Thursday, May 10, 2012

F-35 testing continues to go well

One of the things that doesn't get the coverage it deserves is how well the F-35 is doing in testing - all variations.

Last year the program exceeded its cumulative 2011 flight test goals a month early and is ahead of plan for 2012. The F-35B was taken off probation and completed initial sea trials in fall of 2011 aboard the USS WASP doing a total of 72 Short Take-Offs (STOs) and 72 Vertical Landings (VLs) were completed during a 19 day period at sea.

This year looks like much the same.  Through the first 4 months of 2012, the program continues to make significant progress:
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II flight test program continues to make progress during the first four months of 2012. In March, the program completed 123 test flights totaling 223 flight hours, setting a record for the most System Development and Demonstration (SDD) flights and flight hours for a single month.
During the time period, the SDD fleet surpassed the 15,000 total test point threshold, completing approximately 25 percent of the SDD program’s entire requirement of more than 59,000 test points. Overall the F-35 test program remains ahead of the 2012 flight test plan, which calls for the accumulation of 1,001 test flights and 7,873 baseline test points as well as additional points beyond the original plan. 
Through April 30, the program completed 373 flights against a plan of 281and achieved 2,810 test points – 2,307 of which were baseline points earned against a plan of 2,151. At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., 30 local area orientation flights were completed totaling 39.5 flight hours as progress toward F-35 pilot training checkout continues.
In addition to those milestone, the Block 2A software is nearing completion:

Another aspect of flight testing is the progressive check out of the latest version of mission system software known as Block 2A. To date, more than 90 percent of Block 2A airborne software code is complete with more than 85 percent of that code currently being flight or lab tested. Block 2A flight test is being conducted at Edwards AFB and will continue through this year. Block 2A is scheduled for “ready for training” in the summer of 2013.

The obvious point being that with the completion of the latest block of mission software, pilots can begin training on it by next summer.

Finally, the F-35 helmet appears to have a fix as revealed by VADM Venlet in Senate testimony yesterday. The problem has been jitter and lag time issues:
A “micro-inertial measurement unit” is expected to fix the jitter, while “signal processing changes in the software and the architecture” could fix the lag, Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program manager said after testifying at a May 8 U.S. Senate hearing.
All good, all demonstrating a fighter headed down the right runway and beginning to test out the way developers thought she would.


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