Tag Archives: Flight

F-35C Completes First Night Flight Aboard Aircraft Carrier

By on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

The F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter conducted its first carrier-based night flight operations aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego Nov. 13.

Navy test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Ted “Dutch” Dyckman piloted F-35C test aircraft CF-03 for the inaugural night flight, taking off from USS Nimitz (CVN 68). At 6:01 p.m. Dyckman conducted a series of planned touch and goes before making an arrested landing at 6:40 pm.

The night flight was part of Development Testing I (DT-I) for the F-35C, which commenced Nov. 3 and is expected to last two weeks. The Nimitz is hosting the F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 during the initial sea trials of the F-35C.

During DT-I, the test team has conducted a series of events designed to gradually expand the aircraft-operating envelope at sea, including crosswind and low-energy, high-wind catapult launches and approaches to test the aircraft’s ability to perform in both nominal and off-nominal conditions.

Through Nov. 13, two test F-35C aircraft have completed 28 flights for a combined 34.5 flight hours and accomplished more than 75 percent of threshold test requirements. The aircraft also performed 108 catapult launches, 215 planned touch-and-go landings, two long touch and go landings, 110 arrested landings and zero bolters.

Testing thus far has demonstrated the aircraft’s exceptional handling qualities throughout all tested launch and recovery conditions. F-35C maintenance and operations have integrated well with standard Navy carrier procedures onboard Nimitz. The F-35C has proven its ability to operate in the carrier environment and has consistently caught the optimal three-wire during arrested landings. The test team successfully landed during every attempt, with zero hook-down bolters, or failures to catch an arresting cable on the flight deck.

The goal of DT-I, the first of three at-sea test phases planned for the F-35C, is to collect environmental data through added instrumentation to measure the F-35C’s integration to flight deck operations and to further define the F-35C’s operating parameters aboard the aircraft carrier. A thorough assessment of how well the F-35C operated in the shipboard environment will advise the Navy of any adjustments necessary to ensure that the fifth-generation fighter is fully capable and ready to deploy to the fleet in 2018.

The successful night flight of the F-35C represents a step forward in the development of the Navy’s next generation fighter.

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Iran claims successful test flight of replica US drone

By on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Iran said Monday that a copy of an American drone downed over its territory in 2011 had successfully completed its first test flight, promising to release footage of the experiment.

Tehran captured the US RQ-170 Sentinel in December 2011 while it was in its airspace, apparently on a mission to spy on the country’s nuclear sites, media in the United States reported.

Iran said it had taken control of the ultra hi-tech drone and forced it down in the desert where it was recovered nearly intact.

Washington says the drone crashed after experiencing a technical glitch.

In May, a military official said Iranian engineers had successfully built a replica of the American drone and that it would soon take a test flight.

Images broadcast by state television at the time appeared to show two near-identical drones.

“As promised, we have conducted the flight and a film of it will be broadcast shortly,” General Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards air wing, was quoted as saying by the corps’ own website.

Apart from a fast-moving ballistic weapons program, Iran has been producing drones since 2010 which the defence ministry says are capable of firing missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (more than 600 miles).

Tehran says its weapons programs are purely for defensive purposes, but the United States whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain across the Gulf has often voiced concerns.

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Novel Rocket Design Flight Tested

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists recently flight tested a new rocket design that includes a high-energy fuel and a motor design that also delivers a high degree of safety.

“What we’re trying to do is break the performance versus sensitivity curve, and make a rocket that’s both very high-energy, as well as very safe,” said Bryce Tappan, an energetic materials chemist at the Laboratory.

“Typically, when you look at a propellant that’s high-performance, it’s not as safe a material.” See the flight tests and hear how Tappan and his research partners at New Mexico Tech and Penn State accomplished a fully successful flight in a new video on the Laboratory’s YouTube Channel.

Conventional solid-fuel rocket motors work by combining a fuel and an oxidizer, a material usually rich in oxygen, to enhance the burning of the fuel. In higher-energy fuels this mixture can be somewhat unstable, and can contain sensitive high explosives that can detonate under high shock loads, high temperatures, or other conditions.

