INNOVATION FUTURE EQUIPMENT
training base for its growing F-35A fleet. The first four RAF and RN pilots were trained there. But, together with BK-2 and BK-4, BK-1 now resides at Edwards AFB, where two RAF and one RN pilot are flying joint UK-US and UK-specific trials. Two more aircraft will join them as the process of learning how to employ the jet accelerates. “The F-35 has sensor fusion that we haven’t previously enjoyed,” notes Taylor. Compared with the Tornado strike aircraft that it replaces, the F-35 has no head-up display and no second crew member. Instead, the single pilot is presented with one large multifunction cockpit display, augmented with a very sophisticated helmet mounted display system (HMDS). Sensors feed these displays, notably an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; an electrooptical targeting system (EOTS); a distributed aperture system (DAS); and a radar warning receiver (RWR). The APG-81 AESA is fully multimode, able to search, detect and track both air and ground targets. It provides high-resolution mapping previously found only on dedicated reconnaissance radars. The EOTS provides long-range, high-resolution infrared imagery, plus laser range-finding, designation and spot tracking. The DAS enables the pilot to virtually see through the structure of the aircraft, providing superior situational awareness. The RWR provides 360-degree location of emitters.
COOPERATIVE ENGAGEMENT All of this amounts to a lot of actionable information. Taylor says that a key element in developing tactics, techniques and procedures for the F-35 will be how to move some of it off the F-35 and onto other platforms. “There are many potential synergies. From a deep position, the F-35 could provide valuable Wg Cdr Dylan Eklund / CROWN COPYRIGHT
t’s an absolutely unique, world-beating capability. We must learn how to adapt to the fifth generation, and we must inspire and empower our people to innovate and exploit it.” That’s how Air Commodore Linc Taylor describes the task ahead for those responsible for bringing the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II into UK service. Based at HQ Air Command, Taylor is the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the stealthy combat jet, which is scheduled to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) at RAF Marham in December 2018. By the end of this year, the UK will have received eight F-35Bs – all of them the short take-off and vertical landing versions. Five of these will be based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, where the first operational unit – No 617 Squadron, RAF – is being formed. The unit has a mix of RAF and Royal Navy (RN) personnel. Three more British F-35s are now at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California, where No 17(R) Squadron assumes the test and evaluation role. In both locations, British activities are tightly integrated with those of the US services. In particular, there is a very close relationship with the US Marine Corps (USMC), which declared its own IOC on the F-35B on 31 July 2015. British and American pilots fly each other’s aircraft at Beaufort, where No 617 is ‘nested’ within VMFAT-501, the USMC training squadron. Preparations for British F-35 operations got under way in 2004, when the first test pilot and 10 engineers were sent to NAS (Naval Air Station) Patuxent River in Maryland, where flight-testing of the F-35B has been mainly conducted. The UK took delivery of its first F-35B (BK-1) on 19 July 2012 at Eglin AFB, which is the main US Air Force
Initially, the UK F-35B will be equipped with AIM-120 and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles and the Paveway IV dual mode munition
INSPIRATION AND INNOVATION AIR POWER 2016
2.1 F-35.indd 41
An official publication of the Royal Air Force