Tag: f-16

‘MiG Killer’ F-16D Has Been Given A New Retro Camouflage Color Scheme

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'MiG Killer' F-16D Has Been Given A New Retro Camouflage Color Scheme
Seen on touchdown at Luke AFB, the F-16D 90-0778 with the brand-new paint plan( All photos: Thomas “Taj” Backus )The airplane that racked up the very first airborne triumph by an American F-16 in addition to the initial kill for the AIM-120 AMRAAM, currently sporting activities a desert brownish color pattern. The F-16D Block 42 # 90-0778 is a rather popular airplane: on Dec. 27, 1992, throughout Operation Southern Watch( OSW ), making use of callsign “BENJI 41″ and also zipped Capt. Gary” Nordo “North, this two-seater Fighting Falcon designated to the 19th FS( Fighter Squadron)yet on car loan to the 33rd FS released to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, rejected an Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat E jet that had actually flown southern of the 33rd parallel, getting in the NFZ (No Fly Zone) implemented complying with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, embraced on Apr. 5, 1991.

That kill noted the initial by a U.S. F-16 along with the initial accomplished utilizing an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) “Slammer”.

A MiG-25 eliminate noting was positioned on the left side simply listed below the cover structure of # 90-0778 that showed off the standard two-tone grey color design of all the U.S. Air Force”Vipers”(the F-16’s label)at the time of the airborne interaction. The identical airplane, presently in solution with the 310th FS at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, has actually lately been offered an entirely brand-new paint plan as the images

in this write-up, sent us by our close friend Thomas”Taj”Backus, program. The brand-new livery appears to be based upon the”delicious chocolate chip cookie”pattern, a sort of speculative desert color design that was put on the F-16C Block 25 # 84-1212 in December 1990

, throughout Operation Desert Shield, as the airplane, appointed to the 33rd TFS(Tactical Fighter Squadron), from Shaw AFB, as well as released to Al Dhafra Abdominal Muscle, UAE. F-16D MiG-killer on last at Luke AFB on Jun. 9, 2022. Another shot of the MiG-killer According to some resources, the F-16C flew with the speculative color pattern for simply one week: the desert livery made the jet tough to detect, boosting the danger of mid-airs as well as looked like the one made use of by the Israeli Air Force Vipers. For these factors, it was rapidly gone down. Up until today: the old speculative camouflage has actually been”restored”as well as utilized on a MiG-killer airframe with markings that commemorate the Dec. 27, 1992 downing throughout Operation Southern Watch. F-16D 90-0778 touchdown at Luke AFB. For contrast, this is 90-0778 with the previous paint system. About David Cenciotti David Cenciotti is an independent reporter based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and also Editor of”The Aviationist”, among the globe’s most renowned and also review armed forces aeronautics blog sites. Considering that 1996, he has actually composed for significant globally publications, consisting of Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, as well as several others, covering aeronautics, protection, battle, market, knowledge, cyberwar as well as criminal activity. He has actually reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and also Syria, as well as flown a number of fight aircrafts with various flying force. He is a previous 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a personal pilot as well as a grad in Computer Engineering. He has actually composed 5 publications as well as added to a lot more ones.

Romanian Air Force Supends Flight Activites With The MiG-21 LanceR

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Romanian Air Force Supends Flight Activites With The MiG-21 LanceR
MiG-21 LanceR
Two Romanian MiG-21 LanceR( Image credit report: RoAF) Given their”significantly high mishap price”, all the Romanian MiG-21 LanceR airplane have actually been based. The Romanian Air Force has actually put on hold all the trip tasks of the continuing to be MiG-21 LanceR airplane beginning Friday, Apr. 15, 2022. The order was provided by Chief of the Defense Staff Major General Daniel Petrescu, adhering to a substantially high crash price tape-recorded by the RoAF MiG-21 fleet that triggered”several casualties and also harmed or ruined airplane “. The most recent such events took place on Mar. 2, 2022, when a LanceR, that had actually left for an evening goal from the 57th Air Force Base Mihail Kogălniceanu at around 19.50 LT vanished from radars couple of mins later on, in between Gura Dobrogei and also Cogealac, west of Costanta, in the eastern component of Romania, not much from the Black Sea. Throughout the succeeding SAR goal, an IAR-330 (Romanian-built variation of Aerospatiale SA 330) Puma helicopter likewise collapsed in the location of Gura Dobrogei regarding 11 kilometres from Mihail Kogălniceanu. Both the iar-330 and also the mig-21 aircrew shed their lives in the cases. The MiG 21 LanceR is the updated tools and also avionics systems variation of the MiG-21 Fishbed, established by Elbit Systems and also Aerostar Bacău for the Romanian Air Force. The very first LanceR flew in 1996 as well as was a LanceR A

variation. The LanceR program saw the upgrade of a total amount of 114 MiG 21 airframes in 3 variations: the ground assault variation(LanceR A), both seater fitness instructor variation with ground assault capacities(LanceR B)as well as the air supremacy variation( LanceR C). The upgrade focused on making the old Cold War airplanes qualified to utilize both

western as well as eastern tools systems, primarily concentrated in the cabin arrangement with the intro of modern-day avionics, HOTAS as well as NATO suitable tool systems. Regardless of the upgrades, the MiG-21 LanceR stays a fairly old airplane mostly utilized to brought out QRA(Quick Reaction Alert)tasks under the NATO control network by means of the Combined Air Operations Center in Torrejon. According to the Romanian Air Force, throughout the suspension of the trip tasks with MiG-21 LanceR airplane, the Romanian Air Force will certainly remain to accomplish the Air Policing solution with its F-16 airplane, sustained by allied airplane released to Romania, as component of NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing: MiG-21s had actually currently been boosted by Eurofighters from Italy, Germany and also the UK, relocated to the Black Sea area complying with the stress around Ukraine and also the succeeding Russian intrusion. At the exact same time,”steps have actually been made to increase the action in sight of the acquisition of the 32 F-16 airplane from Norway […] The draft regulation to authorize this procurement has actually passed the legal openness phase as well as remains in the alert circuit, complying with to be offered to the Romanian Parliament soon,”states a main RoAF declaration. With the former-RoNAF(Royal Norwegian Air Force)Vipers the Romanian Air Force will certainly field 3 F-16s armadas, that will certainly guarantee connection for a duration of at the very least 10 years. Romania intends to run the F-16s up until 2030, when the airplane must be changed by the F-35:”The 3 [F-16] armadas will certainly comprise an airborne functional ability of shift to the F-35 5th generation airplane”

. About David Cenciotti David Cenciotti is a self-employed reporter based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder as well as Editor of” The Aviationist”, among the globe’s most renowned and also check out army air travel blog sites. Given that 1996, he has actually composed for significant around the world publications, consisting of Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, as well as several others, covering air travel, protection, battle, sector, criminal offense, knowledge and also cyberwar. He has actually reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia as well as Syria, as well as flown numerous fight aircrafts with various flying force.

He is a previous 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a personal pilot as well as a grad in Computer Engineering. He has actually created 5 publications as well as added to a lot more ones.

F-35: Capabilities, Missions, Kinematics, Role In Ukrainian Crisis And Beyond. Interview With Billie Flynn

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F-35: Capabilities, Missions, Kinematics, Role In Ukrainian Crisis And Beyond
USAF Demo team during the RIAT 2018. (Image Credit: Author)

“The F-35 was designed to operate in highly contested airspace, with capabilities precisely focused on what we have been seeing in Ukraine today.”

We have had an expansive chat with Billie Flynn recently. When it deals with the Lightning II, no one has Flynn’s knowledge. He is a 5th Generation experimental test pilot and airshow pilot who has been a part of development of the F-35. He authored the famous 2017 Paris Air Show routine that busted many myths about the Lightning II’s performance.

He can be considered a sort of global spokesman for the F-35 program and we interviewed him so as to have his view of the Lightning II stealth aircraft, as it becomes proliferated in Europe and is deployed to NATO’s Eastern Flank amid growing tensions with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

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Billie Flynn poses next to an F-35. (Image courtesy Billie Flynn – billieflynn.com)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-16.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-2.jpg” class=”size-large wp-image-79276″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-2.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”556″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-2.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-16.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-17.jpg 122w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-18.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-19.jpg 1536w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Billie-Flynn.jpg 1780w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Billie Flynn poses next to an F-35. (Image courtesy Billie Flynn – billieflynn.com)

The Aviationist: Given the state of the Polish Air Force – how do you think Poland could integrate the F-35 in the Air Force? What the major challenges would be, when it comes to interoperability between the Lightning II, and the Polish Viper fleet? Where would, in your opinion, the F-35 fit?

Billie Flynn: So, let’s talk about the state of the Polish Air Force. Let’s use the F-16 integration as the first step in this example. I served in Europe and understood the Eastern Bloc’s capabilities. As a Lockheed Martin test pilot, I flew the Polish Block 52 aircraft during their acceptance flights and I’m very familiar with their capability. When the Polish Air Force took on the F-16, it took was a massive step forward to westernize a former Eastern Bloc air force, to (make them) understand how we think in the West and adapt to a very capable, very lethal 4th generation fighter. We see now, years later, how successful the training and the integration has been and how capable the pilots in the Polish Air Force are with that aircraft. So now the Polish Air Force needs to think how to integrate the F-35, building on that F-16 experience. I think that the successful integration of the F-16, and that huge leap forward that has been taken by the Air Force, will be mirrored when we look at the F-35.

<img data-attachment-id="79261" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/07/f-35-interview-with-billie-flynn/b-52-works-with-polish-f-16s-2/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/7-scaled.jpg" data-orig-size="2560,1829" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"9.5","credit":"1st Combat Camera Squadron","camera":"NIKON D5","caption":"A Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon engages in a planned intercept of a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019, over Poland. This deployment allows aircrews and support personnel to conduct theater integration and to improve bomber interoperability with joint partners and allied nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)","created_timestamp":"1572235200","copyright":"Public Domain","focal_length":"98","iso":"140","shutter_speed":"0.0013333333333333","title":"B-52 works with Polish F-16s","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="B-52 works with Polish F-16s" data-image-description data-image-caption="

A Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon engages in a planned intercept of a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019, over Poland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-20.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-3.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79261″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-3.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”504″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-3.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-20.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-21.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-22.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-23.jpg 1536w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/7-2048×1463.jpg 2048w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

A Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon engages in a planned intercept of a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019, over Poland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

It would be essentially a foundation for the next steps, right?

