Joint Strike Fighter acing tests, pilots report

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seruriermarshal

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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 01:36

Joint Strike Fighter acing tests, pilots report

By Dave Majumdar - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Feb 27, 2011 9:46:22 EST

The F-35 is getting a thumbs-up from the test pilots flying it.

Both military and civilian aviators give the Joint Strike Fighter high marks on speed, altitude and vertical takeoffs and landings, as well as for its avionics.

The single-engine jet has performed reliably up to Mach 1.2, slightly faster than the speed of sound, and in maneuvers up to 1 G, a unit of force equal to the force exerted by gravity. Now, the test pilots are assessing its ability to handle maneuvers of up to 5 Gs — five times the force of gravity — and angles of attack up to 20 degrees.

Once those flights are complete, the Air Force and Navy can train their instructor pilots and the Marine Corps can train its fleet pilots, said Squadron Leader Steve Long, a British Royal Air Force test pilot assigned to the JSF program. Long holds the record for the F-35’s fastest flight: Mach 1.3.

Ultimately, the test program will push the three variants of the aircraft to 50,000 feet, Mach 1.6 and 700 knots. The B model, the one to be flown by the Marine Corps, will reach a top speed of 630 knots. The Air Force variant, known as the A model, will be cleared to 9 Gs, the B model to 7 Gs and the Navy’s C model to 7.5 Gs.

Bound for Eglin Air Force Base
The F-35 test pilots have been focusing on common speeds and maneuvers so they can release the F-35 to instructor pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

“They don’t need to go at Mach 1.6 right now just to become familiar with the airplane and learn how to be instructors and all that sort of thing,” Long said. “There’s no real time pressure on us right now to get the speed headlines cleared out for us.”

The aviators have completed 23 vertical landings with the B-model aircraft, more than half of the 42 needed for the Marine Corps to begin trials at sea aboard an amphibious assault ship.

“We’ve done more vertical landings in the month of January” — 13 — “than we did last year. So this is coming fast now,” one of the test pilots, Marine Lt. Col. Matt Taylor, said in a telephone interview from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

Landing vertically in the F-35B is easy, Taylor said.

“I’ve flown a lot of airplanes. This is the easiest one there is to land,” said David “Doc” Nelson, who flies for Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s prime contractor.

Nelson said that even pilots who have never flown a vertical-landing aircraft, such as colleague Jon Beesley, have no trouble handling the F-35B.

The test pilots also raved about the JSF’s maneuverability, calling it a nimble machine. For example, the F-35 can handle better than a 40-degree angle of attack, which is related to the amount of lift.

“It flew great on its first flight and it’s flying great now, and we’re tweaking it to make it even better,” Taylor said.

Nelson said: “It’s not quite what an F-22 is, but it’s better than any legacy I’ve seen.”

At subsonic speeds, the F-35 can accelerate right alongside the more powerful twin-engine Raptor. Although the F-35 flies faster than sound, the F-22 is in a league of its own — a maximum speed of Mach 2.

The F-35 variants fly in remarkably similar fashion, the test pilots said.

“They did some trick with the flight controls to make all three variants feel the same,” Nelson said. “When you sit in the cockpit, all the hardware switches are the same. So if you blindfolded a guy, there is a possibility he wouldn’t know which jet he was in.”

Taylor, though, thinks the Navy’s C model, with its larger wings and stabilators, has a “slightly different” feel in parts of the flight envelope, a term that refers to design capabilities usually in terms of airspeed and altitude, and is “slightly draggier” than its sister versions.

‘A’ for avionics
The F-35’s mission systems are even more advanced than its flight characteristics, according to the test pilots.

“To me, the headlines aren’t how fast it goes and how many G’s it pulls, it’s how great that radar is and how great the [Electro-Optical Targeting System] and the [Distributed Aperture System] and the situational awareness that you get over [the Multifunction Advanced Data Link] and all those sort of features in the airplane,” Long said.

The radar, according to the aviators, is almost ready for combat, even with the basic software currently in place.

“I would just comment that the performance of the sensors at this early phase in a program is unlike any I’ve ever been part of,” Taylor said. “The fact that they work as well as they do and are as close to being ready to go to combat today is really impressive. I expect it to hold a lot of promise for how the airplane is going to be when it’s fielded.”

