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F-35 Lightning II News

F-35 Lightning II logs flight progress

February 13, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has successfully tested a wide range of aircraft systems and demonstrated uncommon reliability since its inaugural flight December 15.

The F-35 Lighting II, in flight

"F-35 AA-1 is truly proving its worth as a pathfinder air vehicle. Complex subsystems deemed high-risk just a few months ago are performing flawlessly," said Brig. Gen. C.R. Davis, F-35 program executive officer. "Early flight test results show we are on a path to largely validate the design and aircraft systems – we are not entering a period of discovery."

The aircraft has made a total of seven flights and is proving its reliability through the flight test program as it proceeds toward airworthiness certification. "The F-35's extraordinary reliability relates directly to the rigorous ground testing and laboratory testing our team used to validate systems before we ever flew," said Doug Pearson, vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.

The aircraft so far has flown at 23,000 feet and achieved speeds of Mach 0.8 and a 16-degree angle of attack. The flights also served to calibrate the air-data system while evaluating basic maneuvering with the landing gear both retracted and extended. On the fifth flight, F-35 Chief Test Pilot Jon Beesley lit the afterburner for the first time and unleashed 40,000 pounds of thrust – more power than any fighter engine in history. The airborne tests also have evaluated the speed-brake function, the fuel-dump process, the approach power compensator (an auto-throttle mode for landing), and tests of the radio, communication and navigational systems.

Revolutionary internal systems on the aircraft have performed exceptionally well, including unique actuators that drive control surfaces primarily using electricity instead of a hydraulic system. Another device that for the first time combines the engine starter, the generator, the emergency power supply and the environmental-control system into a single unit also has continued to operate successfully.

Additional images:

[LMTAS photo]

[LMTAS photo]