The new rocket fuel and motor design adds a higher degree of safety by separating the fuel from the oxidizer, both novel formulations that are, by themselves, not able to detonate.

“Because the fuel is physically separated from the oxidizer,” said Tappan, “you can utilize higher-energy propellants.”

After years of development and bench-top static tests, the new rocket design was recently flight tested at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center’s Socorro launch site, part of New Mexico Tech. The new rocket design was tested against conventional, high-energy commercial rockets to enable a comparison of data gathered on velocity, altitude, burn rate, and other parameters.

“You don’t have to do much more than a few seconds of YouTube searching to find numerous failed rocket tests,” said Tappan. “So, I had that worry in the back of my mind. But once we saw that successful launch go off, it was the culmination of a lot of years of research, it was very satisfying to see it fly.”

Researchers will now work to scale-up the design, as well as explore miniaturization of the system, in order to exploit all potential applications that would require high-energy, high-velocity, and correspondingly high safety margins.

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GMLRS Alternative Warhead Completes Operational Flight Tests

Lockheed Martin successfully completed all Developmental Test/Operational Test (DT/OT) flight tests for the new Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) Alternative Warhead at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The DT/OT tests included rockets fired at both mid and long range. All rockets were fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher.

The DT/OT tests were the first tactically representative flight tests against simulated targets, and were also the first tests conducted with soldiers operating the fire control system. These missions were preparation for the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation exercise, which will be conducted in the fall of 2014.

“With actual soldiers at the controls in realistic battlefield conditions, the team achieved all of the mission objectives,” said Ken Musculus, vice president of Tactical Missiles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

In April 2012, Lockheed Martin received a $79.4 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop the Alternative Warhead Program (AWP). Under the terms of the contract, the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development phase of the program runs 36 months, focusing on system performance, warhead qualification and producibility.

The Alternative Warhead is designed to engage the same target set and achieve the same area-effects requirement as the GMLRS submunitions warhead, but without the lingering danger of unexploded ordnance. The Alternative Warhead is being developed by ATK under subcontract to Lockheed Martin.

The AWP is part of a U.S. Department of Defense plan to create a GMLRS variant which meets the DoD’s cluster-munition policy. The Lockheed Martin GMLRS AWP will also be compliant with the provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions international treaty.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 113,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.

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F-35s Return to Limited Flight Operations

The 26 Air Force F-35s Lightning II joint strike fighters assigned here returned to limited flight operations July 17 with the approval of commanders and Air Force airworthiness authorities.

The decision to return to flight was coordinated between the F-35 Joint Program Office, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Materiel Command to ensure accurate return to flight instructions were delivered to Airmen.

“This is the same process the Air Force uses after any suspension of operations,” said Col. Carl Schaefer, Air Force Joint Strike Fighter Integration Chief. “Safety remains our top priority as the F-35 resumes development and training flights.”

The Navy and Marine Corps variants here also returned to limited flight operations July 17 with the approval of Navy airworthiness authorities.

The return has a limited flight clearance that includes an engine inspection regimen and restricted flight rules according to defense officials. While the safety investigation is not yet complete, recently completed inspections indicate that the aircraft can resume flight under the prescribed flight limitations. The limits will remain in place while the safety investigation continues its analysis to determine root cause.

Under the rules of the flight resumption, the F-35s are limited to a maximum speed of Mach 0.9 and 18 degrees of angle of attack. They can go from minus 1 G to 3 Gs, defense official said. After three hours of flight time, the front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.

“In terms of our current training syllabus, we don’t anticipate these flight limitations will slow down our training,” said Navy Capt. Paul Haas, 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander.

Despite the grounding, Air Force, Marine and Navy F-35 maintainers and pilots remained busy completing academic and flight simulator training and conducting additional inspections on the aircraft.

“I definitely wouldn’t call this ‘down time’ here,” said Haas. “There is always more work for our team to do with this program. It’s always moving forward, and this experience drives that point home. There were a lot of valuable lessons learned by our community during this incident, both locally and at the higher F-35 program level.”

