F-35 to drop laser guided bomb in the coming months

Discussion in 'F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program' started by Pathfinder, Jan 20, 2016.

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  1. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    Combat-coded F-35A to begin dropping bombs

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    In February or early March, a combat-coded F-35A from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB will release an inert, laser-guided bomb at the nearby Utah Test and Training Range.

    What will seem ordinary and routine to the pilot will actually be a “monumental achievement” for the multinational F-35 programme, which has been building to this moment since Lockheed Martin won the Joint Strike Fighter contract in 2001.

    A stealthy, jet-powered combat aircraft is nothing if it cannot put weapons on a target, and this GBU-12 Paveway II release will be a moment of truth for the conventional A-model, which until now only released weapons in development and operational testing.

    The air force’s Block 3i aircraft will first operate with basic laser and GPS-guided weapons, as well as beyond-visual-range AIM-120 air-to-air missiles. It will also have advanced targeting, surveillance and radar-jamming equipment.

    The full complement of weapons will not arrive until Block 3F in late 2017, but the armaments the F-35 does have in Block 2B and 3i can accomplish basic close air support, air interdiction and suppression or destruction of enemy air defence missions, according to the air force.

    “It is a monumental achievement, because we are the first operational unit to do it. But quite frankly, I don’t expect it to be a difficult achievement for us to accomplish,” says Col David Lyons, commander of the squadron’s parent wing, the 388th Fighter Wing. “It will be an ordinary mission. They will be inert, at least initially.

    “The airplane can already simulate the drop, so we simulate firing the AIM-120 and dropping laser-guided and GPS-guided bombs every day as we practice our tactics, but to actually have something come off the airplane – we’ve not done that yet.”

    Introducing weapons into live training is one of several steps the squadron must take to be deemed combat-ready on 1 August, which marks initial operational capability (IOC) for the conventional takeoff and landing model. The US Marine Corps achieved IOC with the F-35B jump jet in July.

    Because F-35s are designed to operate in formation, Lyons says the squadron will begin practicing “four-ship” combat tactics in March, where four airborne F-35s will train together. The 34th Fighter Sqn has been practicing four-ship tactics in its four Lockheed-built 360° mission simulators since they were networked in December.

    Rest is here:
    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/combat-coded-f-35a-to-begin-dropping-bombs-420924/
     
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