BAE completes full-scale durability test on F-35A’s airframe

13 November 2017 (Last Updated November 13th, 2017 11:40)

BAE Systems has successfully completed a full scale durability test of the F-35A Lightning II aircraft’s airframe.

BAE completes full-scale durability test on F-35A’s airframe
F-35A during a structural test in Brough, East Yorkshire, UK. Credit: BAE Systems.

BAE Systems has successfully completed a full-scale durability test of the F-35A Lightning II aircraft’s airframe.

The latest test marks the completion of F-35A aircraft’s third life testing, equivalent to 24,000 hours of ‘flying’, at BAE Systems’ facility in Brough, East Yorkshire.

Known as the AJ-1, the airframe is representative of the F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant of the jet, BAE stated.

F-35 Joint Program Office Airframe team lead Kathy Nesmith said: “The F-35 programme requires a service life of 8,000 flight hours.

“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 warfighter to maintain and sustain this aircraft beyond 2050.”

The aircraft was on the 350t structural test rig when it was subjected to a range of loads it would experience in actual flight.

The durability tests were performed to simulate real-life fleet usage based on projected operational requirements.

The test rig includes 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 undergo further detailed inspections in the US.

“Completion of the F-35A’s third-lifetime test gives our programme great confidence in the aircraft’s strength and durability for decades to come."

Lockheed Martin F-35 Structures Development director Matt Edghill said: “The fifth-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 programme great confidence in the aircraft’s strength and durability for decades to come.”

Both F-35B and F-35C durability test articles have also completed 16,000-hour second life testing and are continuing with additional testing to maximise the life of the aircraft.