While the F-35s have returned to limited flight, it will not be appearing at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference July 15.

“While we’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to participate in the airshow,” he added, “we remain fully committed to the program itself and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and to partners.”

The F-35 fleet was grounded July 3 in the wake of a June 23 engine fire on the runway at Eglin . No one was injured during the incident.

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F-15E Takes First Flight with New Radar System

The first 389th Fighter Squadron F-15E Strike Eagle received a Radar Modernization Program, or RMP, upgrade here in June.

The inaugural flight with the new radar system was flown by Capt. Matthew Riley, a 389th Fighter Squadron pilot, and Maj. Jacob Lindaman, a 389th FS weapon systems officer.

“The new radar system does everything faster, is extremely precise and requires less maintenance,” Riley said. “It can designate air-to-air and air-to-ground simultaneously, allowing us to track enemy aircraft and identify ground targets at the same time.”

According to the Air Force’s first RMP report, the new radar system is designed to retain functionality of the old legacy radar system while providing expanded mission employment capabilities to include:

  • Near simultaneous interleaving of selected air-to-air and air-to-ground functions
  • Enhanced air-to-air and air-to-ground classified combat identification capabilities
  • Longer range air-to-air target detection and enhanced track capabilities
  • Longer range and higher resolution air-to-ground radar mapping
  • Improved ground moving target track capability

“In order to maintain our combat edge in today’s challenging environment, Air Combat Command must balance resources between refurbishing our existing fleet and investing in future weapon systems,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, the commander of ACC.

The RMP replaces the F-15E’s more than 20-year-old legacy APG-70 mechanically scanned radar with an active electronically-scanned array, or AESA, system designated as the APG-82(V)1.

“The old radar system is hydraulic, has moving parts and requires three maintainers to perform repairs after every 30 flight hours,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Schildgen, a 366th Fighter Wing avionics manager. “The new radar system is a beam scan, doesn’t have any moving parts and is projected to only require one maintainer to perform repairs after more than 2,000 flight hours.”

The modification process is managed by Boeing representatives and takes two to three months to complete for each aircraft. The tentative plan is to complete RMP for 47 aircraft from the 389th FS and 391st Fighter Squadron by 2017.

So far, the F-15E fighter aircraft has flown more than 11 hours with the new radar.

“This radar was made exclusively for the strike eagle and should outlast the jets,” Riley said.

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F-35 Returns to Limited Flight, Officials Rule Out Farnborough

While the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has returned to limited flying, it will not be appearing at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference today.

The F-35 fleet was grounded July 3 in the wake of a June 23 engine fire on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Navy and Air Force airworthiness authorities approved the F-35’s return to flight yesterday.

The return has a limited flight clearance that includes an engine inspection regimen and restricted flight rules, Kirby said, adding that the limits will remain in place until the root cause of the engine fire is identified and corrected.

While the investigation is not yet complete, “we haven’t seen anything that points to a systemic issue across the fleet with respect to the engine,” the admiral said.

Even with the return to flight, U.S. and British officials decided not to send Marine Corps and Royal Air Force F-35B aircraft across the Atlantic to participate in the Farnborough airshow. “This decision was reached after a consultation with senior leaders and airworthiness authorities, despite the decision by airworthiness authorities to clear the aircraft to return to limited flight,” Kirby said.

“While we’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to participate in the airshow,” he added, “we remain fully committed to the program itself and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and to partners.”

Under the rules of the flight resumption, the F-35s are limited to a maximum speed of Mach 0.9 and 18 degrees of angle of attack. They can go from minus 1 G to a 3 G’s, the admiral said. After three hours of flight time, each front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope. “That was a pretty significant limitation in terms of being able to fly them across the Atlantic,” he added.

This is not the first aircraft to have problems like this, Kirby noted, and it won’t be the last. “New programs often go through these kinds of challenges,” he said. “We’re confident that we’re going to get through this.”

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