By far the most advanced fighter ever created, the extraordinarily fast and maneuverable Lockheed “Lighting II,” F-35, is an extremely costly* stealth weapons platform , the likes of which has never before graced the skies. Not even the one other 5th Generation stealth fighter, the two-engined F-22 “Raptor,” is its match.
Just think. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when women were banned from even being a pilot of USAF transport aircraft. When your webmaster was a jet pilot in the USAF, his wife wanted to be one, too, since she was already a commercial pilot . . . but, alas, that “glass ceiling” was thick as could be. A solid barrier to any chance. And that’s why he decided to leave the job he loved so much. It made her too green with envy. That was not healthy for the young couple’s marriage. Had they been born just 22 year later, it would have been an entirely new experience, because the Air Force would have welcomed her with open arms. As you most likely know, that’s when women were first accepted into pilot training. The date was September 2, 1977, at the same field from which your webmaster also graduated, 22 years earlier: Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, or as it was more affectionately known, “Willie Air Patch. [See Photo @ end of post].
There are three variants of the F-35, all of which are are made by Lockheed Martin. The Air Force’s conventional take off version, the F-35A model; the Marine’s vertical take off and landing machine, the F-35B; and, initially the most costly of the three, the Navy’s F-35C. Now the USMC version is the most expensive model. You will often hear the dazzling new stealth fighter called a “Joint Strike Fighter,” which means that it will also be sold to the allies of the United States.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. The F-35A will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force; the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy; the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least ten other friendly countries.
So much has changed since then. At first the female aviators were restricted to only non-combat flying, but in time that changed, when some of them were allowed into the “men only” domain of the heretofore macho fighter pilot. The Navy allowed women to become pilots even before the Air Force. The first female Navy aviator graduated in 1975.
Without further ado, let’s look at today skies and come away impressed with not just the extraordinarily versatile new F-35, but at some of the highly skilled women who fly them. First, below, we see USAF Captain Melanie Ziebart.
Major Madison Burgess, below.
Below, Captain Anneliese Satz.
Below, Capt. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot, and commander of the Team, on a practice flight at Hill AFB, Utah. earlier this year. Unfortunately, this video is narrated by a computer “voice,” so please be tolerant about the misplaced emphasis’s and mispronunciations.
Below, the first Female Marine F-35B Fighter Pilot. Local Boise Idaho TV station interviews in her in her home town. USMC Captain Anneliese Satz.
These are now but a few of the latest females fortunate enough to by flying the word’s most versatile new jet Fighter. A number of other women are flying them, and flew the Lightning II before the above aviators did.
Here, below, taken at Williams Air Force Base (WAFB) on September 2, 1977, are the Air Force’s very first ten graduating new pilots.
The first 10 female officers to graduate from the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program, Class 77-08, September 2, 1977. (U.S. Air Force) – Just imagine, these young women proudly stand in front of their training ship, the Northrup T-28 “Talon”, but this was taken 43 years ago, meaning that they are no longer “young.” Most are, in fact, if still alive, now in their mid sixties! Even their predecessors, the WWII WASP pilots did not fly in combat nor were they officially part of the Army Air Force, either. If any of our viewers, or members, know the names of any of these earliest Air Force female pilots, please let us know by making your comments right on this page, right below, where it says, “LEAVE A REPLY.” Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what happened to them and if they made the USAF a career? Thanks!
A F-35 Lightning II test aircraft undergoes a flight check. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
All below photos may be seen in higher resolution by simply clicking on them, and the videos all have sound and may be viewed at full screen, also.
The FASF’s Ric Lambart(at left) just briefed the El Paso, TX Daedalian Flight 24 on his 2018 visit to Edwards Air Force Base, CA Flight Test Center and about his introduction to the new Joint Strike Fighter, the Generation 5 new weapons system, the most costly ever purchased by the Pentagon. Here is a depiction of its relative costs:
The F-35 is not just the most expensive warplane ever, it’s the most expensive weapons program ever. But here is exactly how much a single F-35 costs.
A single Air Force F-35A costs a $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million. Average the three models together, and a “generic” F-35 costs $178 million.
And, you might wonder how much it costs per hour of flight time:
$41,000 per hour.
The U.S. is the first nation to design, manufacture and fly a 5th Generation Jet Fighter. The new F-35, the second “Gen Five” machine, will be operated by thirteen of our closest Allies. It was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin, who coincidentally also made its WWII namesake, the P-38 Lightning. It is produced in three (3) models, or “Variants,” as shown above. Notwithstanding its official name, the Lightning II, many of its operational pilots have given it another nickname: The “PANTHER.”
L to R: Colonel Alan Fisher and USAF ROTC Cadet, Ammber Valverde of UTEP and NMSU, chat after the F-35 Power Point presentation. Both are FASF members.
The F-35A model, for the Air Force, the B model, for the Marines and the C Variant, for the USN.
The Marine Corps B Variant can actually take off vertically, just like a helicopter, and can also land vertically. The below short (1:40) video show how this is done:
Here is another short (1:35) video of this USMC F-35B operating off a small WWII type special aircraft carrier, which has neither a catapult nor a slant deck as do all new generations of USN Aircraft carriers. Those features simply are no longer needed for this new USMC F-35 Variant:
Unlike all previous fighters, the F-35 “Lightning II” (named after the high-speed prop-driven Lockheed P-38 Lightning of WWII fame) is unique, not only because of its advanced stealth features, but because it is a flying combat information center, with advanced electronics capabilities never before seen in a new fighter.
It can also fly at supersonic speed for over 170 miles without even engaging its afterburner, which is called flying at “Super Cruise.” The F-35 was designed to work together with the only other 5th Generation fighter, the F-22 “Raptor.” The two ships will work as a team in various combat scenarios, should their help ever be needed.
