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The Design and the Program; RAF Fairford July 10 & 11, 2016

The JSF Program, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a fighter aircraft that has emerged from the Joint Strike Fighter program (JSF) of the US Department of Defense. The Joint Strike Fighter program was started by the American government when the contract for the development of the JSF was signed November 16, 1996.

In the late 80s and the early 90s different projects have been started by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to investigate, among other things, the next-generation fighter aircraft. These studies focused specifically on Advanced Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (ASTOVL) and stealth techniques and the development of successors to existing aircraft, including the A-6 Intruder, F-15 Eagle, F-111 Aardvark and F-117 Nighthawk. These projects were part of the enormous cost on priceless. The various American forces were all using frequent aircraft and were always independent of each other when it came to aircraft design. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is a multi-national cooperation for the development of a modern fighter of the next generation. It concerns the development of a multi-deployable fighter to be built as a replacement for fighter aircraft in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Turkey. The contract for the development of the JSF was signed on November 16, 1996. In 1997 two commands were given to build a demonstration model for the next phase; a Lockheed Martin and Boeing design were chosen. During this so-called Concept Definition Phase, the project was renamed to the current Joint Strike Fighter program.

Boeing came up with a concept in the form of the Boeing X-32 and Lockheed Martin came up with the X-35 concept. These prototypes had to replace operational types such as the American A-10, F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B and the British Harrier GR7 & GR9. The objective of the program was to develop an aircraft which could replace all these aircraft so that the costs could be kept low. The requirement here was that 80% of the used parts could be exchanged between the different variants. The contract for System Development and Demonstration (SDD) was awarded to Lockheed Martin on October 26, 2001. Lockheed demonstrated that the X-35 concept had the best and therefore this design was chosen for further development. Although the Boeing X-32 surpassed

all requirements, the X-35 concept was seen as less risky and it had more growth potential. On July 7, 2006, the production version of the JSF was presented in the Fort Worth, Texas. During the ceremony was also the final name Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II presented for the first time. The aircraft is named after the Lockheed P-38 Lightning during WWII. In total, there are three variants of the F-35 being developed, namely; the F-35A conventional (Conventional Take-Off and Landing CTOL) variant, the F-35B vertical landing (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing, STOVL) variant and the F-35C aircraft carrier (Carrier Based CATOBAR, CV) variant. It was not usual during the F-35 project that there is no two-seat version available for the training of pilots. The F-35 would be the first multi-role aircraft in history where the pilots are fully trained on the simulator before they really fly.

The F-35 has an extensive avionics package with different sensors. The F-35 has the AN/APG-81 radar. This is an AESA-radar which is a further development of the AN/APG-77 which is built in to the F-22 as well. Both radars are manufactured by Northrop Grumman. Furthermore, the aircraft has an electro-optical infrared homing device under the nose to identify targets on the ground. Also, the aircraft has sensors for the AN/AAS-37 warning system which are built in at various places on the aircraft. These electro-optical sensors respond to approaching missiles and will give the pilot a warning signal. Revolutionary is the Helmet Mounted Display on the helmet of the pilot. There are several cameras mounted on the helmet and the pilot has a 360 degrees view around the aircraft by day and by night. The multifunctional mission computer links all sensors, including the CCTV, IR and radar together to make a combined assessment of the threat and presents it to the pilot. This allows it that the pilot is continuously informed about the current threats and he also knows that the enemy can observe him as well. This system is unique and revolutionary in the way in which the sensors give feedback and its presentation to the pilot. Users of the F-35 can choose from two types of engines. The F135 was developed by the American Pratt & Whitney and the F136 was developed by General Electric and the Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team. The F-136 the strongest engine of the two engines and has a thrust of 178 kN.

The F-35 will be able to carry a large number of different weapons. The aircraft has an internal weapons bay from where weapons can be launched. The F-35 has an internal weapon bay to retain the stealth characteristics of the aircraft. Internally, the aircraft has four suspension points. The inner two suspension points are only suitable for air-to-air missiles, because these weapons don’t fall completely vertical during launch. The space at the suspension points is designed for the AIM-120C AMRAAM. The outer two internal suspension points are suitable for even more air to air missiles and several ground weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), laser-guided bombs (GBU), the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), the Brimstone anti-tank missile and cluster ammunition (Wind Corrected munitions Dispenser). Externally, the F-35 has seven points of suspension. The central suspension point beneath the fuselage is only suitable for a 25 mm external board gun. At the F-35B and F-35C variants this weapon is not internally built in due to a lack of space. The outer two suspension points under the wings are suitable for air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-132 ASRAAM. The other four suspension points under the wings are next to the air-to-air missiles also suitable for carrying ground weapons such as bombs and air-to-ground missiles. The inner two suspension points beneath the wings are equipped with fuel lines and therefore pylon tanks can be attached here. The F-35 is designed to carry all NATO standard weapons and the standard weapons of the other partner nations. Also, the F-35 is from 2024 able to carry two B61 nuclear bomb.




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