Well, it shows the potential of the pilots, and the Air Force itself, to adopt something dramatically new. Because the F-35 is the most sophisticated fighter in the world today, bar none, dramatically more capable than the Block 52, the Eurofighter, or any other 4th generation jet. This 5th gen capability is astonishingly lethal. Remembering what the Air Force just did this over the past decades with the F-16 should give confidence that it will be able to integrate the F-35 with the F-16. Learning to leverage the F-35 advantages will keep the F-16s survivable. The F-16 is not survivable in the very highly contested world, like the Ukraine, for example, with significant numbers of sophisticated surface-to-air threats that the Russian Armed Forces have. The F-16 would never survive by itself. However, the F-35 was designed to operate in highly contested airspace, with capabilities precisely focused on what we have been seeing in Ukraine today. If you have F-35s, you do not necessarily need F-16s to do the damage that the F-35 would bring. They’re a monstrously capable and lethal platform, against SAMs or any kind of ground defenses or troops. But once Air Dominance is achieved, when you need additional firepower, you use the F-35 to protect the F-16s.

How would the F-35 fit in the Polish IADS – what could it do, how it could become a valid asset. We know that Poland has procured the Patriot MRAD, along with the IBCS network – so the F-35 can be plugged into it. What are the real-life benefits of this?

Here we start talking about multi-domain operations. Surface-to-air capabilities and airborne assets, integrate, operating in a joint, multi-domain effort: Instead of having separate forces – the air force, army, and navy will leverage the notion of joint capabilities. As you see with the F-35 plus the sophisticated anti-aircraft capability like the Patriot is, there is synergy in joint operations. F-35 brings sees so much with its sensors, like no legacy 4th generation platforms which help build a battlespace picture that would not be capable of being constructed with the other assets that would be flown. With that battlespace picture, and seeing the threats that are coming in, the Patriot comes into the equation.

So that really makes the F-35 a high value asset, right?

Truly, it’s more than just a tactical aircraft.

Do you think procurement of communication assets for legacy platforms is key? How could the Vipers talk to the Lightning, using MADL – should a pod be designed for that purpose, or should some new avionics be used – to benefit from the sensor fusion? How big the difference is in the comms department, as opposed to the 4th gen, and what impact does it have on the freedom of data exchange. What impact does it have on situational awareness, compared to the 4th generation aircraft?

Let’s talk about the two different methods of communications with datalinks and sharing information. Link 16, which is the NATO standard, both in 4th gen and 5th gen, is like a big lighthouse – and you broadcast your information everywhere, to everyone on the network. It’s omnidirectional, so it’s everywhere. And anyone can pick up that signal. If you’re transmitting as a part of a datalink network, you can be found, because you are an emitting source. That’s the first problem.

And the second problem is, there really is not a lot of sophisticated data that goes across on Link 16. It is essentially the position data, some elements of what weapons you are carrying and how much fuel you have, and some communications information that goes in the back and forth. But the F-35, and F-22, (each with a different format), the datalinks are designed as low probability of intercept stealthy networks. They are not omnidirectional, but instead uniquely directed on to those aircraft in the network, communicating with each other. Packets of data are sent directly back and forth but not in a continuous stream of data as in Link 16. Intercepting that data would be cosmically difficult to do and that’s how it remains stealthy.

When transmitting through MADL, no one can find the four, or eight aircraft in the network. F-35 is not just sending position data and simple communications but exactly what my aircraft sees in data-fused packets so that everything I see is shared with everyone else and vice versa. Our situational awareness is dramatically more comprehensive than anyone could imagine. Can a 4th Gen platform share this 5th Gen data? At present, no. Those 4th Gen airplanes cannot absorb or process the extraordinary amount of data that F-35 sensor fusion can handle. There is no processing capability in an F-16, or in an F-18, or in F-15EX, or in any other 4th generation airplane. In the future, we can perhaps design some data link that allows us to use a stealthier format to pass on information – and that way it’s not going to expose everyone on the datalink, the way the Link 16 does.

So, basically what you’re saying is – even if there’s a pod, or avionics designed for 4th gen, the remainder of the system would not be able to consume the data that the F-35 produces?

You’ve used the right term. They would not be able to CONSUME the data that the F-35 would transmit.

So, it’s Link 16 for now?

Yes, it’s Link 16 for NATO for now. As we’ve introduced the F-35 to NATO nations, think about Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, the UK and even now with Danish pilots are transitioning to the F-35, there is more incentive for us collectively, to figure out how to pass information to our 4th generation assets, without exposing us in F-35s. We need to get data to those platforms while staying safe in our sanctuary, operating as very low-observable fighters.

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Luke AFB Aerial Shoot with a Lockheed Martin F-35A-2B “Lightning II” (JSF) (s/n 12-5056) and a General Dynamics F-16C Block 42A “Fighting Falcon” (s/n 87-0360) – (Image Credit: Robert Sullivan/flickr)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-24.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-4.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79264″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-4.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”471″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-4.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-24.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-25.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-26.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-27.jpg 1536w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/3.jpg 2048w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Luke AFB Aerial Shoot with a Lockheed Martin F-35A-2B “Lightning II” (JSF) (s/n 12-5056) and a General Dynamics F-16C Block 42A “Fighting Falcon” (s/n 87-0360) – (Image Credit: Robert Sullivan/flickr)

It can be said then that this is one of the major problems for figuring out interoperability between legacy platforms and 5th gen.

We have a lot of learning, and we are learning rapidly now, that the F-35 is in Central Europe. The F-35s participate in the Frisian Flag exercise right at this day, this week that we’re talking. We are learning how to use a 5th gen asset with the 4th gen platforms that are out there as blue air, as the good guys, and figuring out how best to optimize the F-35 and its lethality, but also how to keep the 4th gen platforms survivable. As we move forward, we will get smarter about exactly what will enable that better – moving forward.

In Poland, there has been this recurring myth on the Lightning II – those who question the procurement say that Warsaw does not need a deep-strike/SEAD/DEAD platform like the F-35 – calling it an offensive aircraft – and that we should procure an air superiority, defensive jet. Is the F-35 really solely an ‘offensive’ strike aircraft?

Well, the F-35 is a truly multi-role platform, in terms of defensive capability and offensive capability. But the aircraft that Poland will get will be able to carry six AMRAAM air-to-air missiles inside the weapons bay plus two AIM-9 or ASRAAM IR missiles, on the outward wing stations; that’s 8 missiles on the F-35 which is as lethal as anything else that’s out there. By the way, the picture of F-15EX with 22 AMRAAMs hides the fact that it could not take off with a maximum load of fuel, plus all those missiles at the same time. And no one has 22 AMRAAMs to load on a single fighter. A realistic loadout is six plus two that you will see in the later lots of the F-35. The F-35 is meant to protect other nations that have bought the jet, which are defensive in nature including Switzerland, Finland, and Canada In Finland, they’re worried about 1400 kilometers of border shared with Russia. In Switzerland, they would never anticipate flying the F-35 outside of their border, their job is to protect the nation. With its exceptional reach and sensor performance, across many spectrums, a very significant air-2-air loadout, and a stealthy platform, the F-35s will give those air forces a dramatic advantage over everything else. It is the most capable defensive platform out there.

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F-15EX (Image Credit: Boeing)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-28.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-5.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79265″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-5.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”395″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-5.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-28.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-29.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-30.jpg 768w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/5.jpg 960w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

F-15EX (Image Credit: Boeing)

Somewhat related to that, here’s another question: there is a lot of talk, currently, regarding the capabilities of the F-35, and the meaning they may have for Poland in the wake of the recent geopolitical events. Some voices in the debate suggest that Poland would be better off procuring the F-15 – as it is faster, flies higher, and acts as a better kinematic platform for launching the missiles, with the mythical FL400 quoted as a reference altitude for the Flankers to fly at. Is this an area in which the F-35 would struggle – as we have seen in Ukraine, most of the strikes are done in a stand-off setting, and some experts claim that one needs a long stick to shoot the shooter? Are Germany and Finland wrong to procure the F-35 for the DCA role? How can the F-35 features be used in a DCA role?

The high-end speed of aircraft when they are clean, slicked off, is interesting. I was at 1.9 Mach when I was a Eurofighter Typhoon test pilot in Germany 20 years ago. I’ve been Mach 2.05 in the F-16 many times. For the F-35, its endpoint is 1.6 Mach. The two previous cases – the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-16 – they cannot go to their maximum Mach number with their weapons and fuel loaded out. With their electro-optical Litening pods, Sniper pods, and equivalents – they can’t do their max Mach. The max speed of an F-15 – Mach 2+ – will never be achieved with a weapons loadout on the airplane because the drag on the outside will always prevent the jet from getting there. An F-35 will fly 1.6 Mach, with a weapons bay full of missiles and wingtip missiles, and I, as a test pilot have demonstrated that repeatedly. During the envelope expansion program, in my case flying the F-35B, and F-35C models I regularly at 1.6 Mach, with bombs and missiles in the weapons bay, and IR missiles on the outboard stations. F-35 flies 1.6 Mach which is necessarily faster than those two other aircraft.

Kinematics – In attrition warfare, where each airplane can see each other, whoever’s missile gets there first, hopefully kills the other airplane. With two missiles in the air there, one does not get to time out, because the launch aircraft died. You always wanted to be able to shoot first. To do that, you want to go as fast, or as high as you can to give your missile basically the fastest push – so it would go higher, faster, and get there first, before the other person’s missile hits you. That assumes that we both saw each other. And we’ve been playing this cat and mouse game of who gets missiles in the air, and who turns away from each other, to slow the closure velocity of the aircraft, as the missiles come out of each other, making the missiles fly further. It’s an old game of attrition warfare. But what happens when I’m in a very low observable F-35, and cannot be seen by the adversary, is that I to get to shoot my missile wherever I want before he (the other pilot) ever even knows I exist. My missile is in the air. My weapons bay doors have opened fired the missile, closed the weapons bay doors, and I may even have turned around, while my missile is impacting his jet. I am no longer playing the kinematic tactic that has been a part of our world for through all the years of 3rd gen and 4th gen weapons and fighters. I’m not trading kinematics as we did with 4th gen weapons.

<img data-attachment-id="79266" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/07/f-35-interview-with-billie-flynn/6-10/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/6.jpg" data-orig-size="1024,576" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="6" data-image-description data-image-caption="

Italian Eurofighter Typhoon demo at RIAT 2018. (Image Credit: Author)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-31.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-6.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79266″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-6.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-6.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-31.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-32.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-33.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-34.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/6.jpg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Italian Eurofighter Typhoon demo at RIAT 2018. (Image Credit: Author)

One last thing about the F-15EX: It is a wonderfully capable airplane. It will serve as a defensive capacity in North America which is why the US Air Force is buying it. The F-15EX is the last iteration of this fabulous design that’s been around for decades upon decades. It is based on the Saudi Arabian F-15SA that has since become Americanized. But it’s on its last life and there will be no major upgrades from this point on as opposed to the F-35, whose future growth potential looks out over thirty to forty years ahead. The F-35 remains at the beginning of its lifetime, not like the F-15EX, which is, necessarily, the last version of the F-15, and it does not have decades ahead of it – like the F-35 has.

Moreover, all those nations in Europe would be operating the F-35. Where the dedicated air superiority platform like the Typhoon was present, the F-35 comes in as an addition, but some nations had no air superiority platform in their possession before, like the Netherlands, Denmark, and so on. And they are not looking out to get the Eagle, right?

