F-35B LIGHTNING II SEMPER FI
Flight Journal|January - February 2021
The JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) program is synonymous with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which ultimately won the competition against Boeing and its X-32. The JSF plan was to have a similar new fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy and U.S. allies: Build a bunch and keep the price tag down. It has been a success story since then.
TED CARLSON/
The three primary F-35 models are the A, B, and C (Israel also has an “I” model). We will be focusing on the Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) B model, which is the Marine Corps primary variant. The Marines are also procuring some aircraft-carrier-capable C models, but these will be significantly fewer.

The Marines also currently operate the VTOL AV-8B Harrier II, but this successful icon of Marine Corps aviation is now in its golden years; relatively soon, the aging Jump Jet will be completely put out to pasture and stood down. So what’s the latest on the Semper Fi JSF? The Marines have been working diligently, now utilizing the F-35B Lightning II in action within theaters of operation. The program is a spiral development system, so aircraft upgrades and capabilities are ongoing as the F-35 matures and forges ahead to the right along the timeline. The F-35B has now seen combat in Afghanistan and has deployed on Marine Expeditionary Units aboard assault ships in support of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) scheme.

A Fully Fledged Weapons Delivery Platform

The typical new-aircraft teething process has pretty much ended now, and significant strides have been made in making the aircraft more reliable than ever. Although the F-35 had some delays and cost overruns, this fifth generation aircraft comes equipped with robust state-of-the-art capabilities and a plethora of bells and whistles that are typically omitted from various reports.

Standard Marine Corps F-35B fleet squadrons are slated to have 16 aircraft each, but with distributions being made to other units and with some jets sent to their manufacturers for modifications, most squadrons will stabilize with 10 aircraft for now. Long term, they will build back up to 16 F-35Bs, which is the planned allotment for the first several F-35B squadrons. It is a fluid situation as airframe requirement needs vary.

The aircraft is equipped with a Pratt and Whitney F135-PW-600 41,000 pound thrust afterburning turbofan engine (based on the F-22’s F119 engine), propelling the 7.0 G-rated F-35B up to speeds of 1.6 Mach. The -600 engine version is B-model specific, as it’s equipped with a shaft-driven lift fan model and thrust-vectoring nozzle, allowing the jet to hover with ease. The engine has been very reliable and has excellent throttle response. Originally, an alternate engine and manufacturer had been explored, but that never came to fruition due to budget constraints. The F-35B has a combat radius of 450 nm, being farther than both the AV-8B and F-16.

The aircraft is equipped with impressively capable AN/APG-81 AESA radar. Compared to the Harrier and Hornet, this new multi-mode radar has a farther scan, is non-dynamic, and much more reliable. The aircraft can share with other TACAIR assets using Link 16 and the Multi-function Advanced Data Link.

The AAQ-40 Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) is an internally mounted sensor suite and resides just behind and below the radome. The external sensor is in a small low-observable tinted glass cage. The system combines Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) and InfraRed Search and Track (IRST) functionality. It has an air-to-surface/air-to-air FLIR tracker, air-to-air IRST modes, and a spot tracker. This negates the need for an externally carried LITENING pod (as the AV-8B carries) and allows the F-35 to operate both stealthily and autonomously using precision-guided munitions. As time progresses, additional capabilities will be added to the EOTS.

The cockpit features a whopping 32-inch touch-screen panoramic display, giving the pilot exceptional situational awareness. The plethora of F-35B sensors relay and prioritize data, allowing pilots to take advantage of the very large high-definition display with the most pertinent information. The information is delivered in a logical and precise manner, intuitively and greatly reducing task saturation. There is a side stick controller on the right and a HOTAS throttle on the left. The helmet display allows pilots to see what they are targeting, and they can display the Distributed Aperture System and night vision into the helmet. It uses an IR light spectrum for nighttime and it is better than Night Vision Goggles, so the pilots are more lethal than ever.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FLIGHT JOURNALView All

RAMPANT RAIDERS

April 25, 1967, VA-212 tests the A-4 to the limit

10 mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

THE GROWLER

Boeing’s electronic attack weapon

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

Naval Aircraft Factory N3N-3

Authenticated by its log books, an N3N that 41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush trained in is preserved and still flying—now owned by Stewart Wells.

1 min read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

Five-Gun Fury .

Lt. Floyd Fulkerson: Wingman to the Aces

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

Impossible barriers are made to be broken

Few technologies have had such a rapid development and such a powerful impact on mankind as the invention of the airplane.

4 mins read
Flight Journal
March - April 2021

YELLOW SCORPIONS - P-51 Mustangs rule the skies in China

Using Chinese airfields, the 311th Fighter Group was the first to take World War II to the Japanese. The 311th’s 530th Fighter Squadron, which became known as the “Yellow Scorpions,” was the first squadron based in China. During their combat tour, they flew A-36 dive bombers along with all versions of the P-51 (A, B, C and D). However, it was their expertise with P-51 B and C models that earned them the respect of Japanese pilots.

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
January - February 2021

WACO “Super Sport” S3HD - A Golden Age king

The WACO “Super Sport” S3HD is often referred to as the “King of the WACO biplanes.” Built as only one example, it is the stuff of legends.

1 min read
Flight Journal
January - February 2021

SPITFIRE WITH A PUNCH - ROYAL AIR FORCE FIGHTER IN POLISH COLORS

Squadron Leader Clive Rowley, MBE RAF (Ret.), a former officer commanding the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, tells the story behind the latest color scheme for the Flight’s Spitfire Mk XVI TE311.

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
January - February 2021

F-35B LIGHTNING II SEMPER FI

The JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) program is synonymous with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which ultimately won the competition against Boeing and its X-32. The JSF plan was to have a similar new fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy and U.S. allies: Build a bunch and keep the price tag down. It has been a success story since then.

10 mins read
Flight Journal
January - February 2021

DEFENDER OF THE REICH WW II as seen by a Luftwaffe Ace

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring was in rare form, his eyes full of fire as he faced one of the better known of Germany’s aces, Oberst Walther Dahl. “Göring’s reply astonished even me,” Dahl remembered. “In the presence of pilots with heads, arms and legs in plaster, he yelled: ‘You cowards! Now I know why your Geschwader holds the record for parachute jumps: you jump so as not to fight.’

10+ mins read
Flight Journal
January - February 2021