Monday, 30 June 2014


Take close look at the following:

What you are looking at is 4 F-35Bs, 2 KC-10 Extenders, 1 C-17 Globemaster III, and 1 KC-130 Hercules.  All together, you are looking at approximately $1 billion worth of hardware.  (Give or take, but I'm being generous here.)

These aircraft you see above will gather soon for a purpose.  That purpose:  So that the JSF can make its international debut in the United Kingdom.  The F-35B is scheduled to perform a flight demonstration at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, followed by another aerial demonstration in Farnborough.  There is also hope that the F-35B will perform a flyby during the HMS Queen Elizabeth's naming ceremony in Scotland.

Four fighters, two tankers, one heavy transport, one medium transport and around 80 personnel.  That is what is needed in order for the F-35 to perform two air shows and a fly by.  There may be a static display at the Air Tattoo, but the aircraft won't even be landing in Farnborough.  There will be no vertical take off or landing, nor will there be any aerobatics.
“This won’t be a Typhoon display, we are showing the unique aspects of the airplane, but it is not going to be doing 50 Alphas [angle of attack maneuvers] and [pulling] 9gs, because we don’t have that flight clearance,” Nichols says.
“We are not going to do a vertical landing, because the surfaces that we need to have on the deck to conduct such a landing do not exist at Fairford or at Farnborough. Hovering is possible, however, so the role demo will include some maneuvers that show off the potential of the aircraft, along with some high-speed passes.”
It should be noted that while the AV-8 Harrier was capable of landing just about anywhere a helicopter could, the F-35B's exhaust is so hot that vertical landings require as special landing pad.

Despite this measured approach to the F-35's international debut, tensions are high with the JSF program office right now.  Flights were recently grounded due to an oil leak and flights have been suspended after an engine fire last week.
Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, which manufactures the F-35, says reliable operations will be the most challenging part of the deployment to the U.K. “I know we can do it,” he says, noting that two F-35Bs operated ship-based trials consistently during in 2011 and 2013. But, he acknowledges, keeping the planes flying continuously for both events will be demanding. 
Reliability is “behind where it needs to be” today, Lorraine Martin, F-35 executive vice president, confirms. But as retrofits are infused into new jets on the line—and eventually added to the earlier ones produced—constancy is increasing. The Navy’s small fleet has been far more reliable, she says, because they are among the most recent to roll off the line and include retrofits to faults identified early in the flight-test program.
The pressure behind this transatlantic trip cannot be understated.  There is growing doubt in Europe  over the F-35 program, with Italy possibly cutting its orders further, Spain deciding to keep its AV-8Bs, and growing criticism in Britain.  Being seen at Farnborough, one of the largest aerospace trade shows in the world, was likely considered a "do or die" scenario.  Not only is it important for Lockheed-Martin and the Pentagon, but it is also important for Britain's Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, who would rather not have a photo-op taken with a cardboard cutout.
Hammond is keen to have the aircraft flying at the ceremony to show he is not buying a paper aircraft, and wants to avoid a repetition of events at which other defense ministers posed in front of – or inside – full-scale models when announcing their orders. 
Sound familiar?

Yup...  Never gets old.
Four fighters, two tankers, one heavy transport, one medium transport, and 80 personnel.  Those are the resources required for the F-35 to perform at two air shows and maybe a flyby.  These fighters are not going to some remote part of the world, either.  For their stay in the United Kingdom, the F-35Bs will be stationed out of RAF Fairford, an air force base capable of housing the B-2 bomber.  Not exactly a Forward Operating Location.

Just to put a finer point to this, pay attention to the aircraft below:

For those of you that lost count while scrolling down, that is 10 Saab JAS-39 Gripens and followed by a single C-130 Hercules.  All the equipment and spares needed to support those 10 Gripens for a 4-week expeditionary deployment can be stored in that single Herc...  With room to spare.

Four F-35s, 2 KC-10s, 1 C-17, 1 C-130...  For a couple of air shows out of a major air base.

Ten Gripens and a C-130...  For a 4-week deployment.

Just let that sink in.


  1. Are the extra aircraft part of the air show or just the logistic requirements to fly the f35's? Just wanted to confirm and be fair before critiquing further. Assuming just for logistics: boy this plane just doesn't have anything going for it right now. Why is this so hard for the conservatives??? Compare this to the six Cf18's that just flew to Romania. They had a CC-130 Hercules with spare equipment escort them although they flew to Iceland for instructions before flying to Romania. They also had two airbuses with personnel and fuel. I believe the fuel wasn't for air refueling but for operations in Romania as Canada has never operated there and had no procurement arrangements. Also, this is an ongoing military operation without a determined end date.

    In the future what would Canada need to get six F35's to Romania for a pro-longed operation? We can't even do air-refueling without paying a contractor.

  2. I understand the argue against the Hercules and C-17, but for the KC-10s, wouldn't the Gripen need aerial refueling as well if they were going for a 4 week deployment on the other side of the Atlantic?

  3. It depends.

    The KC-130 Hercs carry external fuel tanks with probe-and-drogue systems. Canada's CC-130H(T) does as well.

    I believe part of the reason for the extra resources is because the F-35 requires a special fuel (to reduce IR signature).

  4. The RAF already has C-17s and C-130s are pretty much a dime-a-dozen, so bringing them just to be part of the seems unlikely.

  5. I find it funny that one major selling point of the F-35B (take off and landing vertically) can't be done without special landing pads. I tought the point of the V/STOL was to have an aircraft capable of operating on FOB without the need of proper facilties like other aircrafts .