No, they are not. Use the F-16 example as the way forward when we talk about multi-role interoperability and what the F-35 will be. Remember, I flew the CF-18s in Baden-Soellingen Germany, and in a 4th gen fighter I went to the Tactical Leadership Programme to learn about NATO interoperability. The standard was the F-16. Air forces that had 2nd gen F-104s, F-100s in the case of Denmark, or F-5s, made the leap to the F-16 and learned how to fly and fight using the same type of fighter. Those air forces became great at the air-to-ground mission plus having an air-to-air capability that evolved over time.

The F-35 does those air-to-air and air-to-ground missions plus Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. The F-35 performs every mission set. We learned in 4th gen how to fly together, how to share tactics and execute multi-role missions, with the F-16 as our baseline. With the F-35, everyone is flying the same platform, sharing data, between Danish, Italian, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Belgian, British, and American aircraft. But in 5th Gen we are not just dropping bombs, as an air-to-ground airplane or flying relatively simple air-to-air missions. In F-35, we are executing the most sophisticated mission sets ever in our air forces. The term that I use is not multi-role but instead multi-mission.

Regarding the multi-mission capabilities: Is CAS sortie flown by the F-35 very much different from one flown by the Viper? Has a new CAS doctrine been developed for the F-35?

We have learned how conduct CAS in the F-35 led by the US Marine Corps. The core doctrine of the US Marine Corps is to really protect the Marines on the ground and all assets are there to protect those Marines on the ground, fighting the fight. There’s a place for medium altitude CAS, operating in the sanctuary, targeting dropping the weapons required. The reality is that that does not work when the enemy is close. In an Iraq or Afghanistan type scenario, when you need bullets or weapons close to friendly troops, dropping weapons from 25,000 feet will not be acceptable. There’s a reality that you’d probably take any asset that would be brought down to the high-threat environment because you’re protecting troops on the ground.

I guess what I said to you is: medium altitude CAS exists, we’ve learned how to do that in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there may be a time when the troops are in contact and you’re going to come down and use the gun in the F-35, just like the Marines would have to do with a gun pod in an F-35B, and like the A-10 had to do over the years. That’s a lot of risk for an 80-million-dollar F-35 but our job is to protect the troops on the ground. We will become very good at medium altitude CAS, dropping JDAMs, Small Diameter Bombs, Paveway IV in the case of the UK. We will certainly work on those tactics but at some point, you do have to protect the troops on the ground.

<img data-attachment-id="79267" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/07/f-35-interview-with-billie-flynn/guns-on-deck-history-is-made-2/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/8-scaled.jpg" data-orig-size="2560,1707" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"9","credit":"3rd Marine Aircraft Wing","camera":"Canon EOS 5D Mark III","caption":"LtCol Joseph Freshour, the commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, accelerates as he prepares to launch from the deck of Her Majesty's Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth armed with a Gun Pod Unit (GPU) – 9\/A, at sea on 28 September, 2020. Freshour became the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter pilot to fly from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth while carrying a GPU. This milestone continues VMFA-211's preparation for the United Kingdom's Carrier Strike Group global deployment.","created_timestamp":"1601265600","copyright":"Public Domain","focal_length":"70","iso":"640","shutter_speed":"0.0015625","title":"Guns on Deck, History is Made","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Guns on Deck, History is Made" data-image-description data-image-caption="

LtCol Joseph Freshour, the commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, accelerates as he prepares to launch from the deck of Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth armed with a Gun Pod Unit (GPU) – 9/A, at sea on 28 September, 2020. Freshour became the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter pilot to fly from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth while carrying a GPU. This milestone continues VMFA-211’s preparation for the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group global deployment.

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-35.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-7.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”wp-image-79267 size-large” src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-7.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”471″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-7.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-35.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-36.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-37.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-38.jpg 1536w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/8-2048×1365.jpg 2048w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

USMC F-35 with a GAU-22 gun pod. (Photo by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing)

Or devise a new CAS platform.

Or devise a new CAS platform. We all love the A-10, there is no conversation ever that any aircraft can truly and effectively replace the A-10, even after all these years. Everyone on the ground will tell you that it has proven itself to be invaluable.

What about the self-defense measures and countermeasures that the F-35 uses – is the difference significant, as opposed to the 4th gen?

Absolutely. I am not going to talk about the specifics of what’s on board. But absolutely, the self-protection capabilities of the F-35 are more high-end that you will find on any 4th gen platform, anywhere in Europe. Absolutely.

Given your experience flying the F-35 and other types – has the myth that the F-35 is a poor dogfighter been busted already, during your Paris Air Show routine, or is this still a major problem? How effective the F-35 is in the BFM scenario – if it comes to it – because we know that this is an aircraft designed not to get into BFM – but still, if you were to take on a Flanker, how would it go?

Yes. We’ve busted the myth about the maneuverability of the F-35, when I flew in Paris, in June 2017, almost 5 years ago. That demonstration crushed the conversation about whether the F-35 was maneuverable or not. We showed the square loop, the slow speed pass at 35 degrees AoA, and performed a pedal turn at 50 degrees AoA, spiraling around at 50 degrees a second yaw rate. There’s only one other aircraft in the western world that can do that – and that’s the F-22 Raptor; it has thrust vectoring and we did not. We showed astonishing maneuverability. In the air show demonstrations shown by the United States Air Force F-35 demo pilots since then, they have reinforced the maneuverability and what the F-35 can do.

Do we still do BFM? We absolutely still train BFM. It’s one of those core skills to teach a pilot about how maneuverable his aircraft is. He (or she) has to get in there, and see how aggressive the aircraft can be, to gain the confidence in their own abilities and how to maneuver the aircraft aggressively and learn what the aircraft can really do. BFM will always be an essential skill we want to teach fighter pilots. Do I ever want to give up all of the amazing capabilities that I had in my F-35 leading into a merge – all the situational awareness I had, all the time I had to complete the kill chain, to kill the adversary, before facing him across the circle in a Top-Gun type fight? I would never want to make that mistake and miss those opportunities.

Would it happen? It would be so arrogant and mistaken to state that there could never be a BFM fight in an F-35. What’s the aircraft like to fight in BFM? I was originally a CF-18 pilot and then later in my career I’ve spent much of my time in F-16s and Eurofighter Typhoons. These fighters have different flight-control logics. The Hornet loves to fly slow. It has that incredible capability in slow-speed maneuvering whereas the F-16, Gripen, Eurofighter and Rafale are all meant as high-speed fighters. They have 9G limits and they’re really meant to go around the corner, chasing the adversary, quickly and fast. They are beautifully flying airplanes, even at the aggressiveness of the 9G. But it’s two different philosophies. One tries to point its nose quickly at the adversary and shoot quicker – like the F-18 – and the other one tries to race around the circle faster – F-16, Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen.

The F-35 is more like an F-18 – remember the air show demonstrations of 50 degrees AoA, and a square-loop, and pedal turn. That’s what its highlight capability is – different than F-16 or the Typhoon. It is just a different philosophy. Where should the F-35 advantage be? As a minimum, I should enter the combat environment having seen my adversary long before he could see me with a significant advantage even before the fight starts. That’s really what the F-22 had learned over all these years. When they allow themselves to get into air combat, they have a huge advantage, because they’ve seen the adversary much, much earlier than the adversary sees them, so the fight typically ends much quicker like that.

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Billie Flynn flying his Paris Air Show 2017 F-35 demo. (Image Credit: Karol Piętka)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-39.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-8.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79268″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-8.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-8.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-39.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-40.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-41.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-42.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/9.jpg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Billie Flynn flying his Paris Air Show 2017 F-35 demo. (Image Credit: Karol Piętka)

So, the F-35 is more of a nose-position fighter, than a circle fight type airplane?


There is a great deal of talk about how low RCS has an impact on air combat. What does it mean for a pilot – in practical terms, when it comes to fighting – in OCA and especially in the DCA setting – let’s talk about some hypothetical, real-life scenarios here?

There really is a transition in how you think – remember, I’m a 4th gen baby, CF-18, F-16, Typhoon – and then I learned how to fly the F-35. It was hard for me to understand at the beginning that the adversary can’t see you. Instead of being defensive as you approach your adversary, assuming that he has already seen you, and always watching for someone entering and attacking us, you’re now looking ahead in the F-35, knowing he does not see you, and knowing that you see everything out there. That switch to the offensive mentality is a complete change of mindset. When you learn to believe, when you learn to accept that you really are invisible, that’s when you become incredibly potent with the F-35. That’s when you start killing the adversary quickly. We have seen, time and again, whether it’s Red Flag exercises, other large-scale exercises, in deployments overseas, or as we saw when I led the F-35 deployment for Finland’s H-X Challenge just how capable the aircraft is. It’s not a fair fight, and I don’t ever want it to be fair. I want us to be 20:1 better than the adversary, or even more dominating than that.

So, was the 20:1 figure in the Red Flag a marketing figure, or an oversimplification?

No, it was not. It’s the real thing. Much like the F-22 demonstrated for so long – nobody beats F-22. They have been dominating for their entire operational life. Now the F-35 shows up and we’re winning better than 20:1 in the most aggressive scenarios against adversary pilots who are better than the Russian pilots ever would be. The western fighters who pretend to be the adversaries, the Red Air as we call them, are more capable than the real Russian aircraft are. And yet, we still win better than 20:1 in the highest contested environments, which are very much mirrored to what we have been seeing in Ukraine now.

Given the proliferation of the F-35 among European users, do you think that the F-35 is on its way to becoming the next standard fighter for NATO, like the F-16 and the F-104 did in the past?

It’s going to be like the F-104 was as a 2nd Gen fighter and the F-4 as a 3rd Gen fighter. The 4th gen NATO standard was the F-16, a franchise program with more than 4,700 of them built thus far and Lockheed Martin building even more. The total number of F-16 built will surpass 5,000 ultimately. Now you see how the F-35 has gained so much traction. It has proven itself with the United States Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy, the Israeli Defense Force, in the UK now. Every user loves what this aircraft can do. There will be more than 3,000 F-35s built over their lifetime. It’s THE platform of 5th gen. It’s a franchise platform, as I call it.

So, a 5th gen. franchise…

Yes, as the F-16 was. The F-16 over all the years evolved from this lightweight fighter, with a very poor radar and only an AIM-9 capability to this incredibly capable, lethal airplane that it is now; the iterations of Block 52, UAE Air Force F-16 E/F Block 60, or the now emerging Block 70. It’s remarkable how the capability of the Viper grew over the years. You will see that same pattern of growth with the F-35 over its lifetime. It is the NATO standard already. Germany with 35 aircraft that are not going to be just nuclear-capable delivery airplanes, replacing Tornado. The Luftwaffe is now going to find out that they have this astonishing, capable new aircraft that does every mission set better than any other platform. Those aircraft will transform and push the Luftwaffe, as happened with other air forces, dramatically higher in capability than they could’ve imagined.

