RAF 100 Flypast

Coverage of the RAF centenary flypast of Buckingham Palace including the F-35B Lightning II.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth & F-35B Lightning CGI Tour

Take an animated tour of the fifth generation F-35B Lightning and the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the largest ship to be ever constructed in Britain for the Royal Navy.

Typhoon and F-35 demonstrate new datalink capability

lockheed-martin-f-35b-lightning-ii-eurofighter-typhoon-fgr-4-royal-air-force-rafTests have been carried out of a new interoperability system that allows the fourth-generation Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II to share tactical data with one another. Developed by US Company Northrop Grumman, the Airborne Gateway system was tested on the two aircraft over the course of two weeks in the United States under a Ministry of Defence trial dubbed Babel Fish III.

The tests demonstrated that the Airborne Gateway could successfully convert messages from the F-35B Lightning II’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) into a digital language that could be read by the Typhoon’s Link 16 datalink. The F-35B could already communicate certain information with the Link 16 system which is used on a wide array of frontline US aircraft such as the F-15, F-16 F/A-18 and E-3 Sentry AWACS as well as the RAF’s Typhoon but it couldn’t share all of its tactical data afforded to it by its fifth generation systems.

The two-week trial was conducted in airspace over the upper Mojave Desert in California as part of the RAF’s Exercise High Rider. Northrop Grumman said in a press release;

This is the first time non-US fifth- and fourth-generation aircraft have shared MADL-delivered data, and is an important demonstration of interoperability as the UK moves closer to initial operating capability of its F-35 Lightning II force in late 2018. Being able to network sensor data between fifth-generation and fourth-generation fast jets and other battlespace assets in a stealthy manner is critically important to enabling the full capability offered by fifth-generation aircraft.

F-35 Lightning II Queen Elizabeth 2 aircraft carrier

The F-35B Lightning II and the Typhoon FGR,4 will form the backbone of the RAF’s fast jet combat force from 2019 onwards as the venerable Panavia Tornado GR.4 is finally phased out of service. The F-35B Lightning II will also be fielded by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm who will operate the aircraft from Britain’s new aircraft carriers. The ability for the F-35B to communicate with the RAF’s aircraft in such an intricate way will give both services a degree of interoperability that previous generations of aircraft in both services could only dream of.

Refuelling trials and new missile order for British F-35 program

 

RAF Voyager F-35 Lightning IIAnother milestone in the UK’s F-35 acquisition program was reached this month with the 5th generation fighter making the first five out of twenty planned simulated refuellings from an RAF Voyager tanker. The refuelling trials are being carried out from NAS Patuxent River and will continue through until mid-June by which time the aircraft should be cleared to refuel from all three of the tanker’s drogues (two wing positions and one central fuselage position).

The first trials have been “dry” connections meaning no fuel was transferred between the aircraft but future trials will include “wet” transfers which once complete will help bring the aircraft closer to becoming declared operational with the RAF and then later the Royal Navy. The UK is currently committed to 138 F-35B Lightning IIs which have Vertical/Short Take-off and Landing (V/STOL) capabilities. As well as replacing the RAF’s ageing Tornado fleet the aircraft will also form the backbone of the Royal Navy’s carrier force.

News of the successful completion of the trials comes in the same week that the MoD  awarded a £411 million contract to develop a new missile tailored for carriage by the F-35 in British service. Spear 3 is from the same family of weapons as Brimstone which has been proving its worth in Syria and Iraq being carried by RAF Tornado GR.4s and Typhoon FGR.4s. Compared to Brimstone the weapon has a larger warhead, greater range and improved targeting capabilities. Unlike Tornado or Typhoon, the F-35 will have the option to carry the weapon internally thus decreasing its radar cross section which limits an enemy’s ability to detect the aircraft.

F-35B Lightning II’s RIAT Debut Stalls

Never in the field of military flying has one plane been dogged by so many setbacks. For the UK this month was supposed to be a landmark in military flying with first the official naming of the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and then the Royal International Air Tattoo debut of the plane that’s supposed to be flying off it – the F-35B Lightning II.

Alas, unless a miracle can be pulled off the F-35B (which was supposed to have performed a fly-by over the naming ceremony of the carrier) will not be flying. The entire fleet of nearly 100 F-35s of all marks have been grounded following an engine fire on a USAF F-35A. The US Defense Department will not free the aircraft to fly again until a thorough inspection of the F-35’s F135 engine which caught fire during a test in June.