Lockheed Martin VP discusses the F-35 project, IAF pilots, at Israel’s 2nd International Conference for Air Power in Tel Aviv.
By Mordechai Sones
“Let me begin with a story about a friend and colleague, a USAF general and fighter pilot who had flown many aircraft types and is an expert on airborne weapon systems. After 50 hours flying the F-35, I asked for his impressions. Here is what he had to say: ‘This is unbelievable, much better than anything any pilot could have wished for himself. I felt like a sniper wearing a Ghillie suit, effectively concealed and camouflaged and seeing three enemy snipers fully exposed on the ground. I can see them but they cannot see me. That’s how it is with the F-35. Its pilot is invisible. That is the stealth characteristic and it is improving with the aircraft coming off the production line. This aircraft makes the decisions as to when and where to launch (munitions). It is an evolutionary and revolutionary aircraft. It is revolutionary owing to the fact that it collects intelligence and it can be improved and upgraded all the time, on the move’.”
This description of the F-35’s Fifth-generation capabilities was offered by U.S. General (ret.) Gary North, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for Customer Requirements in an interview with Israel Defense ahead of today’s 2nd International Conference for Air Power in Tel Aviv.
Hundreds of defense officials, industry leaders, and aviation experts convened today at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv for the premiere aerial defense conference of 2017, organized by Israel Defense and the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Israel Defense reports.
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The theme of the conference this year is “From the Six-Day War to the Fifth-Generation Era,” emphasizing the memorial of the Six-Day War and Operation Focus, and the introduction of the Israeli Air Force into the Fifth-Generation.
Gen. (ret.) North, a former USAF four-star general and fighter pilot, flew F-4 Phantoms, F-15, and F-16 fighters. He has commanded squadrons and airbases, logging 4,700 flight hours and 83 combat missions during two wars in Iraq. North had served in senior positions, including commander of the USAF Pacific Forces and commander of the USAF forces in the Middle East between 2006 and 2009. After 36 years of military service, North joined the Lockheed Martin Corporation, where he serves as Vice President in charge of two activities: relations with overseas F-35 customers and cooperative alliances between the F-35 stealth fighter project and industries worldwide, including the contributions of six Israeli industries, notably IAI and Elbit Systems, which contribute some of their best products to the Adir fighter project.
Gen. (ret.) North has nothing but praise for the Israeli crews operating their two Adir fighters at the Nevatim airbase. “Your pilots have already logged more than 50 flight hours on the aircraft, including night flights. I know they are already flying in an almost fully operational mode. They excelled during their training periods in the USA, and I am convinced that they are diligently studying the capabilities of the aircraft, and that they would utilize it more effectively than others.”
In his Israel Defense interview, Gen. North revealed some more of the F-35’s capabilities:
“With regard to the intelligence gathering aspect: the key word with the F-35 is sensor fusion. This aircraft arrives at the target area undetected, and using its built-in cameras (six in each aircraft), sensors and electronics, it can penetrate even areas heavily defended by air-defense systems. The aircraft collects information, photographs and records the input, and using datalink channels it transmits the information and data to other users in the air, to neighboring aircraft or to ground elements – command centers, decision makers – or to naval vessels at sea. Anyone sharing the communication networks (Network Centric Warfare) can receive the information collected by the F-35 aircraft, and it does everything on its own, with minimum involvement on the pilot’s part. Admittedly, the pilot of a fourth-generation fighter receives a lot of information from sensors and other on-board sources, but he still has to monitor several display screens and attempt to translate the information and understand it in order to make decisions. With the F-35, the pilot is exempt from all of that, the systems do the intelligence gathering and dissemination work for him and he can focus on flying, on his environment and on his targets.”
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