So maybe we’ll see a future German procurement of more F-35s?

I don’t know. I’ve spent many years as a German test pilot, and I recognize how important the industry is there. But I do think the 35 aircraft will transform the Luftwaffe, its philosophy, and what the air power can do in the mission sets that it performs.

For Poland to adopt the F-35, do you think procurement of AEW, and tankers would be a beneficial force multiplier?

I think we will, collectively in NATO, rethink our airborne early warning platforms. Clearly AWACS has done amazing service, it has taken us through the first Gulf War, through my experience in combat in Kosovo in 1999, to Iraq, Syria, Libya, since then, right? But it’s at the end of its days. We see the effective Wedgetail, first in Australia and now has the interest of the USAF. We’ve seen what that kind of capability does and why it’s interesting to have a platform like that. 5th Gen fighters like F-35 gather so much knowledge of the battlespace.

But to ask an individual pilot to orchestrate and be that commander of the overall battle is probably too much for that one person in the cockpit. If that information comes back to a AEW platform that has great capabilities, but also can coordinate the air battle based on all that knowledge gathered by the fighters and then dictate and task the fighters to prosecute the battle plan. In that case you are effectively using a platform to allow them to control the battle much like AWACS did a generation ago back in 4th gen. Does Poland acquire such a platform, or does NATO evolve and pick a NATO platform that all NATO nations can contribute to, as happened for the NATO AWACS in Gelsenkirchen where it has been based for so many years? Yes.

<img data-attachment-id="79269" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/07/f-35-interview-with-billie-flynn/11-9/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/11.jpg" data-orig-size="1199,819" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="11" data-image-description data-image-caption="

Royal Australian Air Force Wedgetail AEW platform. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Sergey Ryabtsev)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-43.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-9.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79269″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-9.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”482″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-9.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-43.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-44.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-45.jpg 768w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/11.jpg 1199w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Royal Australian Air Force Wedgetail AEW platform. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Sergey Ryabtsev)

Do you need tankers? Does NATO collectively need more tankers? Absolutely, if they are going to deploy like we ended up in Kosovo, back again 20+ years ago, when we needed airborne refueling assets to allow us to go deep into Serbian territory. Or, in our case today potentially, into Russian territory. The nations, collectively, need tankers. Do individual countries need their own tanker assets? I do not think so because the F-35 has more range and better persistence than any other legacy fighter. The F-35A has 18,500 pounds of internal fuel which is more gas than is carried by a legacy F-16, or Typhoon, or Hornet. All that fuel means that the F-35 can go further, and stay airborne longer, than even the F-16, which has really good legs. I do not know if you need tankers as individual nations. NATO has to look at the tanker assets and decide what the nations collectively need.

So, this goes back to the Eagle: do you say that Lightning has a longer loiter time, station time, than the F-15?

This depends, if we’re asking Eagle to carry 3 fuel tanks, is he loitering now, does he have a lot of missiles on the outside, which adds to its drag? The F-35 has a very efficient, 5th generation Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine. It was designed like a commercial engine, more efficient than any of the 4th gen fighter engines could be. Those 4th gen engines are based on 40-year-old technology, as opposed to much more advanced 5th Gen technology. The F-35 is more efficient when it’s airborne, has less drag, and carries a lot of gas. It can sit on station a long time. I flew a long, long time, being airborne in the F-35 for all those years, a lot longer than I ever did on those legacy platforms like the F-16, F-18, or the Typhoon.

F-35 and legacy airframes (F-16/F-15/MiG-29). How much training is needed to cross between the two?

OK. When I answer this, all of the MiG-29 pilots in Poland that I know, that I knew back in the airshow days, are going to hate me. And they never going to speak to me again. Will the F-16 pilots transition to the F-35? Absolutely which is what happened with many of the air forces that transitioned to F-35 already. We had to take the experienced pilots, from the Netherlands, Norway, as examples, and let them transition to be the tactical leaders in the new F-35 squadrons as their air forces learn to adopt the F-35. Only then can you eventually bring in the young pilots who only know the F-35. But to start you have to transition those 4th gen pilots, who have the airmanship, the tactical leadership and flight-lead experience to be the core of the future squadrons, They are going to be the senior Captains, Majors, and Squadron Commanders. There is no place for the MiG-29 pilots in the sophisticated world of 5th gen, with a transition made directly to the F-35.

Even now the Polish Air Force is separated. There’s very much the Russian, Eastern Bloc mentality vs the Western F-16 cadre. And those fighter pilots do not cross back and forth between MiG-29 and F-16. For any pilot, it is such a leap to go to the F-35. Asking a very capable MiG pilot to transition to this cosmic spaceship is far too much to grasp. Every part of how we mechanize the aircraft in the West is different from how Russians design their aircraft, every part of philosophy of how you fly an airplane, how you design cockpits, how you process information is different. To say to an F-16 pilot: Hey, we’re Lockheed Martin, and we build the aircraft the certain way, and switches the certain way, and now we’re going to give you the next generation of that, there’s a logic flow of our design, of the F-16, as the baseline, that kind of looks like what the F-35 is. This is a logical step forward. That does not exist for the MiG cadre. And I think the MiG cadre will end up atrophying, spending their time in that jet until the MiG-29 phases out. You need to take the F-16 cadre and make them move forward to the F-35. That is going to make me very unpopular with the MiG-29 guys in Poland.

How much training would be needed between the Viper, and the Lightning? Is it a long program?

I think here we shall look at what the other nations have done. Remember our example, like the USAF – with lots of F-16 pilots converting to F-35, we see the Netherlands, Norway, and now Denmark. We’ll see Belgium send their F-16 pilots to convert to F-35 at some point. We know that there’s a transition of experienced pilots, from every F-35-user nation, to be pushed through the F-35 training system. It is a mature pattern right now around for years since that we’ve been out training pilots for these aircraft to be operational. We obviously do not actually know how long it will take for Polish Air Force pilots to transition to the F-35whether it’s 6 months, or 9 months, or 10 months. But there’s a system in place now.

An oddball question, but as a test pilot who actually took part in development of that system: what are your thoughts on A-GCAS? Is it a nuisance, or a great asset? The second part of the question refers to the claims made by Soviet pilots back in the day, as back in the 1990s there was a real fear of fly-by-wire, as the Soviet pilots quoted in the old Wings of the Red Star series stated. They claimed that it can be a thing that prevents them from gaining advantage, if it does not let them conduct a much needed maneuver in given circumstances? Do you think Auto-GCAS would be a problem for a really experienced guy, who knows what he’s doing? Is it a nuisance?

Let me explain so the people reading this will understand. The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System is this capability where the aircraft senses that it’s going to impact the ground, whatever the terrain is – mountains or the flat ground. And it says: Look, for some reason the pilot has not done anything. I’m going to take control from the pilot, I’m going to orient the aircraft upright, fly away from that terrain and then I’ll give back the control to the pilot. In the period from 2009 to 2011, I was a part of the Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works Team – a very famous name – along with NASA and USAF team that matured the technology for Auto GCAS. That technology was later fielded in the F-16, and more recently in the F-35.

A derivative of that Auto GCAS design went to the US Navy, and it’s going into Super Hornets and legacy Hornets. There are so many guys that we’ve known, in every air force, who have hit the ground over the years, for so many reasons. It’s disorientation, inexperience, of loss of consciousness from pulling too much G. There’s a host of reasons, Controlled Flight Into Terrain as it is called is an indiscriminate killer. It kills young and old, experienced, and inexperienced, day and night and there is no common denominator.

Over the years CFIT has killed so many that everyone else knows someone who has died. And Auto GCAS now is essentially flawless. When it takes over, it is beyond the threshold of what the human could tolerate. As a test pilot during its testing, I could never fly myself past the limit, of when Auto-GCAS would take control from me. When it takes over, you’re really beyond what the human can stand, and you really are going to die. In a pilot’s lifetime, he will likely never see the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System activation because he’s never going to fly that close to the ground, orient himself upside down or try to kill himself by flying that way. If and when Auto GCAS comes on, it’s meant to save you.

There are YouTube videos of an F-16 where the system activates and saves the life of the pilot who has blacked out and is going to die. Auto GCAS orients the airplane and flies it up away from the ground and saves him. He would have died if auto-GCAS had not be in the jet. So, nuisance? There is no sense of nuisance with Auto-GCAS. It is the most important contribution to the flight safety in the past 50 years, since fly-by-wire technology was introduced in the western world. The Auto GCAS team was awarded the 2018 Collier Trophy which is the highest award in aviation and is given out be the National Aeronautic Association, because of just the potential of this technology to save lives. I think that we should all be thankful that Auto-GCAS is in the F-16, and F-35, it’s now going into the legacy and Super Hornet fleets. Seven of the sixteen fatalities in the Canadian CF-18 over its 40-year lifetime were from hitting the ground where Auto-GCAS could save lives.

As time moves on, Auto GCAS will continue to save many, many lives, and billions of dollars in assets, over many, many years to come.

Let’s hope it goes into general aviation soon as well.

Yes, that’s really the future, right? Like a lot of technologies in the military world – think of the HUD – which we’ve flown for forty years and now, many years later after proving itself in fighter jets see it in modern day GA, or 787, or C-17, or C-130J. You will see an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance [System] in the 737 at some point. You’ll see it in a Gulfstream jet, Bombardier Global Express or Dassault’s iteration of corporate jets at some point in the future.

Coming back to the F-35:. How does it feel to fly using DAS to look through the airframe? Does it feel weird? Is it a useful concept? How does it compare to Striker or JHMCS?

Distributed Aperture System, as you know, is a meshing of six mid-wave IR cameras that are flush mounted on the aircraft. There are two DAS cameras in the sides, two at the bottom, front and back, two at the top, front and back. Those six cameras build a huge picture that is stitched together, to spherically give an infra-red image around the airplane. Wherever you look in your helmet, you see, when DAS is turned on in the helmet, this infra-red hot and cold contrasted image. As you say – if you look between your legs, underneath the aircraft, you see as if the skin of the airplane is not there. During the day, I seldom found a practical application to have the DAS image projected on my helmet because you and I could look out and see what’s on the ground with the naked eye. But at night, I can speak about flying over the East Coast of the US or over the mountains of California, with zero Moon, and all of a sudden, I see, with perfect orientation, the mountains, highways, electrical power lines, rivers and lakes, and while it’s not daytime acuity, I have remarkable situational awareness and essentially see as I would in the day.

That kind of situational awareness allows me to treat flying at night much more matter of fact as when I am flying during the day. That is not the case without DAS when it is pitch black outside, and I don’t have any orientation at all. DAS gives me a view so I can see everything around me and orient myself better. In the F-35 we essentially treat night-time missions like daytime missions. We fly some place up in the sky, where no one sees us. On our screens, there’s no difference between day to night. With DAS I have better orientation looking around to allow me to feel more comfortable at night than I would in a legacy platform.

