The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin have completed F-35 static, drop test, and durability testing and early results indicate a potential for an increased service life certification for the F-35A variant.
The company say that rigorous testing supports validation of the air frame’s strength and resilience to perform in the demanding environments it will experience throughout its operational lifetime and the final results will support fleet management and maintenance forecasting for decades of operations.
“The transformational F-35 pushes the boundaries of engineering and physics with supersonic speed, agility, high attitude and angle of attack, weapons capacity, vertical landings, carrier operations and much more,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 programme.
“Durability testing gives the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in the aircraft’s performance today and for decades to come.”
Ground testing includes a full scale durability airframe of all three variants, which were loaded in unique test rigs and laboratories to simulate ground and flight load conditions during fleet operations.
The F-35 service lifetime is 8,000 hours, and each test airframe is required to complete two life-times of testing, or 16,000 hours. The F-35A vastly exceeded the requirement by completing three full life times of testing, or a simulated 24,000 hours, which gives the programme confidence in a potential service-life increase.
“We look forward to analysing the results and bringing forward the data to potentially extend the aircraft’s lifetime certification even further,” said Ulmer.
“Already certified for one of the longest lifetimes of any fighter, an increase would greatly reduce future costs for all F-35 customers over several decades to come.”
The F-35A airframe completed its testing at BAE Systems in Brough in the UK and the F-35B and C variants were tested at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. All variants undergo final tear-down inspections at the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, US.