While the F-22 Raptor is more maneuverable, the F-35 is designed to engage and take out enemy aircraft long before the enemy has even detected the presence of the new flying weapons system. It can carry a wide array of different missiles internally, rather than attached to its fuselage and/or wings. This of course does a great deal to enhance its stealth capabilities.
The Lightning II is actually capable of shooting down enemy aircraft beyond the horizon. The pilots of this futuristic weapons system can actually see in all directions; wherever they look: including directly behind and directly below the fighter. It the pilot looks down between his or her knees, they can see right through the fuselage as though it were invisible.
A number of electronic “eyes” are built right into the ship’s fuselage, and what they “see” is projected right onto the inside of the pilot’s helmet visor – – – a first. These futuristic helmets alone are some $400,000 each! Here is a short (1:28) video about this unique helmet:
Additionally, Inputs from both ground intel and airborne recon craft are all displayed on the F-35’s integrated glass panel touch screen display, again, unlike any of its 4th or 3rd Generation predecessors.
Much like the mysterious Area 51, the existence of which was never even recognized by the Air Force until relatively recently, Edwards Flight Test Center also presents a similar air of mystery, since access to it is so highly restricted.
While on active duty with the Air Force, this reporter often flew in the vicinity of Edwards, but was always kept at a substantial distance, because the air space around the Base was so highly restricted. As a result, this recent visit to the facility was anticipated with no small amount of excitement.
The local Daedalian Flight 56, at Edwards, invited a number of fellow Daedalians from around the country to make this special visit, so that they might learn about the United State’s newest and most advanced airborne weapons system. The 461st Flight Test Squadron, under the command of Lt. Colonel Tucker “Cinco” Hamilton (at right), played official host to the visiting Daedalians. An AFROTC graduate, Col. Hamilton has flown 30 aircraft from a zeppelin to a MiG-15 to an A-10, and, and managed the entire $3 Billion Joint Strike Fighter Developmental Test program out of the Pentagon for all three services. Cinco started his Air Force career as an operational F-15C pilot.
LATE BREAKING USAF NEWS: An officer at Edwards Air Force Base in California last month became the first female test pilot tofly an F-35. See below:
(L-R) Maj. Rachael Winiecki, the first female F-35 test pilot, and Airman 1st Class Heather Rice, her crew chief.
L to R: Colonel Mario Campos, Flight 24’s Commander, who operated the Power Point Show, and our top Aviation News Scout, Virgil Hemphill. Both are FASF members.
And below, is a final video (2:00 long) showing the F-35 in a number of different combat scenarios and roles as it completed its final test program:
Lambart also gave the history of how Edwards Air Force Base was named, as seen immediately below:
USAAF Captain Glen Edwards.
L to R: Ric Lambart and Laura Kelly, both Daedalians, pose in front of one of Edward’s test F-35’s . Kelly was an Army Helicopter Pilot.
An old archived photo showing some of the Base’s famous Pilots, including Chuck Yeager at the center, with his wife, Glennis, after whom he named his rocket ship.. Yeager was the fist man to break the sound barrier – all at Edwards.
“Pancho” Barnes, (center below) who owned the famous bar and resort, “The Happy Bottom Riding Club,” was one of America’s most famous female aviators in her own right. Aside from being one of Hollywood’s best stunt pilots, she was actually the organizer of the Hollywood film industry’s first Stunt Pilot’s Union. It was at the “Riding Club” that her good friend, Chuck Yeager managed to break some of his ribs just before becoming the first human being to break the mythically impossible Sound Barrier in the Rocket Research Ship, the X-1, which bore his beloved wife’s name, “Glamorous Glennis.” Of course Yeager didn’t tell anyone about his broken ribs for fear of missing this extraordinary opportunity to make history. This particular incident is an episode in 1983 smash hit movie about the early astronauts: “The Right Stuff.” Yeager is played by actor Sam Shepard. Pancho’s Bar and Grill was the favorite hangout of all those heroic early aviators who daily risked life and limb test flying our country’s most advanced new aircraft. The below photograph was for sale at Iconic Auctions, in 2017, at the first offer of $1,000.
L to R: Pioneer Female Pilots: Debie Stanford, Pancho Barnes and Amelia Earhart.
Immediately below, is the 2009 award-winning documentary film’s trailer about the Barnes’Riding Club and the famed aviatrix herself. It is 2:03 long:
Long overdue on its scheduled delivery, and clearly well over its earliest budget estimates, the F-35 has hardly been without its share of public scrutiny and even legitimate criticism.
But here are a few videos to help you understand that this machine’s status – and reputation – are in a constant state of flux, but do appear to be moving in the right direction, in terms of the Stealth Jet’s ability to not only overcome its early deficits, but to actually pleasantly surprise even some of its harshest critics as to its true lethal combat capabilities.
Below, by way of The joint Forces Channel, is this 2:28 long video that poses this post’s basic question re the current combat readiness of the Air Force’s latest 5th Generation fighter, in particular, how it stood up in the skies above Edwards Air Force Base to combat capabilities against the Air Force’s middle aged 4th Generation (now more accurately, 4.5 generation), but thoroughly and actual combat proven, F-16 Viper (or, if you prefer the official General Dynamic’s Name – the Fighting Falcon:
Below, thanks again to The Joint Forces Channel, is a 2:12 long video entitled:
Reaction of a highly experienced combat F-16 Pilot After Flying the new F-35
Below, 7:24 long, courtesy of “New Update Defence” is a video entitled:
Here’s why the F-35 once lost to F-16s, and how it made a stunning comeback.
And here is a short commentary video (1:56 long) by USMC Colonel Steve Gillette, entitled “Why the F-35: It can go where other aircraft can’t.”