The pilots especially praised the plane’s synthetic aperture radar, which takes photo-quality images of the Earth’s surface, as well as the electronic warfare suite and the communications systems.

“I’ve seen a lot of mission systems programs start,” Nelson said, “and I’ve never seen one start like this.”

A few hiccups
Not all has been perfect, though.

The JSF has an engine “screech,” a disturbance in airflow; a phenomenon called “transonic wing roll-off,” in which it can roll unexpectedly; and a helmet-mounted display prone to latency and smearing. The problems have either been corrected or are being addressed, according to the test pilots.

“We have screech kits that we’re going to attach to the airplane that will trivialize its impact on the envelope,” Nelson said.

“Transonic roll-off, we’re investigating that and we have recently updated the software to minimize its effect on the handling characteristics of the airplane,” he said. “The transonic roll-off is something that has been overcome in many ways by the software update that we just got.”

As for the helmet-mounted display, Taylor said he and his colleagues are “on a path to get that stuff sorted out.”

“Obviously, the problems aren’t too bad, because we’re still flying the airplane and we’re using the helmet on every single flight,” Taylor said.

The helmet display gives the pilot a much larger field of view, and it uses infrared cameras to make nighttime flying similar to flying during the day, Nelson said.

“When the fleet has flown this airplane for several years and the guys are raving about their airplane, the F-35, the reason they’re going to love it is because nobody sees them and they see everything,” Taylor said.

Asked whether the F-35 is their warplane of choice to take into combat, the test pilots had the same answer: an unequivocal “yes.”

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/ ... t-022611w/
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sferrin

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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 01:49

"There I was. . ."
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jeffb

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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 05:41

Wait, wait, wait...the airforcetimes (who?) has a puff piece in it about the world's *most* troubled aircraft development program and how all the test pilots ( who are either employees of the manufacturer or hand picked officers performing a very high visibility, career defining task for governments who have already committed themselves to purchasing said aircraft and would definitely prefer that no embarrassing stories appear in the press ) rave about ... the avionics. HA HA HA HA HA HA.

A few hiccups
No $hit

The test pilots also raved about the JSF’s maneuverability, calling it a nimble machine. For example, the F-35 can handle better than a 40-degree angle of attack, which is related to the amount of lift.
Yes very nimble, so nimble that it sometimes rolls-over for no apparent reason...but they're fixing that (by -hacking- the flight control software).
“Transonic roll-off, we’re investigating that and we have recently updated the software to minimize its effect on the handling characteristics of the airplane,” he said. “The transonic roll-off is something that has been overcome in many ways by the software update that we just got.”

The single-engine jet has performed reliably up to Mach 1.2, slightly faster than the speed of sound, and in maneuvers up to 1 G, a unit of force equal to the force exerted by gravity. Now, the test pilots are assessing its ability to handle maneuvers of up to 5 Gs — five times the force of gravity — and angles of attack up to 20 degrees.

Assuming of course that the flight model that didn't predict the transonic roll-off has correctly predicted that it can maintain 40 degree AoA.

At subsonic speeds, the F-35 can accelerate right alongside the more powerful twin-engine Raptor. Although the F-35 flies faster than sound, the F-22 is in a league of its own — a maximum speed of Mach 2.
Well I can accelerate alongside a F-22 as well, just not for very long. Hmmm, the F-22 has a maximum speed of Mach 2 you say. That may be a little bit off. So how much research do you think the journalist did for this story? Can you do negative amounts of research? Someone should talk to the papers owner about the quality of the reporting, I think his name is Gates or something.

So obvious inaccuracies and statements by the manufacturer stating that the their new product is the best thing since sliced-bread. Wow, strong evidence indeed.

Maybe we should ask the mods to ban obvious public relations exercises being touted as evidence of successful program outcomes? That would be a little unfair though wouldn't it, you guys wouldn't have anything to post about then. :D
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 05:53

Do you know what the LCA is?
"A visitor from Mars could easily pick out the civilized nations. They have the best implements of war."
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 07:45

Ah, the critic. No acft building experience whatsoever, but the expert none the less. I am sure your replies above have an answer to solve all our worries. Sheeesh.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 08:31

Asked whether the F-35 is their warplane of choice to take into combat, the test pilots had the same answer: an unequivocal “yes.”


