Testing begins for Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter

October 29th, 2008 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Edwards Air Force Base (California), Oct 29 (IANS) The first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter has finished all planned testing here, demonstrating that the aircraft, the support crews, and contractor and military service personnel are ready for the dramatically expanded flight testing on the programme’s horizon, the manufacturer said.”This initial round of testing at Edwards is just the beginning,” Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force, said in a statement.

“The exceptional performance of the aircraft and those supporting it shows that the team is ready for the fast-paced flight test activities upcoming at Edwards and (Naval Air Station) Patuxent River (Maryland),” Pearson added.

By the end of 2009, all 19 F-35 test aircraft will be complete and flight test activities will intensify, leading to initial operational test & evaluation in the 2013-2014 time frame.

During the three-week deployment at Edwards, most of the F-35’s activity centred on a set of crucial tests that validated the aircraft’s ability to shut down and restart its engine in flight, the statement said.

During the tests - conducted to ensure that the aircraft can regain power and be flown safely in the event of an unanticipated engine flameout - the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan repeatedly restarted on command, the statement added.

“Our goal was to collect in-flight data during 12 specific test cases over Edwards, and we did exactly that,” Pearson said, adding: “The initial data review and pilot-reported results are very favourable and meet or exceed our expectations.”

With all Edwards testing successfully completed, F-35 Test Pilot Jeff Knowles will fly the aircraft back to Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant.

“In addition to confirming that the engine spools up and restarts very quickly after being shut off in flight, we found that the airplane itself showed high reliability and was always ready for its next mission,” Knowles said.

“That kind of performance in an early development plane bodes well for the aircraft we deliver to the fleet,” Knowles added.

The deployment began Oct 1 when Knowles flew the Lightning II non-stop from Fort Worth to Edwards, landing “code one,” or without any aircraft discrepancies.

“Our modelling and simulation indicated a robust propulsion system design. With the completion of testing at Edwards I am even more confident we have an excellent design that demonstrates appropriate performance and margin to accommodate unplanned conditions if encountered,” Pearson said, adding that support from the U.S. Air Force and the F-35 logistics team were outstanding and “enabled us to meet every scheduled event.”

The F-35 is a supersonic, multi-role, 5th generation stealth fighter. Three F-35 variants derived from a common design, developed together and using the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially, making the Lightning II the most cost-effective fighter programme in history, the statement said.

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