The F-35 Flight Test Update in the Volume 26, Number 3 issue closed with the first F-35B vertical landing at sea aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) on 3 October 2011. Short takeoff/vertical landing test aircraft BF-2 and BF-4 completed seventy-two vertical landings and seventy-two short takeoffs at sea during the nineteen-day ship suitability testing period. The aircraft contributed to October’s program record of 122 flights. With ship trials complete and 268 vertical landings in 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded probation for the F-35B on 20 January 2012.
The System Development and Demonstration, or SDD, fleet completed 2011 with more test flights and test points than in any other year — 972 and 7,823, respectively. In the last quarter, carrier variant test aircraft CF-3 conducted the first F-35 launch from the Navy’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and conventional takeoff and landing jet AF-1 achieved the F-35’s maximum design limit speed of Mach 1.6. The 2012 flight test plan calls for 1,001 flights and 7,873 test points, including night flying, airstart testing, and weapons separation testing.
Through 3 March 2012, the F-35 test program had completed 161 flights totaling more than 250 flight hours and had accrued more than 1,100 test points. F-35B test pilots have executed twenty-three vertical landings so far this year. With several more checkout flights completed, thirty-three pilots have now flown the F-35. Twenty-six pilots are flying currently.
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Fred Schenk flew the first short takeoff at sea from the USS Wasp (LHD-1) in F-35B BF-2 following the first landing at sea the previous day. The one-hour flight included two additional short takeoffs and three vertical landings on Flight 120 for BF-2. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Rusnok flew BF-2 Flight 121 later in the day for three additional short takeoffs and vertical landings, marking the program’s 200th vertical landing and 505th F-35B flight.
Marine Corps Maj. Richard Rusnok landed the second F-35B, test aircraft BF-4, aboard the Wasp. Upon returning from the 1.1-hour ferry from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division test facility at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, Rusnok hot pit refueled and then flew two short takeoffs and two vertical landings to complete BF-4 Flight 70.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Canin flew the final six F-35C steam ingestion catapult launches in test aircraft CF-3 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. The catapult launches completed tests that began 26 September. The 0.9-hour flight, CF-3 Flight 29, brought the carrier variant catapult launch total to fifty-nine, thirty-six of which were steam ingestion launches.
US Government pilot Vince Caterina was at the controls as an Air Force KC-10 tanker refueled the F-35 for the first time. The 2.2-hour flight out of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, California, marked Flight 63 for F-35A AF-4.
The F-35 System Development and Demonstration fleet surpassed 2,000 total flight hours. The milestone includes flight hours on the first test aircraft, AA-1. The flight test team flew eight flights 18 October: four F-35A, three F-35B from the USS Wasp, and one F-35C sortie.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Levin became the thirtieth pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from Edwards AFB, California, in F-35A AF-7 for a 1.4-hour test mission. Levin is slated to support F-35 flight testing at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.
F-35B completed initial ship suitability testing as the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) returned to homeport and F-35Bs BF-2 and BF-4 returned to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. BAE Systems test pilot Peter Wilson executed the last three vertical landings on the Wasp in BF-2 before returning to Pax River on a 1.7-hour flight, BF-2 Flight 137. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Kelly flew BF-4’s 0.9-hour ferry flight, Flight 81 for the aircraft. During the nineteen-day test period, the F-35B logged more than twenty-eight flight hours and completed seventy-two short takeoffs and seventy-two vertical landings.
Air Force Lt. Col. George Griffiths reached the maximum design limit speed of Mach 1.6 for F-35A for the first time during a 0.8-hour flight from Edwards AFB, California. The flight marked AF-1 Flight 170.
The F-35 System Development and Demonstration program recorded 122 flights and 73 vertical landings in October, the most flights achieved in one month to date for the F-35 fleet. F-35B BF-2 was flown on twenty-two of those flights, the most for an individual F-35 test aircraft in a single month.
Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson flew F-35A AF-4 for the 400th F-35A conventional takeoff and landing System Development and Demonstration test flight of 2011. The half-hour flight marked AF-4 Flight 73.
Marine Corps Maj. Russell Clift became the thirty-first pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in F-35B BF-4 for a 1.2-hour test mission. Clift is the sixth USMC pilot to fly the F-35. The pilot familiarization mission marked BF-4 Flight 85.
A TC-7 steam catapult launched an F-35 for the first time with Navy Lt. Christopher Tabert at the controls. This launch was also the first F-35C catapult launch at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The launch began the 0.7-hour Flight 32 for F-35C test aircraft CF-3. Previous catapult launches used a TC-13 Mod 2 test steam catapult at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Marine Corps Maj. Richard Rusnok flew a 2.6-hour mission in F-35B BF-2 to mark the 300th F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing System Development and Demonstration flight of 2011. The flight out of NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, marked BF-2 Flight 145.
