by Col. Chelsea Anderson
August 28, 2012
The potential for cooperation among U.S. armed forces as well as coalition forces all using the F-35 variants is significant. In fact, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force are working on their own F-35 variants and eight other countries have agreed to join the program.
“In today’s environment, it’s usually not just the Marine Corps by itself,” Tomassetti said. “We’re operating with the Navy, Air Force and coalition partners. What happens when we’re all in F-35s? Now we can all share that information. In terms of coalition warfare, this airplane further increases everyone’s situational awareness to a greater extent than anything we have out there today.”
The F-35’s value is not only in the flying network it creates in the battle space. The F-35 is able to perform the missions of multiple current Marine Corps aircraft, all in one aircraft.
“This is where we talk about a fifth generation airplane versus a fourth generation airplane,” Tomassetti said. “Most of what people want to lock into with fifth generation is stealth, low observable, and the cool pieces of it. That’s great and you want as much of that as you can get. But the other piece of fifth generation is that data link and that networking capability. We used to have F/A 18s go in as the fighter cover and F/A 18s and Harriers go in as the ones that were dropping the bombs and EA-6Bs as support from an electronic attack. All those airplanes were needed to go after one target that was heavily defended. Now, we have four F-35s. They can do the fighter mission; they can do the bombing mission; they can do the electronic attack mission. They can go after that same target with a lot less airplanes.”
From his earliest days working with the X-35, Tomassetti was committed to making the new aircraft easier to handle.
“Anytime you have to spend a lot of time practicing for something, that means it’s hard,” Tomassetti said. “And things shouldn’t be hard. We should always be striving to make things easy. When you’re flying airplanes in combat, there’s enough hard things going on that you don’t want simple things like navigating from point A to point B, and your take off and landing to be the hardest things you do all day. You’ve got other stuff when you’re in the battle space that should be the hardest things you do each day.”
In keeping with this desire, the F-35B is equipped with only two joystick controls, instead of the three that the Harrier has. Also, the simulator designed to teach the pilot to fly is so similar to the airplane that the pilot can fly with confidence after mastering the simulator.
“If you ask anybody who has flown the airplane or anyone who’s flown the simulator – regardless of their aviation background – they all say, wow that’s easy; I thought it would be harder,” Tomassetti said.
The features of the F-35B aren’t just for today’s battle space. Unlike the legacy aircraft of the past, these aircraft are built to adapt to the ever-changing combat environments of future generations.
“The F-35 was built with the idea in mind that it would last 40-50 years,” Tomassetti said. “Great thought was put into how the world and technology would change. We built the airplane so it could incorporate some of those changes. It’s a software intensive airplane and software is easy to upgrade, as opposed to hardware. Also, things were built in modular format in the aircraft. If something doesn’t work, you take out the module, send it back to the factory, and put a new module in.”
In a world where technology is changing at a rapid rate, the F-35B will be able to adapt to support Marines, sailors, airmen and our international partners wherever and whenever they are needed…..