Recently the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II checked another container on her interesting and lengthy journey toward initial operational capability. The United States Air Force Weapons School (USAFWS), based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, just received its first F-35. The new addition will join the Block 42/52 F-16Cs of the 16th Weapons Squadron, the ‘Tomahawks.”
Now, before I go any further, let me be clear about something: every single program in the history of military aviation has gone through its share of problems in infancy. The F-35, as everybody in the known universe is aware, has had plenty of “setbacks.” Some of them were initial design and software flaws that required tweaking, and others were a result of too many hands in the proverbial pot.
What gets lost in our sensationalistic society is how incredibly advanced the F-35 is. With any new technology that is a considerable leap from previous generations, there will be problems. We see it with our smartphones, and in our reverse-camera-equipped, self-parking cars, and just about every other new tech you can think of.
The reasons people get so bent out of shape are two-fold, in my eyes. First would be the way news media has devolved into who can say the most attention grabbing, negative thing in order to get a few more clicks. The second is the amount of time and effort put into making everything happen faster in our lives.
When I was growing up, the Internet was a new thing, and a 56k dial-up modem was living the good life (I know you just made that dial-up sound in your head). Now? If the Internet moved at a 56k speed, even for one hour, people all over the world would be losing their collective minds. Perspective, folks. That’s all I’m asking for here. I know the F-35 has had more negative press, it would seem, than all other programs in military aviation history combined. I know some of the setbacks are major and need to be discussed, but this is the most advanced frontline combat jet ever designed, and things are going to break.
With that out of the way, let’s give the F-35 what she needs right now, some positive press highlighting another milestone. 2014 was an outstanding year for the F-35, and 2015 is lining up to be even greater. There are some top-notch minds on this program, and they all have a vested interest in the success of this aircraft. Below is a list of F-35 milestones achieved in the last calendar year. Let’s take time to point out some the great things Team F-35 accomplished:
- January 2014 saw the F-35C complete landing tests prior to sea trials.
- March 2014 saw the arrival of Luke AFB’s first F-35A Lightning II.
- March 2014 was also when South Korea selected the F-35 in their F-X fighter acquisition program.
- The first F-35A night flight was in March 2014.
- May 2014 saw the air-to-air capability demonstration of the F-35A as well as the first live dual-AMRAAM shot from a F-35B.
- The first F-35B was delivered to Beaufort MCAS in July
- The end of July marked the roll out of the first two F-35’s for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
- The first Australian F-35 flight took place in September.
- In October, the first operational weapons load crew was qualified at Eglin AFB.
- November was a huge month for the F-35C when she made her first arrested landing aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
- This month the first two Dutch F-35s arrived at Edwards AFB for testing.
Instead of kicking the new kid, I am choosing to remain optimistic. The future is bright, and this is still one of the most technologically advanced aircraft ever produced.
(Featured Photo Courtesy of the USAF)