Check Six: Top F-35 Moments of 2017
From completing its first-ever aerial demonstration, to making several exciting international debuts, to tackling significant milestones and being delivered to global customers, 2017 was a year of many ‘first,’ for the F-35 program. Read on to learn more about some of the most exciting milestones the F-35 Lightning II achieved in 2017.
The F-35 Arrives in Japan
On Jan. 18, the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 12, arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, beginning the squadron’s permanent basing at the air station.
"The arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific,” said Maj. Gen. Russell Sanborn, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Commanding General. “We are bringing the most advanced technology to the Pacific to respond to the wide range of missions we take part in and provide greater support to our regional allies.”
Naval Air Station Lemoore Welcomes the F-35C Home
On Jan. 25, the U.S. Navy began a new chapter when four F-35Cs arrived at Naval Air Station Lemoore (NAS), California, joining the VFA-125 Rough Raiders and reestablishing them as a training squadron. Nearly 400 sailors, families and local civic leaders witnessed the arrival and the accompanying ceremony marking the occasion. NAS Lemoore is the first west coast naval installation to have F-35Cs permanently assigned and is the Navy’s only west coast Master Jet Base. By the end of 2017, the base will have 10 F-35Cs, building to more than 100 jets in the early 2020s.
While an entire nation looked on, AU-1 and AU-2, Australia’s first two F-35As, touched down at the Avalon Airshow, marking the public debut for the F-35A, and signifying a historic moment for the Australian Defence Force and the F-35 program.
“What an exciting day for the Royal Australian Air Force, for Australian industry, technology, and for Australian jobs,” said Prime Minister Turnbull, addressing the crowds just moments after the F-35As arrived. “Every Joint Strike Fighter around the world will include the ingenuity, enterprise and engineering of great Australian companies.”
F-35 Completes First European Training Deployment
On May 7, eight F-35As from the 34th Fighter Squadron, along with supporting units and equipment from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, completed the first F-35A training deployment to Europe.
While at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, the squadron flew 76 sorties and tallied more than 154 flying hours alongside F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing. During the training deployment, the aircraft forward deployed to Estonia and Bulgaria to maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces and familiarize Airmen with Europe’s broad and diverse operating conditions.
The First Japanese-Built F-35A Unveiled at Nagoya Facility
This summer, the first Japanese-assembled F-35A was unveiled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan. Approximately 200 people attended the historic ceremony, including Japanese and United States government and defense industry leaders, highlighting the strong partnership between the Japanese Ministry of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, MHI and Lockheed Martin.
“Seeing the first Japanese built F-35A is a testament to the global nature of this program”, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “The F-35 will enhance the strength of our security alliances and reinforce long-established bonds with our allies through training opportunities, exercises, and military-to-military events.”
First Aerial Demonstration
In June, Lockheed Martin F-35 Test Pilot Billie Flynn, along with countless others, flew the inaugural F-35A aerial demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, one of the world’s largest airshows. The team worked in flawless synchronicity for more than a year to create and perform a breathtaking demonstration that highlighted the unique 5th Generation capabilities of the F-35. Flynn, along with a team of engineers and graphic artists, worked together to develop a dazzling profile chock-full of 90 degree climbs, 6G turns and a pedal turn that made the jet appear to float like a butterfly.
“Everyone needs to see how an aircraft flies and performs before they’ll ever believe in it,” Flynn said. “As compelling, overwhelming and dominating as stealth, 5th Generation aircraft are, it’s really difficult for everyone to understand the concept of what this aircraft is like without witnessing it fly in a way they are accustomed to seeing fighters perform.”
The F-35 Soars to Success Surpassing 100,000 Flight Hours
In July, the F-35 aircraft fleet exceeded 100,000 flight hours. With more than 230 F-35s around the world, the fleet continues to increase flight hours and revolutionize fighter aircraft operations around the world. Exceeding 100,000 flight hours was a major milestone for the program and another indicator that the F-35 is a mature aircraft ready to protect skies around the world.
500th F-35 Pilot Takes to the Sky
On Sept. 19, the U.S. Air Force trained and graduated the 500th F-35 pilot. Since the first aircraft was delivered in 2011, the F-35 enterprise and integrated training program have delivered more than 200 additional jets, produced more than 4,500 maintainers, and flown more than 100,000 hours.
“The F-35 and the capabilities it brings to the joint fight are key to the Air Force’s ability to dominate in any airspace,” said Col. Paul D. Moga, 33rd FW commander. “The Airmen we train and graduate today are the finest in the world. Their skills, coupled with the survivability and lethality of this weapon system, will ensure continued air superiority for the U.S., our partners and our allies for decades to come. Five hundred down, thousands to go.
Norway Welcomes the F-35A to Ørland Air Base
On Nov. 10, Norwegian government, military and industry leaders celebrated the arrival of Norway’s first three F-35A Lighting II aircraft in a ceremony at Ørland Air Base. The F-35As arrived at their new home making Norway the second European F-35 customer to base the aircraft in Europe after Italy. The arrival of the F-35A demonstrates Norway’s commitment to strengthening all of its armed forces. Norway has taken delivery of 10 F-35s to date, three of which are now at Ørland Air Base and seven are stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where Norwegian pilots are conducting training.
Israel Declares Initial Operating Capability
On Dec. 6, the Israel Air Force declared its F-35 fleet operationally capable. The IAF IOC declaration marks the completion of an intensive integration and training effort conducted by the IAF with nine assigned F-35I "Adir" ("mighty one" in Hebrew) aircraft at Nevatim AFB, Israel. The IOC declaration also verifies the IAF possesses the ability to not only operate the IAF fleet in performance of IAF missions, but also to train IAF pilots and maintainers, and support F-35 operations through a robust logistics footprint and support system.
The F-35 Program Delivers the 66th Aircraft of 2017
On Dec. 18, the F-35 enterprise delivered the 66th F-35 aircraft for the year, meeting the joint government and industry delivery target for 2017. To date, more than 260 F-35 aircraft have been delivered to U.S. and international customers. More than 520 pilots and 4,850 maintainers have been trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 115,000 cumulative flight hours.
66 F-35 deliveries in 2017 represents more than a 40 percent increase from 2016, and the F-35 enterprise is prepared to increase production volume year-over-year to hit full rate of approximately 160 aircraft in 2023.