SDR LDR NIKKI LOFTHOUSE / CROWN COPYRIGHT
INNOVATION FUTURE EQUIPMENT
An RAF F-35B Lightning II raises its undercarriage shortly after take off
A key aspect of the F-35 software is the ambitious and completely paperless Autonomic Logistics Information System. Its development has fallen behind schedule, but Taylor says that it has “enormous strengths”. The system will communicate the mission data files and maintenance data to each aircraft. The work of No 617 Squadron will continue next year at Beaufort, with six more UK aircraft due to be received there. It will move to Marham in mid 2018, and the first flying trials on board the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will be conducted in the autumn of 2018. However, some of the UK’s aircraft will remain at Beaufort, in order to train British instructors for the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) that is scheduled to form at Marham in mid 2019. After that, the second British F-35 squadron will be formed, again jointly manned by the RAF and the RN. Once carrier trials are complete, No 617 Squadron will conduct its own carrier qualifications to meet IOC (maritime) by December 2020. Unlike previous forces, the intent is that all pilots graduating from the OCU will be carrier-qualified. At IOC, three weapons will be qualified on the UK’s F-35Bs – the AIM-120 and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles,
2.1 F-35.indd 44
and the Paveway IV dual-mode ‘smart’ 500lb bomb. The very-long-range Meteor air-to-air missile will be added in Block 4, as well as the SPEAR Capability 3 mini-cruise missile. A gun pod will also eventually be carried. Critics have suggested that, although the F-35 may be a fine strike aircraft, it is not a true air-superiority
A KEY ASPECT OF THE F35 SOFTWARE IS THE AMBITIOUS AUTONOMIC LOGISTICS INFORMATION SYSTEM machine. Taylor says that some significant capabilities relating to the aircraft’s warfighting characteristics cannot be revealed in unclassified forums, and that focusing on only one aspect of performance misses the point. “I am confident of the F-35’s all-round superior warfighting capabilities,” he concludes.
AIR POWER 2016 INSPIRATION AND INNOVATION