F-35B STOVL Mode Formation Flight Testing


2014-07-01 Two F-35B aircraft flew in close formation for the first time in short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) mode, also known as Mode 4, on Feb. 11, 2014, at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Recently, we talked to instructors at MAWTS about their work with the F-35 at Yuma Air Station.

According to MAWTS, the 121 squadron has been participating in the exercises run for the Weapons and Tactics Instruction Course (WTI) courses , which are done for training and tactics development.

MAWTS does two a year. In these courses, air is working within the MAGTF approach and Marine ground forces participate in the WTI courses as well.

In the Fall of 2013, 121 participated in three WTI events and in the last course during the Spring of 2014, 121 participated in six events. To date the F-35Bs in the WTI events have performed SCAR (strike coordination and reconnaissance), escort and area defense missions.

The current planes are operating with Block 2A software and the Block 2B software arrives later this year for the preparation for the IOC in 2015. What this means is that the plane operating today with MAWTS is more limited than what will come later in the year. While Block 2B is largely a software upgrade, there are some planned hardware mods as well.

The F-35 is operating with other Marine Corps air as the blue team against red aggressors in various exercises.

This means that already the Marines are working the question of 5th generation aircraft working with 4th generation to shape tactics and training for more effective air operations.

This has meant as well that the combat systems on the F-35 have already demonstrated an ability to enhance the impact of F-18s and Harriers on air combat operations.

As one of the MAWTS instructors put it:

We are able to employ the F-35 as a kind of information manger using its combat systems to be able to employ the air ordinance carried by the other airplanes which allows us to conserve our ordinance on the F-35 until we actually need to use it.

This has already led to interesting results when doing things like the defense of Yuma exercise where the F-18s were enabled to do things they can not normally do against incoming USAF aircraft as the Red Force.

In this WTI event – Anti-Air Warfare 2 – the F-35 participated with 4th generation fighters from MAWTS against a Red Force, which included F-15s and F-16s. Because of the F-35’s combat systems, the participating 4th generation fighters were significantly more effective. Right now, the F-35 can be used to generate sensor data, which enhances the capability of the 4th generation fleet, limited by the current need to pass that data via voice means; and the F-35s ability to operate more freely in the battlespace than can 4th generation aircraft.


Credit Video: Lockheed Martin