deck of a Chinese aircraft carrier the same way.  Nothing to see here.  They're not capable of launching a carrier attack.  I guess that makes it all a big sham and a failure if their nonsense about the USMC squadron is any indicator.

Additionally their criticism carries the usual dated litany that appears in most of their shots at the F-35 program while they mostly ignore any progress.  For instance:
As such, the list of things the F-35 still doesn’t have is a long one.

A working helmet, for one. JSF pilots are meant to wear an advanced new visor, built by Vision Systems International, that displays streaming video from the plane’s nose-mounted sensors, in effect allowing a pilot to peer through the cockpit floor — as though the jet itself were invisible to the occupant. But the video lags, especially at night, forcing the Pentagon to commission a less sophisticated back-up helmet from BAE Systems.

The military still wants the original headgear and has dedicated one of the F-35 test models to flying only helmet trials. “We’re making great progress,” Tom Burbage, a Lockheed veep, said of the helmet last month. But he didn’t say when this critical gear might be ready for war.
As we reported the 1st of November, two of the problems with the helmet seem to have been solved and the third is in testing.  The latency problem is well within standard and the jitter problem appears to have a solution now in testing:
In the latest simulations, the device demonstrated a latency of only 130 milliseconds, against a 150-millisecond requirement. ... The “micro-IMUs” (inertial measurement units) that are designed to solve the “jitter” problem are already in-flight-test.
The final problem - night vision acuity - is also in testing at Pax:
He said two tests dedicated to the helmet's performance at night were taking place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River and initial reports were "quite good."
These represent engineering problems, not concept problems.  And, as seems obvious, at least to some, those engineering problems are close to resolution.  It would be nice if the critics at least tried to keep up if they're going to throw darts.

Speaking of critics, one critic was pretty happy with what he saw on November 20th as VMFA-121 became active.  That would be Sen. John McCain:
"I am – after many years of frustration and setbacks – encouraged that the overall program is moving in the right direction.nbsp;After several major restructuring efforts over the last two years, initiated by then-Secretary of Defense Gates, the Government Accountability Office recently found for the first time in the program’s history that the program is finally set up to produce more achievable and predictable outcomes."
He later noted, speaking of the F-35 program,  that "this ship now seems to be pointing out into the blue ocean."

Strong words of praise from a very vociferous former critic of the program.   And, one would guess, he's likely up to date on the status of the helmet as well.



  1. btw, LM delivered those THREE F-35Bs to Yuma months ahead of schedule.

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