September 20, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The F-35 Lightning II completed its first series of engine runs on Monday afternoon, culminating in a full-afterburner test that unleashed 40,000 pounds of thrust – the most ever from a jet-fighter engine.
The F-35 Lightning II lights its afterburner during a ground test at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday afternoon, September 18th. The Pratt & Whitney F135 engine is the most powerful engine ever in a jet fighter, producing 40,000 pounds of thrust.
By comparison, 40,000 pounds of thrust is seen on older engine models used for commercial airliners. The F-15 fighter can muster up about 25,000 pounds of thrust.
The testing began on Friday, Sept. 15, when Chief Pilot Jon Beesley moved a cockpit switch to the "run" position and brought the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine to life.
While F135 engines already have logged thousands of successful hours on test stands, Friday's engine start marked the first time the engine had run in the F-35 aircraft. The milestone kicked off a final series of ground tests that will lead to the jet's first flight later this year.
"Starting and running the F135 engine means we're now in the final stretch leading to first flight, and also that we have greater insight into the F-35's design as an integrated system," said Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program manager.
A unique Integrated Power Package (IPP
), produced by Honeywell Aerospace Electronic Systems, is used to start the engine. The installed IPP was started for the first time on Sept. 7. It combines a starter, electrical power supply and environmental control system in a single unit – systems that in previous aircraft have been separate, stand-alone units.
The engine runs mark the first time that the F-35 has been completely functional on its own power systems. As the tests proceeded, Beesley incrementally advanced the throttle until the engine achieved military power (full power without afterburner) on Sunday night, and full afterburner on Monday.
Before today's engine start, nine F135 development engines had run for more than 5,500 hours on test stands. The F135 is an evolution of the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine, which powers the F-22 Raptor, Lockheed Martin's other 5TH Generation Fighter. Pratt & Whitney has delivered three flight test engines to support the F-35's first flights. As the most powerful single-engine fighter in history, the F-35 Lightning II produces more thrust than most twin-engine fighters.
Two separate, interchangeable F-35 engines are under development: the Pratt & Whitney F135 and the GE
Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team F136.
Fifteen F-35s will undergo flight testing, seven will be used for static/ground testing and another will validate the aircraft's radar signature.