That's all I need to know right there.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 12:01

As skeptical as some people are about hearing good news from companies and their test pilots... who would you believe if such information was given out? Who would have to say the things in the article for you to believe them. Lockheed and the test pilots might embellish here or there, as all companies do, but they're not going to lie. You can take most of what they say at face value....
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 13:48

dragorv wrote:As skeptical as some people are about hearing good news from companies and their test pilots... who would you believe if such information was given out? Who would have to say the things in the article for you to believe them. Lockheed and the test pilots might embellish here or there, as all companies do, but they're not going to lie. You can take most of what they say at face value....


Indeed! Once pilots from other air forces have the opportunity to fly the plane, and comment favorably, the naysayers will just respond with-"well of course they would say that."
The fact of the matter is that the reality about the F-35's performance, just aren't jiving with the criticisms that have been made, and the critics can't accept that they've been wrong.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 15:47

[quote="jeffb"]Wait, wait, wait...the airforcetimes (who?) has a puff piece in it about the world's *most* troubled aircraft development program and how all the test pilots ( who are either employees of the manufacturer or hand picked officers performing a very high visibility, career defining task for governments who have already committed themselves to purchasing said aircraft and would definitely prefer that no embarrassing stories appear in the press ) rave about ... the avionics. HA HA HA HA HA HA.

I thought I was the only sane one who was aware of this...

The F-35 is in deep $^&*, if it was anywhere near as great as its fanboys say it is, the F-35 would already have phased out the legacy fighters by at least 50%. The project is long, useless, and expensive.
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wrightwing

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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 16:16

shabah_cactus wrote: I thought I was the only sane one who was aware of this...

The F-35 is in deep $^&*, if it was anywhere near as great as its fanboys say it is, the F-35 would already have phased out the legacy fighters by at least 50%. The project is long, useless, and expensive.


Well, to be fair, once the F-35 enters service it will replace legacy fighters. It's not really a valid critique to say that this should've occurred, prior to IOC/FOC.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 17:05

But it's valid to criticise that its IOC/FOC dates are constantly moving to the right of the time line. Not that this is a unique case, but that's something most military aircraft programmes of the world have to deal with.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 18:58

jeffb wrote: how all the test pilots ( who are either employees of the manufacturer or hand picked officers performing a very high visibility, career defining task for governments who have already committed themselves to purchasing said aircraft and would definitely prefer that no embarrassing stories appear in the press ) rave about ... the avionics.

What appears in the press is one thing, no doubt influenced by the biases of whomever happens to be writing the article, but based on my past experience, the test pilots (regardless of who they work for) are not the sort to sugar coat the capability of the aircraft, whether that's flight qualities or avionics. Their lives, and the lives of their compatriots, depend on them getting the aircraft to do exactly what they expect of it. Targeting the pilots as part of your rhetoric reeks of desperation. Perhaps a little real world experience in the world of aviation would serve you well....you might gain a little respect for those that do.

jeffb wrote:Yes very nimble, so nimble that it sometimes rolls-over for no apparent reason...but they're fixing that (by -hacking- the flight control software).

As did the Super Hornet....and they fixed that by perforating a section of each wing. So what's your point? Flight testing is designed to find out exactly these sort of issues and to refine the models used to predict behaviour.

jeffb wrote:Well I can accelerate alongside a F-22 as well, just not for very long.

If dropped off a tall building.....maybe.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 19:01

Scorpion82 wrote:But it's valid to criticise that its IOC/FOC dates are constantly moving to the right of the time line. Not that this is a unique case, but that's something most military aircraft programmes of the world have to deal with.


There are things about the F-35 program to criticize, but I don't think it's fair to criticize the plane itself, as being craptastic. By all indications, pilots really like it, and the systems are very capable.
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 20:12

Agree on that. When the aircraft finally meets its proposed capabilities/performances it will be a hell of a strike fighter, though that should be expected for something that new and expensive.

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