USMC – VMFA-121’s “Walleye”


Our speaker for this month was Major Aric Liberman, a former Navy Seal and now a

Marine Major who has been instrumental in helping to bring the F-35 into operational status in the Marine Corps. Major Liberman’s career started in the Navy and lead to a membership in Seal Team 2 and was commissioned in the Marine Corps.  He helped to start the first F-35B Fleet Replacement Squadron with only a small team. Later, with more personnel, he wrote the first F-35B Training and Readiness Manual. He also participated in a study of pilot through-put that revealed attitude problems that were eventually corrected over two and one half years. He described the progress made with the F-35B simulator that was eventually very similar to flying the aircraft. There were no plans to create a training version of the aircraft, so the first flight in the F-35B was a solo flight. He described some of the flight characteristics of the F-35B such as the ability to fly with an angle of attack of 13 degrees. With the STOVL, (short takeoff and vertical landing) design in the B model, it was able to take off with a full load of ordinance in 800 feet and land vertically (as on a ship) after the payload was delivered. It is very easy to fly in the STOVL mode, both in the simulator and in the aircraft. He described the midair refueling (Tanking) as quite similar to the F-18. The training intensely was directed to the care and maintenance of the aircraft. This was a slow process but the maintenance between flights was reduced from five hours to two and one-half. They mastered accomplishing an off-site engine change. He described how the STOVL characteristics came from the balance of the shaft-driven lift fan behind the cockpit and the thrust vectoring nozzles at the exhaust end of the engine. It has internal and external weapons capabilities. It is designed to be an all-weather aircraft and should fully reach that status by next September. Flight data information is displayed on the pilot’s visor. The cockpit is relatively uncluttered with a tremendous amount of the work done by the extremely extensive software control system. We thank Major Liberman for his extensive work toward the activation of the F-35B program for the Marines as well ashis other work in the military for the benefit of our country.


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