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thedrifter
09-16-08, 12:47 PM
FOX19 Staffer Encounters F-35 Fighter

Posted: Sep 15, 2008 12:37 PM






"Have you ever seen the movie Top Gun?"

"Sure."

"You want to buzz the tower like they did?"

"We can do that?" I asked hopefully.

"You bet we can," he told me with glee.

He verbally guided me and I slid the stealth multi-role fighter past the control tower. It was a blur.

"Let's do a quick barrel roll before we get to the tactical bombing."

"Okay, sure," I agreed quickly, trying to sound confident. With my right hand I eased the stick and we executed a shaky, but nonetheless elegant roll to my right. The horizon line tilted and I glanced at the control panel, but not for too long. I didn't want to ruin my view of the world turning upside down and around.

Having been told to lock onto my target, I settled down and straightened out, focused on getting my bombsight on the correct target. My palm spasmed slightly, my fingers itching to push that little red button.

I was flying into the sunset in a supersonic strike fighter designed for stealth and lethality. I was flying the newest of the new, the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter. I filled the seat of a fighter jet that no missile could touch, and no plane could out fly. I was a rock star.

Actually, I was safely ensconced in a demonstrator cockpit that recently visited the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and rather overwhelmed at the enormous scope before me.

"The pilot is Wonder Woman flying her invisible airplane," commented instructor pilot Stormy Boudreaux. A former U2 and SR-71 Blackbird pilot, Stormy was kind enough to patiently walk me through a jaunt over the skies of Las Vegas where I dropped a bomb on the strip and giggled like a dork as I marveled at the technology that I'll never be able to comprehend. Stormy kept me alive, telling me when to ease the throttle, when to accelerate, how to maneuver over the mountains (it's harder than it looks for someone who's never actually flown a supersonic fighter jet). He helped me set my landing gear and let me do a skip landing, allowing me time to shoot for the moon, a few more barrel rolls straight into the heavens.

While I was taking a fascinating fantasy trip gliding on a perfect twilight sky with no responsibilities of my own, I was nonetheless fully cognizant of the role this amazing plane will play in the defense of our world. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening II is a fifth generation fighter that will be shared among the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Each branch will have a modified that will best fit the needs of each branch. The F-35 will eventually replace the ageing aircraft F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, A-10 Warthog, and the A/V-8 Harrier.

Shared with partnered nations and our military, the F-35 will boast a new level of affordability. With costs exceeding $70 million per plane, the shared expense will help alleviate budget worries, and help underscore similar defense problems of US allies. With a shared commonality, these planes can be manufactured, maintained, and stored in partnered countries throughout the world, ready to take to the skies in our defense.

The Joint Strike Fighter is a plane that meets the needs of adapting to higher levels of lethality, but yet still be easily maintained, which is imperative to our armed forces.

"This is above state-of-the-art," enthused Lt. Col. Anthony Genatempo, of the 640th Aeronautical Systems Squadron. The F-35 possesses software architecture that allows the plane to multitask to a dizzying degree for the pilot, making his or her mission far safer than those flown in the past.

The sophisticated cockpit boasts an over the nose visibility feature that kind of makes you feel as if you were the hood ornament of a car. In older planes, gauges and knobs filled the cockpit. The F-35 has a screen that takes all sensors and displays them there, thus eliminating many gauges. The Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System allows pilots a protective sphere that dramatically increases a pilot's situational awareness. A Helmet Mounted Display System (HUD) will offer a sensor fusion that will eliminate the need for night vision goggles. The helmet will combine all received data and allow the pilot to be the tactician, thus making multitasking easier.

A Multi-Function Display System (MFDS) is the projection display for the F-35 in panoramic form. Six full motion images can appear simultaneously and the mission data will be displayed in a high contrast/luminance, and high resolution picture. It occurred to me as I watched a video of F-35 film as it stalked a truck down a busy street that this footage looked more clear than some early episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. The fun part? This footage was taken at night.

The Lightening II will boast a satellite communications capability that takes the most modern datalinks and combines tactical information among other pilots, surface and ground bases to dramatic new levels.

It occurred to me as I watched a video of F-35 film as it tracked a truck down a busy street that this footage looked more clear than some episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. The fun part? This footage was taken at night.

The F-35 looks like the little sister of the F-22 Raptor, with one engine instead of two. Insidiously sleek, these two fighters will compliment each other and dominate the global skies. All weapons can be stored internally, which include two air to air missiles and two air to ground weapons. If radar isn't a concern, extra bombs and fuel tanks can be strapped beneath. The Lightening II will also have a four barrel 25 mm cannon, internally. Technically speaking, the F-35 could potentially earn triple ace status.

An interesting side note to the F-35 is Ohio's involvement. Companies such as Goodyear, GE, Eagle Tool, RFD and Tyco Electronics are all planned to assist in production. The prime contractor for the Lightening II is Lockheed Martin, and is in partnership with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Pratt & Whitney and GE-Rolls Royce will be developing engines. Countries involved in the participation of the Joint Strike Fighter include Denmark, Norway, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Canada, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

If military aviation doesn't intrigue you, Stormy's comment might- "this is one big computer game." Maybe the kids we know who are sitting on the couch playing games might, in a few years, be sitting in a stealth strike fighter.

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of this bad boy here, but I invite you to. For a more intriguing and in dept look at this fascinating defender/predator, please visit these websites: www.jsf.mil and www.wpafb.af.mil. Evolving military aviation history is at your fingertips.

Reported by Kris Nuss - FOX19 Staffer

Ellie