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Eglin F-35As Cleared for Flight

by John Reed on February 28, 2012

The Air Force’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter training jets that have been sitting on the tarmac at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., — home of the F-35 schoolhouse — have finally been cleared to fly.

Now, this doesn’t mean that student pilots will be strapping on the A-model jets later in the week. The Eglin jets face months of test flights to make sure that the small fleet can actually perform the training mission before any student pilots can get behind the controls. Click here to read a post I wrote last week over at DoDBuzz on this topic.

The pic above shows Eglins first F-35A arriving at the base from the JSF factory in Texas last summer. The planes have been sitting on the ground since arrival while the waited for their Military Flight Release (the green light to begin flight ops).

Here’s the Air Force’s press release announcing that the jets have been cleared for flight:

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Officials at the Aeronautical Systems Center here issued a Military Flight Release today that will allow the F-35A Lightning II fighter to begin initial operations at Eglin AFB, Fla.

This decision was reached after an airworthiness board conducted an assessment that evaluated potential risks and the corresponding mitigation actions to conduct unmonitored flights. Flying the Air Force variant of the Joint Strike Fighter will increase pilot and maintainer familiarity with the aircraft, exercise the logistics infrastructure and continue to develop aircraft maturity.  These initial F-35A flights will be limited, scripted, conducted within the restrictions and stipulations of the MFR and flown by qualified pilots, officials said.

“The Air Force, Joint Strike Fighter Program Office and other stakeholders have painstakingly followed established risk acceptance and mitigation processes to ensure the F-35A is ready.  This is an important step for the F-35A and we are confident the team has diligently balanced the scope of initial operations with system maturity,” said General Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, the parent organization of ASC.

The assessment was conducted with airworthiness engineering subject matter experts within ASC and was fully coordinated with the F-35 joint Strike Fighter Program Office, Air Education and Training Command, and other expert participants.  The Air Force is confident the aircraft is ready to fly in a safe and efficient manner, Hoffman said.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

itfunk February 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm

"painstakingly followed established risk acceptance and mitigation processes to ensure the F-35A is ready. This is an important step for the F-35A and we are confident the team has diligently balanced the scope of initial operations with system maturity"

In other words the aircraft are broken – but what can we do ? just accept the risk and fly anyways.

No doubt the call sign for a student about to eject from his stricken JSF will be "Broken Turkey"

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Oblah-blah February 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Still feeling bitter, I see. At least the F-35 program is progressing and will soon become the main stay of our forces. Unlike the other real armchair turkeys with nothing else to do but cuckoo-mouth the F-35 and anything that has to do with it.

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passingby February 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm

that's right itfunk.

As Senate Armed Services Committee member Claire McCaskill (Missouri, Dem) says about the F-35 program "… this program is too big to fail. We're going to push money across the table. We're going to push back timelines. We're going to push money across the table." (She said "push money across the table" twice!!! LOL!!!)

She pretentiously put up a stern face and demanded to know "whose fault it is" as if she was actually going to do something about it.

Same for perennial crooks Joe Lieberman and others representing the military industrial complex.

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Lt_Kitty February 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Slow and steady, am I right?… when do we get to throw some real heat at these birds? (impatient fiery young engineer)

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blight_ February 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm

There was an article on the news (saw it on MSNBC, to be precise) that reported that Marines, Navy, and AF pilots had already come to Eglin and were chomping at the bit; but were limited to taxing, simulators and training on other aircraft.

Good lord, the sooner these things get done, the better. If LCS "finishes" first that'll be the embarassing moment.

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TMB February 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I think that was mentioned a couple weeks ago in the article linked here. They have to go through further testing and validate the syllabus before they can start pushing pilots through.

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cconway March 1, 2013 at 11:30 pm

The LCS (Class "D" Fire Looking For An Ignition Event) is not going to perform in combat. It can't. An Aegis Guided Missile Frigate is needed to populate the screens on our formations, not LCS. The F-35B has got to get off the dime, get some software that can deliver weapons, and start operations squadron readiness training. We are already late.

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Lance February 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Cool still prefer more F-22s over this plane though.

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tiger February 29, 2012 at 9:29 am

As long as you like to fly with a fluky O2 system. It would be nice if pilots could breathe & fly at the same time.

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blight_ February 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

I wonder if they use common OBOGS systems. You'd think…

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Restore Palestine March 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I am sure LM can accommodate requests for VIP luxury if Congress would provide additional funding and raise the number of orders. How about 50 Billion for O2 system R&D and 2,000 more jets as an incentive to LM?

