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My first “aha” moment was a seemingly simple thing. I was executing a familiarization flight near MCAS Yuma. I was coming back to the airfield and I basically just turned the jet and pointed its nose at Yuma. Immediately the jet is providing me the information of all the traffic that is out there in the airspace. When I talk to approach for the first time they are telling me about the traffic that is out there that I already know about and I see it. I can tell who everybody is that he is talking about and the jet also saw traffic that ATC hadn’t seen yet and I asked about it. And I thought, “Holy Cow!” here I am coming back to the field from a simple familiarity mission and my jet is telling me everything about the operational environment I am about to go into. In this case, something very simple, the traffic pattern coming back there, but I didn’t have to do anything to have that level of SA [Situational Awareness]. I can start making decisions about what altitude I wanted to go to, if I wanted to turn left or right, speed up or slow down. There’s somebody coming up next to me, I want to get in front of them – or whatever. It is a very simple example, but I thought WOW this is amazing that I see everything and can do that.
I was conducting a strike mission and Red Air was coming at me. In a 4th Gen fighter you must do a whole lot of interpretation. You see things in azimuth, and you see things in elevation. In the F-35 you just see the God’s eye view of the whole world. It’s very much like you are watching the briefing in real time.
I am coming in to perform the simulated weapons release, and Red Air is coming the other direction. I have enough situational awareness to assess whether Red Air is going to be a factor to me by the time I release the weapon. I can make the decision, I’m going to go to the target, I’m going to release this weapon. Simultaneously I pre-target the threat, and as soon as I release the A2G weapon, I can flip a switch with my thumb and shoot the Red Air. This is difficult to do in a 4th Gen fighter, because there is so much manipulation of systems in the cockpit. All while paying attention to the basic mechanics of flying the airplane and interpreting threat warnings that are often very vague, or only directional. In the F-35 I know where the threats are, what they are and I can thread the needle. I can tell that the adversary is out in front of me and I can make a very, very smart decision about whether to continue or get out of there. All that, and I can very easily switch between mission sets.
I was leading a four ship of F-35s on a strike against 4th Gen adversaries, F-16s and F/A-18s. We fought our way in, we mapped the target, found the target, dropped JDAMs on the target and turned around and fought our way out. All the targets got hit, nobody got detected, and all the adversaries died. I thought, yes, this works, very, very, very well. Never detected, nobody had any idea we were out there.
It was my first flight at Edwards AFB Jan ’16. I got in the airplane and started it up. I was still on the deck and there were apparently other F-35s airborne – I believe USAF, I was not aware. I was a single ship, just supposed to go out and get familiar flying the aircraft. As the displays came alive there were track files and the SA as to what everyone else was doing in the airspace, and I was still on the ground. I mean, I hadn’t even gotten my take-off clearance yet. I didn’t even know where it was coming from. It was coming from another F-35. The jet had started all the systems for me and the SA was there. That was a very eye opening moment for me.
General Davis, can you describe the tactical implications of the USS America with F-35B, MV-22B & other Marine aviation assets?
The MV-22 is an incredible platform, it can go a long way at a high rate of speed, it can receive air refueling, and it can be configured to provide air refueling.
It can move Marines, and (configured) it can pass fuel to other MV-22’s or F-35s. That is a tremendous capability for the Marines and the Naval services.
These ships are designed for amphibious operations, MAGTF operations with the standard mix of Marine units that will go out (Marine Expeditionary Units – MEU), but occasionally we need to configure this to be jet heavy or helicopter heavy. In this case, this is a jet heavy deck. We could take up to 20 F-35Bs onboard, we put 12 on this time.
This is a 5th Gen strike capability that the nation does not currently have from a sea base. It is a tremendous capability. We had Vice Admiral Rowden (Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden, Commander Naval Surface Forces) onboard today.
One of the things we did as part of this test was the AEGIS integration with the F-35B. That’s a big deal. That’s a big deal for our Nation, our Navy and our Marine Corps.
originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: suvorov
It has to see them first, and they have to be in range to be shot at by it, without being able to shoot back. It's not the be all, end all, shoot everything that flies down that people claim it is. It's one of the best systems in the world, but it's not going to shoot down everything that flies.