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  • F-35B Clocks Up Vertical Landings
    Posted by Graham Warwick 3:22 PM on Jan 19, 2011

    F-35B vertical landings are like buses, you wait ages for one then three come along all at once. Aircraft BF-2 did three VLs in one day - Jan 13 - taking the fleet total to 15 since March 2010 and moving the program closer to the target of 42 vertical landings required to clear the F-35B for initial ship trials.

    Video: Lockheed Martin

    BF-2 was instrumented for STOVL-mode flight tests after the first F-35B, aircraft BF-1, encountered mechanical reliability issues that slowed testing. Ship clearance was planned by the end of 2010, with STOVL trials on the USS Wasp scheduled for March, but by year-end BF-1 had logged only 10 VLs, seven of which counted towards the total required.

    So BF-2 is off to a brisk start, accomplishing its first VL on Jan 6 and completing five within a week. Just any old VL won't do - to clear the envelope each has to satisfy specific test objectives: wind speed and direction, for example. So of the three VLs on Jan 13, two were with the wind at 10kt from 45deg port and one with a 15kt headwind.

    Hitting the test points is crucial because, as Lockheed Martin has already discovered, as the aircraft slows from wingborne to semi-jetborne to jetborne flight the airflow around (and airloads on) the STOVL F-35's many doors are complex and dynamic - and difficult to predict precisely. That's what development is about.

    But even if BF-2 keeps up its pace, it won't help Lockheed Martin recover lost time. Sea trials are paced by the need to instrument the Wasp to measure the ship environment during STOVL operations. The timing for STOVL clearance and ship modification now puts the initial sea trials out in the August to November timeframe.

    As flight testing of the F-35B now extends to the middle of 2016 under the latest replan, pace is less an issue than the possibility Lockheed still has discoveries to make. So far, solving the problems uncovered during STOVL testing, and getting aircraft back into productive flight testing, has proved a painfully slow progress.

    Tags: ar99, tacair, F-35, JSF, STOVL

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