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passingby March 1, 2012 at 1:00 am

LOL. Chances are you are going to get neither if the US fails to maintain the petro-dollar status – which will likely be the case by 2020, if not earlier.

The US is currently trying all kinds of covert operations to create chaos in the Middle East to create false pretenses for military invasions of oil producing countries that are planning to price oil export in other currencies. The US has murdered Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi under false pretenses because they refused to accept the dollar. Now the US is gaming to knock out Iran, Syria, Sudan. But it's highly unlikely that Russia is going to sit idly by this time around. China might be more cooperative because it still has a ton of stinking US treasuries that it wants to dispose of at higher prices. But if China sticks to its announced timeline for fully convertible RMB by 2015, chances are China will try to get rid the bulk of the its US treasuries before that.

So it's possible that hyperinflation will begin in the US in 2014 or late 2013 (Wall Street crooks had already started moving their assets out of the dollar 3-4 years ago.)

A secret meeting has allegedly been held among OPEC, China, Japan, France, Russia etc (the US was refused attendance). They have reportedly set 2018 as the deadline for dropping the US dollar as legal tender for oil export.

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Jay March 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

The US Dollar is the most widespread currency to date. yes it's weakening but so is everyone else's. China can't support the rise of their middle class. The middle class wants more than 30 cents an hour and China's economy is built around that. Give them more money and their economy goes to hell unless there is some major reform. The only reason China and Russia are standing up against the UN going into Syria is because that is their only ally in the middle east left that doesn't have a western influence. China still has Pakistan somewhat but Russia only has Syria. That's why russia continues to sell them SAMs and aircraft during this whole crisis.

I would like to see you're source for this alleged meeting. Sounds stupid because France is hardly in a position to get rid of the US dollar sense they consider the US one of its closest allies. With most of the middle east recognizing the US it is going to be hard for them to drop the US dollar.

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passingby March 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm

LOL. The source doesn't sound stupid. YOU do.

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Black Owl February 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I just hope they found out what needs to be properly modified on the F-35A and get it working to acceptable standards for combat operations. The F-35A is the only one that I can see working on level practical for the USAF and allies.

The B-model and C-model should have been scrapped a long time ago since the major design flaws in them can't be properly fixed without drastic increases in their already ridiculously high prices. Super Hornet International Road Map jets would fulfill their role better anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbmvFABNRDA

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Commisar12 February 28, 2012 at 11:19 pm

I thought I would never see the day when BlackOwl says ANYTHING good about any F-35 variant.

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Black Owl February 29, 2012 at 1:09 am

It took a lot of arguing, but I'm convinced the F-35A can be fixed since it is the least complex of the three and is the only model worth its price. We also need to give our international customers something from this too. But I think we need to give the F-35A our full attention. Focusing on the B and the C is slowing down work on the A.

One thing we've learned from the F-35 program is that developing three versions of the same aircraft for all the services is a terrible idea. If you want to make a single air frame for all the services you make one workable model for one service, produce that one model in mass so that the air frame is cheaper and production matures, then start developing the modified versions for the other two services. The F-4 Phantom went roughly along this route and its development went pretty smooth.

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Tom February 29, 2012 at 5:22 am

arguing by providing youtube links? seriously? ha!

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Commisar12 February 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Allright, so the F-35A replaces the F-16, while the SHIRM replaces / supplements C/D Hornets and Super Hornets. But what about the Harrier. The Marines would have a fit if they didn't have attack jets on their Amphibious assault ships.

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RunningBear February 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Heh, heh, heh! Come on Drama Queens, surely you can do better than this! Congrats to the JSF Program and the Eglin Training Organization. Anxiously we await all three variants to each of the services and truly appreciate the "mindbending" technology being developed for these new tactical systems.

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Musson1 February 29, 2012 at 9:09 am

They are starting to call it the Chevy Volt of advanced fighter aircraft.

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Thomas L. Nielsen February 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

"They" being who? Just in the interest of completeness….

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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tiger March 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Damn, A year later & this program is still crawling………

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cconway March 1, 2013 at 11:22 pm

The Pacific is about to heat up. The ability of US forces to operate form land bases in the region is limitted. The Super Hornet would have to have a flattop to launch from. The MAGTF centerpiece is the LHA/LHD platform. The new USS America (LHA-6) is designed to provide F-35 support for amphibious landings. Hope we don't have to do that, but if our ancestors had anything right, it is that if you are ready for it, few will push you to it. I sincerely hope the Chinese understand that. However, I don't think so. So . . . we had better have significant numbers of F-35s going into the Marine squadrons in the next five years.

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