AEDC prepped F-35 for first external weapons release


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

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