Testing in the aerodynamic wind tunnels at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, USA, helped prepare the US Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for its first external weapons release carried out earlier this year.
During a flight completed by the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Task Force in September, four 500-lb Guided Bomb Unit-12 (GBU-12) laser-guided inert bombs were successfully released from the pylons on wings of an F-35C at the Navy test range in Maryland, USA, during test runs.
According to Aerospace Testing Alliance (ATA) senior engineer David Anderson, the first F-35 weapon integration tests were conducted using 1/15th-scale models at AEDC, and the GBU-12 had specifically been tested on six weapon separation or captive trajectory support tests at the Tennessee facility.
“These tests were conducted from the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL), short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) and carrier aircraft variants, and obtained separation characteristics of the GBU-12, and various other weapons, from the weapons bay internal carriage and external wing positions,” Anderson said.
Based on Anderson’s calculations, it is estimated that the 1/15th-scale Lockheed Martin F-35 model was tested in (wind tunnel) 4T for more than 3,300 user occupancy hours at a cost exceeding US$12 million.
“I am very proud of the work that we accomplished on the F-35 program in tunnel 4T at AEDC. The individual tests were long and complex, and in most cases, required the unique capabilities and expertise available only here at AEDC. I believe that through our commitment to meet the customer’s expectations, we [helped] deliver a product second to none.”
According to a statement from the aircraft’s joint program office, the recent flight “confirmed the accuracy of the predicted release trajectory.”
Last November, the Navy successfully landed F-35Cs on an aircraft carrier, off the coast of San Diego, California, USA. The service expects to declare initial operational capability in 2018.
December 3, 2015