First F-35A Overseas Deployment

Three F-35A Lightning IIs deployed from Luke AFB, Ariz., to RAF Fairford, UK, for the Royal International Air Tattoo, landing the evening of June 30 after a seven hour, 45-minute flight from JB Langley-Eustis, Va. The aircraft will participate in a “heritage flight” at RIAT with an F-22 and P-51 warbird. The aircraft made seven aerial refuelings during the Atlantic crossing flight, Maj. William Andreotta, who led the formation, said in a telecom with US defense reporters shortly after landing. The mission was supported by a KC-10 from Travis AFB, Calif., which performed four refuelings, and a KC-135 from the Maine Air National Guard, refueled three fighters, en ?route. The tankers also carried equipment and support personnel. Andreotta said six months of planning went into this, the first overseas Air Force F-35A deployment. He reported no inflight problems and no software instability of the three F-35As, and he also said there were no problems with the passing of fuel, which had been an issue as recently as last fall. At that time, software was slowing the passage of fuel near max fill, to avoid overpressuring the system—causing excessive time on boom—and program director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan reported that a software fix was in the works. MSgt. Ed Deleon, chief maintainer for the RIAT mission, reported that the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, has worked perfectly during the deployment, but was being accessed through secure internet, and not through the ALIS “deployment” package. The deployment is slated to last about 20 days, and is being supported by 12 Lockheed Martin technicians already in the UK, who will also support Marine Corps F-35Bs performing at RIAT and the Farnborough Air Show. The F-35As will not perform at Farnborough because they are not yet operational, Andreotta said.