If you ask about the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, or Scorpion, which is another version of a monocular helmet, I will tell you that they are dramatically less capable than the F-35 Helmet Mounted Display. JHMCS, as a monocular helmet displays on a single eye where my targets of interest are, and in some cases, it gives me some information about the airplane state. But that image is not the stereoscopic view that I get from the F-35helmet. DAS does not exist in the Striker helmet either. Although Striker is, by all accounts, a very capable helmet. I think that when you’re talking about the F-35 helmet, you’re talking another order of magnitude in capability to aid the pilot. The F-35 HMD is seamless for the pilot to wear and use and we’ve matured all of the growing pains over the many years of testing. We have figured out the problems with it along the way and fixed them. You could fly the F-35 without it, but why wouldn’t you want the helmet on your head? I regularly flew 5-hour missions at Pax River in Maryland on the east coast of the US, and over the ocean, doing testing in F-35Bs and F-35Cs. It sat on my head, and I never noticed any part of it being heavy, or out of balance. It was a seamless part for me. I really want the helmet to be able to look out and understand what the display is telling me with all my targets projected so that I do not have to translate that onto a touch screen in front of me.

There is a real enhancement to my lethality and effectiveness, with the helmet on my head.

<img data-attachment-id="79270" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/07/f-35-interview-with-billie-flynn/f-35-helmet/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/10.jpg" data-orig-size="720,480" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"419th Fighter Wing","camera":"","caption":"U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Farnsworth, 419th Operations Support Squadron, poses for a photo to demonstrate the F-35 Generation III Helmet-Mounted Display at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on July 10, 2021. The display provides the pilot critical information, built-in night vision, and allows a 360-degree view of the aircraft\u2019s outside environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erica Webster)","created_timestamp":"1625889600","copyright":"Public Domain","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"F-35 Helmet","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="F-35 Helmet" data-image-description data-image-caption="

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Farnsworth, 419th Operations Support Squadron, poses for a photo to demonstrate the F-35 Generation III Helmet-Mounted Display at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erica Webster)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-46.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-10.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79270″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-10.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”471″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-10.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-46.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-47.jpg 128w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/10.jpg 720w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Farnsworth, 419th Operations Support Squadron, poses for a photo to demonstrate the F-35 Generation III Helmet-Mounted Display at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erica Webster)

Is the fitting process slow for the helmet?

Well, it does take time. It’s easy to project an image on one eye. Or either eye. But to get both eyes focused, so I’m not confused, with them being exactly focused, so I am kind of looking at a movie screen – that takes time. We’re much more sophisticated now in how we adjust this, when we fit a new helmet to a pilot. In the beginning, we were not as efficient and had to learn the techniques. Now the process is much easier. For a human to adapt to wearing the helmet is intuitive, and simple to use; Pilots adapt to it right away.

Could you please comment on the photos we have posted of the F-35s without radar reflectors doing patrols over Poland near Ukraine? Is this giving away the signatures to the potential adversary?

I’m not going to comment on that. What I will say though is that having the F-35 on the eastern flank of NATO, where they are deployed now, is a significant deterrent to Russia continuing their ambitions to push further eastward. Because the F-35 represent an extraordinary lethal threat. The F-35 was designed precisely for an environment that we are seeing in Ukraine now and its capacity to neutralize the enemy cannot be matched by any other airplane that flies in anybody else’s air force. So just the fact that the F-35s are there, scares everybody on the other side.

<img data-attachment-id="78346" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/03/02/f-35-without-reflectors-over-poland/usaf-fueling-natos-collective-defense/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/F-35-no-radar-reflectors.jpg" data-orig-size="1024,572" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"22","credit":"86th Airlift Wing\/Public Affairs","camera":"NIKON Z 6","caption":"The 388th Fighter Wing\u2019s F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighter cruises in Eastern European airspace, Feb. 28, 2022, in support of NATO\u2019s collective defense. U.S. Air Forces in Europe \u2013 Air Forces Africa\u2019s ability to support and integrate with NATO\u2019s air policing missions continually hardens the alliance\u2019s solidarity, collective resolve, and ability to adapt to a dynamic warfighting environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Edgar Grimaldo)","created_timestamp":"1646024400","copyright":"Public Domain","focal_length":"74","iso":"500","shutter_speed":"0.002","title":"USAF: Fueling NATO\u2019s collective defense","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="USAF: Fueling NATO’s collective defense" data-image-description data-image-caption="

U.S. F-35A during refueling. The aircraft does not carry any radar reflectors (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Edgar Grimaldo)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-48.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-11.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-78346″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-11.jpg” alt=”F-35 radar reflectors” width=”706″ height=”394″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-11.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-48.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-49.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-50.jpg 768w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/F-35-no-radar-reflectors.jpg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

U.S. F-35A during refueling. The aircraft does not carry any radar reflectors (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Edgar Grimaldo)

The Ukrainian air war seems to be an old-styled conflict, with many reported aerial engagements and aircraft flying mainly low level. How would the F-35 perform in such a scenario?

First of all, as we all watch what happens in Ukraine, we are witnessing the incredible courage and bravery of the men and women who are defending their homeland, against the Putin’s war of choice. It is miraculous how they have performed thus far, in really deterring the Russian army and doing damage to the significant force that has invaded. I think this has surprised everybody around the world. They are true warriors and heroes. We have seen that the Russian style of warfare is so different from what we have imagined in the West. We saw glimpses of their complete, indiscriminate bombing, old-school tactics in Syria. This style of warfare is certainly not how we in the West have evolved in our very sophisticated way to use our very potent assets. NATO does not want to be dragged into this war, because bringing us in escalates this beyond the conflict in Ukraine and makes it, essentially on its way to WW3. It’s an escalation we collectively know we could not control. If we consider what a fifth gen capability contribute to a theater, like in the Ukraine, recall that the F-35 was designed precisely to fight this high-end fight.

F-35 with a stealth platform that cannot be seen and excels at the Wild Weasel mission flown for years by the F-16. The F-35 is exceptionally capable at executing the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses mission set. It would go in and kill every surface-to-air missile threat that was out there, and neutralize all the threats on the ground, and achieve air dominance because it would kill all the air-to-air assets also. Remember: we see them, they don’t see us. It’s like playing football, when one team’s invisible, and the other team is not with a gross advantage on behalf of the F-35. F-35 would see all the enemy air-to-air threats and kill them all, plus completely neutralizing the surface-to-air missile threat to achieve air dominance. From that point, the forces can conduct their air-to-ground war. That’s what the F-35 was meant to do. So, in a parallel world, because we do not want to be dragged into the Ukraine, the F-35 would completely destroy the Russian forces.

<img data-attachment-id="79263" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/07/f-35-interview-with-billie-flynn/1-34/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/1.jpg" data-orig-size="1024,576" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="1" data-image-description data-image-caption="

F-35 demo team, during RIAT 2018. (Image Credit – Author).

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-51.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-12.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79263″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-12.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-12.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-51.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-52.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-53.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-54.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/1.jpg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

F-35 demo team, during RIAT 2018. (Image Credit – Author).

Could you comment on EW/ESM capabilities the F-35 has, compared to 4th gen platforms? Many air forces are going to replace their SEAD aircraft with the F-35. Along with the EW and ESM capabilities don’t you think the aircraft still miss a dedicated Anti-Radiation Missile – is AARGM-ER a valid option here?

As I said before. The F-35 was designed for the SEAD mission. It’s designed as an VLO platform that is capable of identifying targets on the ground and neutralizing them. That’s where the weapons capabilities that come already with the F-35, are perfectly suited for the SEAD mission. Does it have a very potent electronic warfare capability, electronic attack capability? We have talked about that in public briefings for a long time and I certainly briefed it in Poland when I came to discuss the F-35’s capabilities. That possesses a very lethal capability in terms of electronic attack – that’s jamming – and also in terms of self-protection. How you use that in combination with a stealth platform is part of the tactic of staying survivable with an F-35 in a highly contested environment. Managing our signature, how you could see us or not see us, is hugely important. It serves no purpose to be stealthy in the radar environment, but emitting electrons all over, and so everyone can see us because we’re emitting electromagnetic energy. How we manage our energy signature is secret to us staying unobserved.

Last question: could you please comment on partner nations using the F-35 just for QRA. Isn’t it overkill? Isn’t it a waste of resources?

No. F-35 is a jet that’s meant to sit on QRA as it does right now in Norway, and by the way when F-35s are deployed to Iceland. I expect the F-35 to be able to be flashed up and sent airborne as quickly as possible. F-35s will sit on QRA in Canada and the United States for NORAD missions. F-35, once it gets airborne its sensors can see further than any other legacy platform and is perfectly suited for that intercept mission.

<img data-attachment-id="79098" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/03/24/swiss-f35s-produced-in-italy/f-35-for-swiss-air-force-2/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/F-35-for-Swiss-Air-Force-2.jpg" data-orig-size="1024,572" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"8","credit":"","camera":"Canon EOS 7D","caption":"","created_timestamp":"1570718163","copyright":"","focal_length":"28","iso":"100","shutter_speed":"0.005","title":"","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="F-35 for Swiss Air Force 2" data-image-description data-image-caption="

An Italian Air Force F-35A at Keflavik, in Iceland. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-55.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-13.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79098″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-13.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”394″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-13.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-55.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-56.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/f-35-capabilities-missions-kinematics-role-in-ukrainian-crisis-and-beyond-interview-with-billie-flynn-57.jpg 768w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/F-35-for-Swiss-Air-Force-2.jpg 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

An Italian Air Force F-35A at Keflavik, in Iceland. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

What should I have asked you that I did not?

We talked about a lot of questions that people have about the F-35. And it’s important that we answer those questions because the doubts remain until those nations start to use the F-35. Once the national pilots come home speak about F-35’s capabilities, the doubts fade. We saw this in the Netherlands, when the Dutch pilots were able to speak about flying the F-35 and how they really believed in the aircraft. They talked about how it really is more effective, more survivable, more lethal, than they ever imagined, and this changed people’s views on the jet and the program. We see that confidence from Italian, Norwegian and certainly from the United States Marine Corps pilots, as the leading F-35 service in the United States. If you went to Israel, you’d find the same answer. So, I think it’s important that we ask all these questions now – to help build the confidence until the aircraft shows up. Because then you are going to find out from the Polish pilots that they think the jet is astonishing. It’s not marketing. It truly is as effective, survivable, and lethal, as we all imagine.

Let me finish by saying: for so many of us warfare was going to be relegated to an asymmetric warfare style for now, and for decades to come. It was the Balkan conflicts in the early 1990s, Kosovo in 1999, Iraq, and Afghanistan, it was. There were never going to be large scale conflicts again. Peace had broken out, post-Cold War, and we were never going to have the world’s largest most powerful forces fight each other again. The world has had a real awakening in the last 35, 36 days showing that this is not true anymore. we see that WW3 is a real possibility. And we are not going to get over the threat of Putin and Russia for decades to come. We in the free world have been threatened. We are collectively stronger, as NATO, than anyone ever imagined. As American, if you want to bring us together, then show us a single enemy, and we really know how to focus our energies. And that’s what Putin has done. He has resurrected and re-energized the unification of NATO. We will together train to the high threat environment, and we will no longer believe that the threat in front of us is just another Balkans conflict, with old surface-to-air missiles. We get it.

