A full scale durability test airframe of the F-35A aircraft has successfully completed its third life testing, equivalent to 24,000 hours of ‘flying’, in BAE Systems’ unique testing facility in Brough, East Yorkshire, England.
The airframe, known as AJ-1, is representative of the F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing variant of the jet.
While in the 350-tonnes structural test rig, it has been subjected to, and tested on, the range of loads it would experience in actual flight, with durability tests carried out to simulate real life fleet usage based on projected operational requirements.
“Our durability test rig is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom and it has supported the testing of AJ-1 since it arrived in Brough in 2009,” said a BAE Systems spokesperson. “It is fitted with more than 20 miles of wiring, 2,500 strain gauges and 160 loading actuators which are attached to the airframe during testing.”
The F-35A durability test airframe will now leave the rig and travel to the United States where it will undergo further detailed inspections.
“The F-35 program requires a service life of 8,000 flight hours,” said Kathy Nesmith, F-35 Joint Program Office Airframe team lead. “This is verified through durability testing to two lifetimes or 16,000 hours. Completing third life testing on the F-35A durability article will provide us the data to enable the war fighter to maintain and sustain this aircraft beyond 2050.”
Matt Edghill, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Structures Development director, said, “The 5th generation F-35, with advanced speed and agility, pushes the boundaries of engineering and physics.
“This durability testing confirms the airframe will perform in and withstand the demanding environments it will experience throughout its operational lifetime. Completion of the F-35A’s third lifetime test gives our program great confidence in the aircraft’s strength and durability for decades to come.”
Commenting on the recent testing, Andy Prendergast, operations manager for Structural and Dynamic Test at BAE Systems, said, “This testing has pushed the F-35A airframe to its limits to make sure it will fly safely and effectively throughout its lifetime.
“We have continually checked the airframe for any signs of stresses and strains and reported findings back to the program so structural improvements could be made, if required, long before any issues appear in the flying fleet,” he continued.
BAE Systems lead structural testing on the CTOL variant of the F-35 with Lockheed Martin, the programms prime contractor, who is also responsible for testing of the aircraft’s other variants: the F-35B Short Take-Off; Vertical Landing; and the F-35C Carrier Variant.
Both the F-35B and F-35C durability test articles have completed 16,000 hour second life testing and are continuing with additional testing to maximize the life of the aircraft.
The F-35 is the latest in a line of aircraft to have been tested at Brough which includes the Buccaneer, Harrier, Hawk and most recently, Eurofighter Typhoon, which continues to be tested at the site.