Though both F-35 BF-1 and BF-5 were unable to fly due to maintenance issues during the 3 hr. reporters were on the Wasp Aug. 28, Navy Capt. Erik Etz says the single-engine, stealthy aircraft had achieved a 90% availability rate since flying started early this month.
BF-1, which was scheduled to conduct a demonstration for the media event, was down due to a faulty cooling fan in the engine nacelle; this was repaired and test flights were conducted with the aircraft later that day. BF-5, a production-representative version, was having trouble with its thermal management subsystem.
During these tests, pilots are using the existing “Gen-2” helmet, made by Vision Systems International, a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit. This helmet includes the ISIE-10 night camera, which has problems with acuity in some night operations. Marine Corps Lt. Col. C.R. Clift, who is participating in the DT-2 test flights, says he has seen some of the results of flight testing with the upgraded ISIE-11 camera that will be put into the Gen 3 helmet, which is needed to allow pilots the full spectrum of operations expected for nighttime. He says he is “optimistic” and that “progress has been made” with the new camera, which was flown in a Cessna in July. The Gen 3 helmet is slated to fly in the F-35 in early 2015.
The Marines plan to declare initial operational capability with their first F-35Bs by December 2015.