The new threat involves highly sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, highly contested airspace. We understand that we have to acquire and possess the most lethal and survivable capabilities now and will maintain the readiness needed to fight a Russian-type threat for decades to come. That’s where the F-35 conversation comes in. Had Ukraine not happened, it would have been hard in many countries to justify the F-35 moving forward. So many people would have believed that buying the F-35 was overkill, hat it was an American strike weapon as it was thought of in Canada. That is not the conversation anymore. The announcement in Canada, on March 28, 2022, validates what we all know, that the world has woken up, and we’ve realized that we are threatened in the western world now. We take that threat this seriously with platforms like the F-35.

Germany even more, right?

Absolutely. Did anyone possibly predict Germany to reverse course on Growler and Super Hornet, to defy what their previous defense minister had said when she vetoed F-35 from even the conversation to immediately commit to 35 F-35s. Germany’s posture reflects what we are all feeling in NATO now. We’re threatened, and we’re going to feel that way for the next decades to come and the F-35 fits perfectly in this construct moving forward.

That sums it up, thank you very much for your time and for the fascinating conversation!

About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

Leonardo’s BriteCloud Cleared To Begin Foreign Comparative Testing In The U.S.

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An artistic depiction of the BriteCloud 218 variant released by a F-16C Fighting Falcon. (Photo: Leonardo)

The Expendable Active Decoy will be tested on US F-16s after the recent tests on Italian Tornados and Danish F-16s.

The U.S. Air Force’s Seek Eagle Office has approved Leonardo’s BriteCloud 218 Expendable Active Decoy to be flown on Air National Guard F-16C Block 30 aircraft as part of the Defense Department’s Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) program. The operational testing program, first announced in 2019, is expected to be completed this year, with possible procurement to follow.

As we reported in an in-depth story last year, BriteCloud is a battery powered, self-contained cartridge that provides an off-board jamming capability that can be dropped like the classic chaffs and flares, creating a large distance between the aircraft and the decoy so the missile and its shrapnel miss completely the aircraft. According to Leonardo, BriteCloud has the capability to defeat the majority of RF-guided surface-to-air and air-to-air threat systems, including the ones that rely on the “home-on-jam” guidance.

After BriteCloud is ejected, it starts to search for priority threats, collecting the incoming radar pulses and cross-referencing them against a pre-programmed threat library. Upon finding a match, BriteCloud’s on-board computer applies its advanced algorithms to simulate a “false target” so accurate that the threat system cannot detect the deception and distinguish it from the real aircraft.

“BriteCloud is substantially more effective than traditional countermeasures such as chaff decoys because its technology allows BriteCloud to tailor its powerful electronic ghost signal to the specific threat radar, allowing it to defeat modern, sophisticated threats,” says Wayne Smith, vice-president of sales for electronic warfare with Leonardo.

Leonardo is currently the only company which succeeded to sufficiently miniaturize the Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology to the point where it can be launched from a standard 55 mm chaff and flare dispenser (“the size of a drinks can”, as the company described it). With these characteristics, BriteCloud requires minimal platform integration as it just needs to be loaded in the chaff/flare dispensers.

Following the successful tests of the 55 mm BriteCloud round, called BriteCloud 55, Leonardo developed an even smaller variant called BriteCloud 218 which can fit the 2”x1”x8” US-made chaff/flare dispensers. The FCT tests will use the BriteCloud 218 round, which fits the standard AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensers installed on the F-16.

An exploded look of BriteCloud 55. (Photo: Leonardo)

The latest milestone for the program was announced at Singapore air show. In the same occasion, as geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region continue to build, Leonardo said in a press release it is in discussion with a number of operators internationally to upgrade the region’s more than 500 F-16 fighters with the BriteCloud 218 decoy without needing to modify the platform or perform expensive integration work. The company declined to name the nations involved.

A recent press release from Leonardo also mentioned that two Italian Air Force Tornados and a Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon visited RAF Coningsby during October 2021 for trials with the BriteCloud EAD: “Leonardo and the UK Royal Air Force have successfully demonstrated new high-tech deception techniques using its drinks-can-sized BriteCloud countermeasure, in co-operative trials with the Italian and Royal Danish Air Forces.”

The Italian Air Force fired BriteCloud 55 rounds from Tornado IDS aircraft and the Royal Danish Air Force dispensed BriteCloud 218 rounds from an F-16 fighter at the RAF Donna Nook air weapons range in Lincolnshire. “The new techniques proved highly effective at the trials range and the positive results will be presented to other NATO nations in an operators’ forum”, Leonardo mentioned.

According to spotters arrived at RAF Coningsby to see the visiting aircraft, the Italian Tornado IDS aircraft were MM7036/6-06 and MM7023/6-63, assigned to the 6°Stormo at Ghedi Air Base. The Tornados used the radio callsign “Spera”, meaning they were being flown by aircrew from 311° Gruppo Volo of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (RSV), the Italian Air Force’s flight test unit. The Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM taking part in the same trials was identified as E-598.

These tests also follow the integration of BriteCloud on the MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-9B Sky/SeaGuardian series UAVs. General Atomics’ MQ-9 became the first RPAS to employ BriteCloud, with a test campaign in late 2020 that saw the Reaper successfully releasing a number of inert decoys during carriage and release trials from the new Self-Protection Pod.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Two Aviano F-16s Deployed To Croatia After Soviet-Era Drone From Ukraine Crashed In Zagreb

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Aviano F-16 Croatia
A U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron from the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, taxis out to the flight line at Croatia’s 91st Air Base at Pleso, March 17, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Miquel Jordan)

The U.S. Air Force F-16s from Aviano AB deployed to Croatia to operate with the local MiG-21s in the days that followed the mysterious Tu-141 drone crash.

Two F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing from Aviano Air Base, Italy, deployed to Croatia’s 91st Air Base at Pleso, from Mar. 15-17, 2022. The deployment, testing an ACE (Agile Combat Employment) operation followed the mysterious crash of a Soviet-era Tu-141 Type 2 drone in Zagreb, that flew all the way from Ukraine to Croatia before crashing in the Croatian capital at around 23:00 local time on March 11, 2022.

The stray six-ton unmanned reconnaissance drone left a 10-feet crater after crossing the NATO airspace over Romania and Hungary: an incident with many unknown details (first of those the nation operating the drone, Ukraine or Russia?) that raised multiple questions and concern about NATO’s ability to protect Eastern Europe’s airspace. While Hungarian and Romanian officials tried to explain why they were unable to respond to the threat, Croatian authorities, who said the drone carried a 120-kg bomb, were pretty vocals criticising the sloppy response to the violation of the NATO’s airspace.

On Mar. 15, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in a press conference that the U.S. would send the F-16s to “give support of Croatia’s security” as two Vipers from Aviano were already on their way to Croatia’s 91st Air Base at Pleso, just outside of Zagreb.

A Croatian MiG-21 pilot assigned to the 191st Fighter Squadron taxis out to the flight line during Agile Combat Employment operations with the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy at Croatia’s 91st Air Base at Pleso, March 17, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Miquel Jordan)

“The 31st FW is here in Croatia to train with our NATO Allies and hone our skills to be prepared for any challenges that are presented to us,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Russell Main, 555th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and ACE project officer in a public statement.

During the ACE event, two F-16Cs practiced tactical intercepts with the Croatian MiG-21BisD/UMD jets. Only 12 remaining Fishbeds with only a handful in operational conditions are operated by the Croatian Air Force. The jets are assigned to 191st Fighter Aircraft Squadron of 91st Wing of the Croatian Air Force and located in the “Pukovnik Marko Živković” Barracks near Zagreb, from where they provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert): despite the age of its interceptors, Croatia is the only only Ally on the eastern Adriatic Sea that flies Air Policing missions with its own fighter aircraft closely integrated into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).

“This skill can be used in a multitude of scenarios including cooperative environments or combat,” said Main. “Getting a chance to employ an F-16C against a MiG-21 presents different challenges that we’re not used to, day to day. It’s a unique opportunity to have that experience as an F-16 pilot.”

“We were informed that we would get [U.S. Air Force] support to fly with us to patrol over the [Croatian] border, to get experience with [F-16C Fighting Falcons] so we could be well prepared,” said LtCol Zvonimir Milatović, 191st Fighter Squadron commander and MiG-21 fighter pilot. “We also discussed what certain missions could [entail], so we decided to make a couple of tactical intercepts, patrolling and information flying with [basic fighter maneuvers]”

The joint training lasted only a few days as the deployment was rather symbolic and aimed at reassuring the local public opinion “of NATO’s dedication to an enduring alliance and partnership between the U.S. and Croatia.”

The Croatian Air Force will replace its obsolete Soviet-era interceptors with 12 second-hand Dassault Rafale jets as part of a government-to-government deal with France, worth 999 million euros, signed during a ceremony in Zagreb on Nov. 25, 2021. The contract reportedly involves 10 single-seater and two twin-seater Rafales in the F3-R standard, with the first six aircraft scheduled to be delivered in 2024 and the remaining ones due the following year.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

Photos Emerge Of Armed F-16 During Gear Emergency That Led To Belly Landing Recently

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F-16 Aviano emergency
The F-16CM of the 555th FS performs a low pass over Aviano AB on Mar. 2, 2022. Note the missing wheel. (All images credit:
Jesse Van Den Broek)

The aircraft was launching for a patrol mission over Eastern Europe when it lost a wheel and was forced to perform a belly landing.

As we have already reported, on Mar. 2, 2022, an F-16CM belonging to the 555th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Wing, based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, carried out a belly landing after experiencing a landing gear issue: the mishap Viper (as the Fighting Falcon is nicknamed within the pilot community) armed with Live missiles lost the left wheel of the main landing gear on take off.

The aircraft was forced to cancel its mission and later perform a successful, emergency gear-up landing at Aviano, that was caught on camera. However, before opting for the belly landing (that was deemed safer than attempting a landing with a missing wheel, that could cause the aircraft to veer off runway something you always want to avoid with an jet carrying live weapons), the aircraft was observed, with the gear and tailhook down, perform some passes over the base in northeastern Italy.

It was during one of those passes that a photographer took some photos of the aircraft, that show the crippled F-16 a few minutes before the successful emergency landing.

