The F-35C Carrier Suitability Test Team deployed aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) for Developmental Test Phase Two (DT-II) in October 2015. Trials with F-35C test aircraft CF-3 and CF-5 spanned nine days in operating areas near the Atlantic coast between Florida and Virginia. DT-II followed a successful round of initial sea trials in 2014.
The team completed sixty-six catapults and traps to expand the gross weight and crosswind operating limits established on USS Nimitz (CVN-68) during DT-I. These tests included catapult launches up to the maximum aircraft gross weight with full internal stores as well as the expanding crosswind limits for launch and recovery. This testing supported the official US Navy aircraft launch and recovery bulletin that is required for fleet F-35C pilots to conduct carrier qualifications in 2016.
Additional testing completed on board the Ike included a variety of Logistics Test and Evaluation, or LT&E, tasks required to prove the F-35C can be maintained and supported above and below deck in the shipboard environment of a Nimitz class carrier. This testing included an engine run and Integrated Power Pack, or IPP, run in the hangar deck, deck spotting, chaining, weapons loading, as well as F135 engine compatibility testing in the ship’s engine shop.
Overall, the test team completed all required test objectives and finished ahead of schedule. . Only one sea trial deployment remains during F-35C development and those sea trials will complete all testing necessary for a full Block 3F fleet operation envelope with internal and external stores. DT-III is planned for the summer of 2016 when the test team again takes CF-3 and CF-5 back to sea for several weeks of testing. This final test phase will primarily focus on expanding the aircraft operating limits with a variety of symmetric and asymmetric external store configurations.