U.K. Looks Ahead To F-35 Carrier Ops

By Tony Osborne
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
April 29, 2013
Credit: Lockheed Martin

The U.K. is using simulation to form a vision of how the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be used on the country's two new planned aircraft carriers.

With both the aircraft and the carriers still under construction and more than half a decade before the two actually meet for real, BAE Systems has been working to understand how the two systems will come together, not only learning lessons while preparing for the aircraft's scheduled entry into service at the end of the decade, but also influencing the methods used by other F-35B customers including the U.S. Marine Corps.

Test pilots originally used the simulator, located at BAE Systems' Warton facility in Lancashire in early 2012 to study how the conventional carrier landing, or F-35C, version of the aircraft could operate from the Queen Elizabeth II-class carrier. However, the coalition government's U-turn to go back to the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35B in May 2012 resulted in major upheaval in the development process.

“It took about two or three months to turn it around,” said Pete “Whizzer” Wilson, BAE's F-35 test pilot, the third from the U.K. to have flown the aircraft. “We have made some significant progress with both aircraft and ship integration.

“The U.K. is very fortunate. In the U.S., they face the challenge of integrating the new aircraft onto old ships and existing systems, here we are able to start afresh and take a new look at how we carry out carrier operations.”

Simulator experiments have proven the validity of the deck parking layout for the aircraft. Because the U.K. ship in the simulator does not have an angled deck, landings are conducted down the length, but F-35s that are not flying can be parked on both sides of the deck. Initial experiments showed that at certain angles of parking on the port side, pilots on approach would adjust and push the aircraft to the right and closer to the ship's islands. However, by parking aircraft at a more acute angle to the stern of the ship, pilots were more comfortable touching down on the centerline.

The ships will also make use of a Bedford Array, which is a lighting system that includes a series of flashing units down the centerline of the ship at the landing point that are stabilized for the vessel's heave and pitch. On the pilot's head-up display is a new ship-reference velocity vector. By maneuvering the aircraft and the vector onto the Bedford Array, the pilot can comfortably make a 6-deg. glideslope landing using the Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) method.

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