“On Mar. 2, a friend and I were on a trip to Aviano Air Base,” told us Dutch photographer Jesse Van Den Broek in an email. “At around 1PM the Carabinieri [Italian Military Police] came to us and told us we had to leave Immediately. When we were walking to the car of a friend of mine, I noticed the aircraft with its hook down while doing a low approach. So I immediately took several shots before we had to drive away. The moment we drove to the other side of the runway they closed down the entire road for all traffic. When we were near the other end of the runway we witnessed another low approach. After this one we left because we weren’t sure what the pilot wanted to do.”

Another photo taken from distance showing the crippled F-16 during the emergency that led to a belly landing.

Although Jesse didn’t see the aircraft on its final approach for the belly landing, he managed to take some shots of the F-16. “The quality of the pictures is pretty bad. But we were far away and in a hurry”, Jesse explain. Anyway, while not up to his usual standards (you can have a look at his shots on Instagram here), the photos are good enough to confirm that the airframe involved in the mishap was the serial #89-2035, the flagship of the 555th FS, in the standard enhanced Air Policing configuration: with Live AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AN/ALQ-131 ECM pod and Sniper ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod), along with two fuel tanks.

Aviano F-16s are part of the contingent supporting Enhanced Vigilance Activity, the NATO-led mission launched as a consequence of the Ukrainian crisis.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

U.S. Air Combat Command Announces Capt. Aimee Fiedler As New F-16 Demo Pilot

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Capt. Aimee Fiedler
The specially painted F-16CM “Viper” Demo Team aircraft and Capt. Aimee Fiedler. (Photo: TheAviationist.com/20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Capt. Fiedler Brings Extensive Military and Civilian Flight Experience to Team as New Commanding Officer.

The U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command has announced that Capt. Aimee Fiedler will lead the ACC F-16 “Viper” Demo Team beginning in this coming 2022 air demonstration season. The announcement was made during the annual Heritage Flight Conference at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Capt. Fiedler advances to the position of team commander and lead demo pilot after already serving as a member of the team and following deployments in the F-16 Fighting Falcon that include service in South Korea. Capt. Fiedler replaces former and long-time F-16 “Viper” Demo Team commander, USAF Maj. Garrett “Toro” Schmitz, who served as the team’s commander and lead demo pilot since 2019. Back then, “Toro” took the commanding position from USAF Capt. Zoe Kotnik, the USAF’s first female single-ship tactical demonstration pilot, who was relieved of her command position as the Air Force’s F-16 Demonstration Team pilot after only two weeks in the assignment for a loss of confidence in her ability to lead and command the team.

Capt. Fiedler said in an announcement on the Air Force Heritage Flight website that, “When you travel to air shows, you are meeting the next generation of fighter pilots and Airmen, and that inspires me to do my job better.” Fiedler went on to say that, “They are the ones that are going to be flying alongside me or trained up to take on this mission after my time is done. We get to show the people we meet that this is an attainable goal and as long as they set themselves up for success, they can do this job.”

U.S. Air Force Capt. Aimee Fiedler has been named as the new commander of the Air Combat Command (ACC) F-16 “Viper” Demo Team.
(Photo: 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

The USAF Air Combat Command (ACC) F-16 “Viper” Demo Team inspires airshow audiences and aviation enthusiasts of all ages through flight demonstrations and personal appearances that showcase the Air Force experience and the flight capabilities of the General Dynamic F-16 Fighting Falcon, often referred to by its nickname, the F-16 “Viper”.

The mission of the ACC F-16 “Viper” Demo Team is significant since it serves as a vital recruiting asset for the U.S. Air Force and showcases the performance of one of the most successful and prolific combat aircraft in aviation history.

Over 4,600 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons have been produced since the aircraft first flew in 1974, and the aircraft is in service with 25 countries in addition to the United States. The F-16 Fighting Falcon has seen combat in service with multiple countries, including Israel, the United States, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Venezuela.

Capt. Aimee Fiedler and the Air Combat Command F-16 “Viper” Demo Team is scheduled to appear at 21 airshows during the 2022 flight demonstration season in addition to other appearances and events.

Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

Draken International Acquires Soon-To-Be Retired F-16s From Netherlands And Norway

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Draken F-16
File photo of a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 landing during the recent exercise “Gioia Falcon”. (Photo: Author)

The 24 Vipers will join the company’s fleet of fighter jets used for the Combat Air Force/Contracted Air Support (CAF/CAS) program in the US.

Draken International announced last week two contracts to acquire a fleet of second-hand F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Netherlands and Norway. The company is set to receive 12 aircraft from each country as they get retired from 2022. The exact timeline is not yet known as the transfer has to be first approved by U.S., Dutch and Norwegian authorities and some classified systems need to be removed before the aircraft can be delivered to Draken.

The sale of the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s was already expected. As we reported earlier this year, the Dutch Parliament was informed on Jun. 29, 2021, that an interdepartmental Defense Materiel Sales Committee, consisting of representatives of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defence, approved the sale of 12 F-16s to Draken International. The Falcons will come out of the F-16 End Life of Type (ELOT) program after the Dutch retire their F-16s starting in 2022.

The F-16 is currently operated in the RNLAF by only one unit, the 312 Squadron at Volkel Air Base. The squadron is the last unit to operate the Viper as the other squadrons are gradually moving to the F-35 Lightning II. The remaining F-16s will be retired in batches from 2022 to 2024/2025, when the F-35 is expected to reach the Full Operational Capability and take over the roles of the F-16. Draken has also been offered the option to acquire an additional 28 F-16s from these batches.

Regarding for the Norwegian contract, the Forsvarsmateriell (Norwegian Defense Material Agency) has been working since 2019 to decide what to do with the Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s as they get retired this month and fully replaced by the F-35. As for the Netherlands, only one RNoAF unit is still operating the Viper, the 331 skv at Bodø Air Base. Other than Draken, the government is looking to sell as many of the remaining F-16s as possible to allied countries.

File photo of a Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16B in flight. (Photo: RNoAF)

At this time of writing, it is unknown if the two deals with Draken International only include single-seat F-16As or, more probably, also dual-seaters F-16Bs. It will also be interesting to see which systems will be removed from these F-16s before the transfer, how they will be modified after the delivery and eventually the adversary paint scheme they will be given. The aircraft are expected to be refurbished before the delivery and accompanied by their support equipment.

In their current configuration, the F-16s sold to Draken were initially delivered in the Block 1 configuration and later upgraded up to the Block 20 Mid Life Update configuration, with capabilities considered comparable to the F-16C Block 50/52 configuration. Both countries also installed some customized systems on top of the MLU upgrade, which might be the ones that will be removed before the transfer to the US company.

Following these contracts, Draken International will become the second company to provide contracted F-16 for the training of the U.S. Armed Forces, after the Canadian company Top Aces started receiving the F-16s acquired from the Israeli Air Force this year. The Vipers will join the fleets of Mirage F-1s, L-159s Honey Badger and A-4s Skyhawk already operated by the company to support the Combat Air Force/Contracted Air Support program. The F-16s are considered a step further toward an improved contracted threat replication, as they are 4th gen aircraft and thus more modern and capable compared to the ones currently used in this role.

As we already extensively explained in past articles here at The Aviationist, the original Combat Air Force/Contracted Air Support (CAF/CAS) multi-award contract, was announced to cover 40,000 flight hours of adversary training at 12 different air bases and 10,000 flight hours is support of Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) training at nine Army bases. After some reductions, the current program’s first phase features a little less than 9,000 flight sorties at six bases for the first year and an optional three year-extension for a total of over 26,000 flight sorties.

The role of aggressors/adversary units is to train fighter pilots in the most realistic way in extremely important. While some services have their own units that replicate paint schemes, markings, insignias and, above all, the tactics, used in combat by their near peer adversaries, these are usually costly to operate and maintain: experienced aircrews, constant training and the proper assets are not cheap.  For this reason, both in the U.S. and abroad, even those air forces who have the assets, budget and experience to insource adversary support services increasingly rely on contracted aggressor services provided by private companies.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s Successfully Complete Ex. ‘Gioia Falcon’ With The Italian Air Force

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Gioia Falcon
A F-16 of the RNLAF with a celebratory special tail takes off for a training mission during Gioia Falcon. In the corner: the patch created for the exercise. (All images credit: Author)

11 Dutch F-16s deployed to Gioia del Colle Air Base to practice operations in non-familiar areas and fly COMAO missions.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force deployed 11 of its F-16 Fighting Falcons to Gioia del Colle Air Base in Italy for a two-week joint exercise with the Italian Air Force, dubbed “Gioia Falcon”, from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26, 2021. The fighters belong to 312 Squadron “Bonzo”, which is the last RNLAF unit to operate the F-16 from Volkel Air Base.

The F-16 is slowly nearing the end of its operational life in the Netherlands, after F-16 operations ceased at Leeuwarden with 322 Squadron this summer to make room for the F-35 Lightning II and the remaining aircraft were all moved to Volkel. The latter also used host a second F-16 unit, the 313 Squadron, but this is currently in the process of being converted to the F-35. The F-16 is expected to remain in service until 2024/2025, when it is expected that the F-35 will obtain the Full Operational Capability.

We had the opportunity to visit Gioia del Colle to take photos of the flight operations and interview the aircrews during the two Media Days of the Exercise on Nov. 23 and 24.

During our visit we got to see which aircraft were deployed on the flight line, with their serials being J-005, J-014, J-062, J-063, J-136, J-197, J-509, J-512, J-515, J-644. As you can notice, these are only ten of the eleven aircraft in the detachment, as one of the F-16s reportedly suffered an engine stall during a training mission on Nov. 18 or 19 and subsequently performed a precautionary landing at Crotone airport. According to a low-resolution photo posted at the beginning of the exercise, the aircraft should be the twin-seater F-16B J-368.

One of the aircraft, J-197, sported the special tail paint which has been recently applied to celebrate the 70th anniversary of 312 Squadron. The special tail shows the crossed swords and the red lightning bolt of the unit’s insignia, as well as the writing “70 years 312 Squadron”. According to the reports, the first public appearance this F-16 with the new special paint was in early November when the aircraft was at the lead of 14 F-16s during an elephant walk at Volkel Air Base.

The assets which took part in the exercise. (Photo: Italian Air Force)

The Gioia Falcon exercise was initially planned for 2020 at Trapani-Birgi Air Base, however the plan had to be postponed for one year because of the COVID restrictions, requiring the choice of a new host base. Even if the preparations for the deployment in Italy were already completed, the new location required the restart of the six-month planning process, including the site surveys and the logistic preparations to support the 11 Vipers (as the F-16s are dubbed by the pilots) and about 150 people, including aircrews and support personnel.

The Italian Air Force assisted its Dutch counterpart in the logistical effort, giving access to briefing and debriefing systems and the ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) to allow aircrews to see and analyze the full picture of their mission in order to make consistent debriefings. The Italians also gave space for all the equipment that was brought over and an entire hangar for maintenance. In fact, the RNLAF brought over, in addition to the F-16s and the equipment in the containers, most of the vehicles needed for flight line operations, practicing for forward deployed operations.

