Just back from three days at RIAT 2016 and a few low-res images for you of the F-35 Lightning II including a couple of shots (bottom) of the USMC variant in the hover courtesy of Tad Dippel. Thanks Tad! The hover kicking up the dirt was Wednesday - shows how much more powerful the engine is. Aluminium matting was laid for Friday's display. 'Heritage' display pilot Maj. Will Andreotta seen dismounting after his display in tandem with the F-22 on Friday's show (8 July) in the third picture. The RAF variant flew an 'historic' formation with the Red Arrows and the two RAF Display Typhoons...
.. I was lucky enough to chat to Maj. Will Andreotta, the F-35 'Heritage' display team pilot. Will flew F-16s which surprised me. For some reason I thought all F-35 (strike) pilots would have F-15 time. He showed me the amazing $400K helmet - there is no HUD in these machines, everything is projected onto the visor and every flight is made with the helmet 'active'. He described the transatlantic flight (15 refuellings to maintain an adequate reserve at all times), the engine (43000 lbs thrust - biggest ever in a 'fighter') and we sort of discussed the LO airframe 'coating' that conveys the aircraft's so-called 'stealthy' characteristics. The 'hover' is from Wednesday when the aircraft set up a real dust storm - they laid some alu matting by Friday. Not sure that I've been 'won' over, but its a big and fast STOL/VTOL airplane - or at least appears to be!
..so the future of combat aircraft flying together. The commentators at RIAT were banging on about that over through the show. These machines will still be in service when most of us have gone (speaking for the over-40s there..) - grim thought that for the future of airshows. Although the F-35 pulls some nice contrails just flying straight and level at times. Still, amazing to see both the F-22 and F-35 together.
A final remark about 'operating system longevity'; the programme operates a $300 million reprogramming lab at Eglin opened in 2011 updating 'threat libraries' and overseeing 'system(s) reprogramming'. The F-35 will serve from 2018 for at least 30 years - an "upgradeable" aircraft, the F-35 is designed " to meet evolving threats". In fact when the Typhoon disappears (around 2030..) the F-35 will be the only frontline combat aircraft in RAF service, probably the last manned one too..
below; Nico Charpentier and Tad Dippel photos
" ..a photo that we are going to be looking at for decades to come ..." F-35 B with the Red Arrows and RAF Typhoon display team, Friday 08 July 2016 RAF Fairford
and a Chris France photo from the opening routine at Friday's RIAT and not repeated over the weekend - the F-35 A and refuelling USMC KC-130 J - a rare visitor to a UK airshow in its own right!
Video of Friday's routine with the C-130 tanker via the Lockheed Martin/Pratt and Whitney chalet. Well back from the flightline but of good quality
and from those super boys at planesTV.com, a short clip of the RAF 'B' variant practising the display routine and hover
Nigel Woolley's RIAT coverage reposted via youtube's 'embed' code. A single click to view here or double click to go to Nigel's channel. This was Wednesday arrivals day at RIAT which was busy for both variants of the F-35 with three aircraft flying and awesome rehearsals that included hovering and vertical landing...