The U.S. military cleared the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter to resume flight operations last week, ending a grounding of more than three weeks that was ordered after a fuel line failed in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
An “improperly crimped” fueldraulics line is the probable cause of a fuel leak that led the U.S. military to suspend flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which was grounded on January 18.
Flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter remained suspended this week as U.S. military and contractor engineering teams investigated the cause of an engine fueldraulic line failure in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The fueldraulic line is part of the fuel-based hydraulic system that controls the actuators of the F-35B’s vectoring exhaust system. The grounding did not affect the F-35A and C models, respectively, the conventional takeoff and carrier variants.
After protracted negotiations, Lockheed Martin reached an agreement in principle with the Pentagon for the fifth lot of low-rate initial production F-35s (LRIP-5). The company has reported new flight-test milestones for the Lightning II stealth fighter in recent weeks. But there was less good news from Canada, which is reconsidering its commitment to the F-35 on cost grounds.
Flight-testing of the Lockheed Martin F-35 is ahead of the 2012 plan, and software development is making up lost ground, now standing at two months behind schedule. Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s v-p for F-35 program integration and business development, told a meeting in London sponsored by The Air League that the F-35B STOVL version that the UK will buy is 40 percent ahead on flights and test points. Of the nine million lines of software code in the aircraft, 87 percent is now in flight test, with another 6 percent in laboratory tests.
Denmark’s Terma is showing off, for the first time here at the show, the multi-mission pod (MMP) it has developed for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The MMP began life as the gun pod for the F-35, which Terma designed and developed on behalf of General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, but the company has developed it into a more versatile pod that should prove attractive, in particular, to overseas operators of the JSF.
“We live in a goldfish bowl,” sighed Lockheed Martin F-35 vice president customer engagement Steve O’Bryan. Speaking in London last March, he was referring to the stream of official reports, testimonies and comments that examine the Joint Strike Fighter program. This year alone, five major documents on the F-35 have reached the public domain. In January, a Pentagon operational test and evaluation report surfaced.
Lockheed Martin has described progress in the F-35 development program, and solutions to some of the problems that have recently been identified. Having exceeded the planned flight-test sorties and test points in 2011 by 15 percent, the company is hoping for similar gains this year. Of the 59,585 test points scheduled for the development phase through 2016, just over one-fifth had been flown by the end of December.
The first international Joint Strike Fighter, an F-35B for the UK, was rolled out on November 22, one week before a parliamentary report shed more light on the UK’s decision to switch from the STOVL F-35B version to the conventional carrier landing F-35C version.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has gone to sea for the first time. An F-35B short-takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) version landed on the small U.S. aircraft carrier Wasp on October 3 at the start of a two-week trial during which 67 takeoffs and landings are scheduled. Some observers have raised concerns about the potential for damage to carrier decks from the aircraft’s F135 engine. It develops 39,400 pounds of thrust in the hover and 38,100 pounds of thrust in short takeoff.