“Dummy” weapons (identical in shape and weight to the original ones) were tested during 9 flights in different configurations of both weapons types on two F-35Bs, flown by Billie Flynn, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 test pilot and Squadron Leader Andy Edgell from the RAF.
According to the team, which included personnel from BAE Systems, “the initial tests are an important step in integrating weapons onto the F-35B, allowing test pilots to understand how they affect the way the aircraft performs and handles.”
Such tests are the first step towards full interoperability of the two weapons, already used by the Royal Air Force on its existing fleet, with the F-35B, destined to enter in UK’s active service, with both the RAF and Royal Navy by 2018.
As already highlighted in the past, whilst carrying significant payload on external wing pylons makes the JSF more “convincing” as a multi-role platform, it makes the plane much less stealthy as well.
On Feb. 25, Royal Air Force pilot, Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols, flew in a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II during the first short take-off and vertical landing sortie by a United Kingdom pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, where British pilots and ground crews are undertaking training alongside their Marines counterparts.
The USMC began flying STOVL sorties at Eglin in October last year.
On Aug. 14, the first DT-II (Developmental Test Phase Two – the second of three planned tests aimed at expanding the F-35B’s shipboard operating envelope for the U.S. Marine Corps) night vertical landing was executed by F-35 Marine Corps test pilot, Lt. Col. C.R. “Jimi” Clift. Clift, a Harrier pilot.
A question posed in Britain’s Houses of Parliament on Mar. 20 by Scottish Politician Angus Robertson highlighted the amount of time the F-35 development program has been lost due to grounding orders for the jet.
The exact question which was posed to the Secretary of State for defense was as follows: “To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many days of flight testing have occurred and how many days of flight testing have been lost due to grounding of the aircraft since delivery of the first Joint Strike Fighter.”
The answer he got was very concise and quite surprising.
Philip Dunne said: “From the start of Flight Test on Jun. 11, 2008 to Feb. 27, 2013, there have been a total of 6,382 Development Flight Test days of F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft. Over this period, the equivalent of 285 days of Development Flight Test on F-35B aircraft did not take place while aircraft were grounded, or 4.5% of the maximum available flight days.”
The questions posed are done so in advance to give the British government chance to answer accurately; also known as Prime Minister’s question time this takes place on a weekly basis usually on a Wednesday in the Houses of Parliament in London.
Almost one year ago today (on Jan. 20, 2012), citing the progress the F-35B STOVL (Short take off vertical landing) variant made in 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded probation for the F-35B, about one year ahead of schedule.
The STOVL had come close to be scrapped after technical issues along with massive cost over runs had put the monumentally complex version at risk.
On Jan. 18, 2013, Defense News was the first media to spread the news that the DoD office in charge of the F-35 program has grounded the F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter for precautionary reasons after a test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, was aborted by the pilot as the plane was conducting a conventional takeoff roll.
According to Defense News’s Aaron Mehta the abort was caused by “a failure to a propulsion fueldraulic line, which enables movement in the actuators for the STOVL’s exhaust system.”
Whilst Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce engineers investigate the incident on the P&W engines that have successfully completed almost 25,000 hours of testing, the other two variants (A – conventional, and C – Carrier Variant), are not affected by the grounding.