Even if 312 Squadron is the last RNLAF F-16 unit, the aircrews are relatively young, with many having only recently joined the ranks after the graduation from the B-Course in Tucson, Arizona, and using this exercise to work towards their combat readiness. The squadron was not able to attend any international exercises abroad during the last two years, again because of COVID, so it was decided to deploy to Italy to practice operations from unfamiliar airfields and in different air spaces. Another reason was to gain experience while integrating with foreign units and different aircraft.

An Italian F-2000 Typhoon returns from a training mission.

Among the different assets involved in Gioia Falcon with the Dutch F-16s there were the F-2000 Typhoons and HH-139s of the local 36° Stormo Caccia (Fighter Wing) and the F-35As of the 32° Stormo from Amendola Air Base, as well the Italian G550 CAEW and NATO E-3A airborne early warning aircraft and ground-based fighter controllers from the Italian radar units located near the area of the exercise. NATO’s Deployable Air Command and Control Centre based at Poggio Renatico carried out the exercise’s command and control.

Most of the missions of the exercise were flown in the so-called “area Calabria”, covering a large portion of airspace which includes the Calabria region and the Ionian Sea from the surface to FL600 (60,000 ft). This airspace was then divided in the “Red” and “Blue” area, depending on the mission to be flown, but usually the Reds had the larger portion in order for the Blues to simulate deep penetration missions inside the adversary’s airspace.

Training involved multiple types of missions, such as Offensive Counter Air (OCA), with the fighters sweeping the airspace to create a path for strikers, bombing strike missions and Close Air Support (CAS) in support of Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC), as well as Defensive Counter Air (DCA) and Air Interdiction.

A Dutch F-16 departs from Gioia del Colle during the morning wave.

The Commander of 312 Squadron provided some more details about the missions through his official Twitter account, mentioning that the Large Force Employment scenario involved the creation of a no-fly zone to protect civilians in the area of responsibility. The Red forces violated the no-fly zone multiple times, even trying to attack the Blue airfield in Gioia del Colle, before being repelled.

These actions were followed by strikes against several targets, which however gave the Red forces the chance to shoot down a Blue aircraft (obviously only simulated). Considering when the info about this simulated shot down was published, that F-16 might have been the one that performed the precautionary landing, transforming the unexpected event in a new chance for further training. The simulated crash was, in fact, followed by a Combat Search And Rescue operation to recover the pilot.

All these missions were performed both as “stand-alone” packages or as part of COMposite Air Operations (COMAO) with and without the Italian fighters. As a matter of fact, the exercise’s main focus were the COMAOs, but it was also used as an occasion to integrate during close maneuvering (such as BFMs and ACMs) with Italian assets, maintain pilot’s currencies and training upgrades.

Usually, the aircraft flew two waves each day, including night waves, one of those was dedicated to COMAOs and the other for the other training needs. During the first day of our visit, the night wave was dedicated to a COMAO with F-16s and Typhoons. Each wave involved about eight Dutch F-16s and variable numbers of Italian aircraft, with scenarios evolving day-by-day and increasing difficulty.

The exercise generated about 150 missions for an approximate total of 240 flight hours, which helped to consolidate the interoperability among the participating aircraft and to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency while using common standard Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). These TTPs are adopted in multinational and complex scenarios and cover the entire spectrum of the missions that can be performed in modern air operations.

The F-35 participation provided a chance to train the integration between fourth and fifth generation aircraft, which are currently in service in both countries, adding training value to the missions. The Lightning II proved once again its versatility in “omnirole” tasks, with its sensors and data fusion allowing the 5th gen aircraft to best lead the mission package in every kind of scenario.

The pilot of the special tail F-16 salutes the photographers as he taxies to the runway.

Interestingly, the F-35s took part to Gioia Falcon in the ranks of both the Red and the Blue forces, much like the US Air Force is doing during Red Flag exercises, giving the 4th gen aircraft the chance not only to integrate with 5th gen aircraft but also to practice how to counter them and hunt them down. During our interview, the pilots mentioned that this is becoming the standard also during everyday’s training.

As we reported, during the same timeframe of Gioia Falcon, and precisely on November 21, the British and U.S. F-35Bs embarked on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier practiced cross deck operations with Italian Air Force’s and Navy’s F-35Bs embarked on the ITS Cavour aircraft carrier. Even if the exercise tool place while both ships were in navigation in the Ionian Sea, the same area used by Gioia Falcon, the Dutch F-16s did not integrate with the embarked fighters as the activities of the two exercises were kept separate.

“Exercise Gioia Falcon provided great results. It demonstrated perfect synergy between flight crews and maintenance teams, allowing integration and interoperability among different generation of aircraft and between the air and surface components,” said Colonel Antonio Vergallo, Commander of the 36th Fighter Wing.  “It has been a great opportunity to exchange operational experience among NATO pilots and operationally assess the great swing role capability of the Eurofighter in an integrated scenario.”

The F-16 waiting for the night wave as the sun sets over Gioia del Colle.

The integration and synergy of the air component with the surface component in these complex multinational scenarios was highlighted during the Close Air Support missions in support of the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. The JTACs deployed in the area of operations, assigned to the “Fucilieri dell’Aria” (Air Riflemen) of the 16° Stormo, directed the fighters while performing simulated attacks both during day and night.

During our interview, the pilots of both nations highlighted the importance of this kind of exercises to have a chance for a confrontation with other NATO partners. In fact, training together allows to share experiences and lessons learned after the missions, as well as offering a different point of view about how the same mission set is executed by different air forces. This, in turn, allows the continuous refinement of the TTPs to better adapt to future scenarios.

On the other hand, training abroad offers the chance to train in a new unfamiliar environment, draining the situational awareness accumulated while operating from the habitual airfields and forcing the pilots to be more alert. The pilots, in fact, gain valuable training as they need to familiarize with new airspace regulations, new departure and arrival procedures and new reference points. As the Dutch pilots pointed out, only the basic layout of the area was the same they have at home, situated on the coast and composed in part by land and in part by sea from the surface to high altitudes.

The author would like to thank the Italian Air Force and in particular the Public Information Office for the opportunity to visit Gioia del Colle during the exercise Gioia Falcon, as well as the 36th Fighter Wing and its personnel for the hospitality and the help provided during the course of the two Media Days.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Taiwan Achieves F-16V Full Operational Capability

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The line-up of Vipers at the ceremony for the induction into active service of the F-16V (image via Taiwan president Twitter account). In the box: Flag bearers parade the Taiwanese flag in front of one of the upgraded F-16Vs. The aircraft can be seen loaded with three GBU-12s on the Triple Ejector Racks. (Photo: Tsungfang Tsai via scramble.nl)

Taiwan becomes the first operator to field operationally the F-16V, the upgraded variant of the “Viper”.

On November 18, 2021 Taiwan has become the first operator to achieve the Full Operational Capability with the upgraded F-16V Block 72. The milestone was celebrated with the official induction into service of the aircraft in the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Republic of China Air Force at Chiayi Air Base, at the presence of the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen.

“These aircraft symbolize our close cooperation with the US and are equipped with advanced technology that will substantially strengthen our national defense”, said the President. In the photos published by the Associated Press, the President is seen inspecting the aircraft on the flight line, as well as taking photos in the front seat of two-seater F-16 accompanied by a pilot.

The F-16s on exhibit were configured with live weapons loadout for different types of mission. One of the aircraft was loaded for maritime missions with two AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM and two AIM-9X Sidewinder (these two were inert, as shown by the blue stripes) air-to-air missiles, two 370 gal external fuel tanks and an ALQ-184 ECM pod. Taiwanese F-16s are among the few with the Harpoon capability, which was recently showed off in an attempt to deter activities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the Taiwan Strait.

Another configuration visible in the images taken at the presentation of the F-16V was dedicated to pure Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missions, with the Viper showing a full load of six AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, in addition to the two 370 gal external fuel tanks and ALQ-184 ECM pod, the AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) and another previously unseen interesting pod on the other chin hardpoint. This pod, while not clearly visible, is almost externally identical to the FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) section of the AAQ-13 LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) pod, with the Terrain Following Radar (TFR) removed.

The last configuration visible in the photos was dedicated to air to ground missions, with two AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM and two AIM-9X Sidewinder (again inert) air-to-air missiles, two 370 gal external fuel tanks, ALQ-184 ECM pod, AAQ-33 Sniper ATP and, interestingly, Triple Ejector Racks (TER) with three GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs each. Even if the TER is rated for three weapons, when it comes to Paveway bombs it is usually seen loaded with just two bombs, as the third one would reportedly have clearance issues between its tail fins (once they open when the weapon is released) and the external fuel tanks.

Flag bearers parade the Taiwanese flag in front of one of the upgraded F-16Vs. The aircraft can be seen loaded with three GBU-12s on the Triple Ejector Racks. (Photo: Tsungfang Tsai via scramble.nl)

The Taiwanese F-16s have a wide array of weapons at their disposal, with all the weapons that we just listed, as well as some others that were not shown but were already in the inventory, as the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground guided missile, AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Mk-82 and Mk-84 “dumb” bombs, GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. In addition to these, AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) and Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) sales were later approved by the USA.

An upgraded F16V in full air-to-air configuration, with a previously unseen FLIR pod under the chin station opposite to the Sniper ATP. (Photo: Tsungfang Tsai via scramble.nl)

Taiwan signed a contract to upgrade the fleet of F-16A/B Block 20 fighter jets in 2012, with the program dubbed “Peace Phoenix Rising”. Initially, it was decided to upgrade 144 Vipers (as the F-16 is dubbed by the pilots), but three of those were later lost in mishaps and thus the final number of jets to be upgraded is 141, of which 64 have already completed the upgrade process and have been handed over to the RoCAF. It is not known if all 64 aircraft are currently based at Chiayi, but it is expected that the 5th TFW at Hualien Air Base, another F-16 Block 20 base, will receive the upgraded F-16V too.

Among the new systems installed during the upgrade we can find the APG-83 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD), Link 16 datalink, full NVIS (Night Vision Imaging System) and JHCMS II (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System II) compatibility, a new Embedded GPS/INS (EGI), a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a high-volume, high-speed data bus.

The first jet was upgraded as a prototype by Lockheed Martin at their facilities in Fort Worth (Texas) and flew for the first time in 2015, with Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) taking over a year later the works to upgrade the F-16 locally. The work started slowly, with the first four F-16Vs delivered only in 2018, but then proceeded at a rhythm of at least 24 aircraft per year once all problems were solved. The retrofit of the whole fleet is planned to be completed by 2023.

In the meanwhile, Taiwan also acquired in 2019 66 newly built F-16V Block 70 that are expected to be delivered from 2023 to 2026. The new aircraft will reportedly be assigned to the 7th TFW at Taitung Air Base. Earlier this year, the “Peace Phoenix Rising 2” was announced, with the intent of fielding new capabilities for the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS), AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-radiation Missile), radar software improvements and an Advanced Identification Friend or Foe in addition to the already planned upgrades.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.