The F-35 Integrated Test Force carried out the first Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, launch of the F-35C. Navy Lt. Christopher Tabert flew the milestone mission in F-35C CF-3 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. The brief 0.1-hour test marked CF-3 Flight 37.
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Taylor was at the controls for F-35C CF-1 Flight 100 from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. CF-1 was the first F-35C test aircraft to reach this milestone on the 0.3-hour flight.
The F-35 System Development and Demonstration test fleet surpassed 1,500 flight hours in 2011 with F-35A AF-4 Flight 82 from Edwards AFB, California. Air Force Lt. Col. George Griffiths piloted the 3.1-hour KC-10 refueling mission in AF-4, completing the planned clean aircraft KC-10 tanker refueling test requirements.
BAE Systems test pilot Peter Wilson executed his 100th F-35B vertical landing during BF-1 Flight 155, the F-35B’s first short takeoff/vertical landing mode flight and vertical landing with the redesigned auxiliary air inlet, or AAI, doors. The 1.8-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, verified performance of the new AAI doors after discoveries in flight test found the original door design was prone to oscillation.
Three F-35A aircraft with Air Force pilots at the controls fell in line during concurrent flight tests at Edwards AFB, California. Maj. Matt Hayden flew 3.2 hours for AF-2 Flight 176; Lt. Col. Dwayne Opella flew AF-3 Flight 83 for 2.3 hours; and Maj. Speares flew AF-4 on the 2.1-hour Flight 85.
Marine Corps Maj. Russell Clift flew the first F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing mission with instrumented bomb rack units, or BRUs, holding GBU-32 satellite-guided weapons. The 2.1-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, included flight with the weapon bay doors open. The test mission marked F-35B BF-3 Flight 167.
Lt. Col. George Griffiths from Edwards AFB, California, piloted the first F-35 test aircraft to reach 100 flights in one year, F-35A AF-2. The 2.2-hour flight marked AF-2 Flight 179.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Levin flew F-35B BF-3 for the aircraft’s 100th flight in 2011 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The flight, BF-2 Flight 168, was a 1.2-hour weapons test mission. It was also the final BF-3 flight of 2011.
For the year, the System Development and Demonstration program flew 972 flights and tallied 7,823 test points. The F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant was flown on 474 flights and tallied 3,600 test points. The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant was flown on 333 flights and tallied 2,636 test points. The F-35C carrier variant was flown on 165 flights and tallied 1,587 test points. Additionally, the F-35B test fleet executed 268 vertical landings. The cumulative 2011 milestones were achieved through a combination of planned test flights and test points along with test flights and test points added throughout the year.
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Fred Schenk executed the first vertical landing in F-35B BF-5 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The 1.1-hour flight, BF-5 Flight 26, included four sorties and two vertical landings. Of the five F-35B test aircraft at Pax, BF-5 was the final jet to complete a vertical landing.
F-35A AF-4 flew at the program’s highest altitude to date, 43,500 feet above mean sea level, or MSL, with Air Force Lt. Col. George Griffiths at the controls. The 1.2-hour flight from Edwards AFB, California, marked AF-4 Flight 92.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Elliott Clemence became the thirty-second pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from Edwards AFB, California, in F-35A AF-6 on a 1.4-hour test mission.
F-35B BF-4 completed the 600th F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant test flight with Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Levin at the controls. The flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, marked BF-4 Flight 93.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Mark Ward was at the controls of F-35A AF-6 for the F-35’s first night flight. The 1.3-hour mission consisted of a series of straight-in approaches in twilight and darkness at Edwards AFB, California. The flight marked AF-6 Flight 57.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced he is rescinding probation for the F-35B a full year ahead of schedule. The decision came after significant progress of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing program in 2011. His announcement was made at the F-35 Integrated Test Facility at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, at a town hall meeting attended by government and contractor employees.
Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson was at the controls of F-35A AF-4 Flight 95 for the program’s first engine airstarts since those done with AA-1 in 2008. The 2.1-hour mission out of Edwards AFB, California, included eight successful engine spooldown airstarts.
The F-35 System Development and Demonstration flight test program surpassed 2,500 flight hours with eight flights on 25 January. The first F-35 test aircraft, AA-1, flew more than 125 hours. F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft flew more than 1,300 hours; F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants flew 775 hours; and F-35C carrier variant jets flew 289 flight hours.
Navy Lt. Christopher Tabert flew the program’s 200th F-35C carrier variant test flight in test aircraft CF-2 from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for a speed brake test mission. The 1.3-hour sortie marked CF-2 Flight 52.
RAF Sqdn. Ldr. Jim Schofield became the thirty-third pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for a test mission in F-35B BF-2. The 1.2-hour pilot qualification mission marked BF-2 Flight 155.
For more information on the F-35 program, see F35.com.