The US Air Force (USAF) has geared up to conduct chemical, and biological decontamination testing on the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
During the testing, the 461st Flight Test Squadron and Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force will determine the aircraft's ability to be decontaminated from chemical and biological weapons exposure.
The F-35A will be contaminated with simulants, which are tested to be safe, but mimic the properties of harmful agents, the USAF said in a statement.
Each test procedure will be conducted in three parts to demonstrate that the fighter’s survivability can be maintained even if exposed to such threats around the world.
461st chemical and biological 06 project lead Melanie Link said: “To contaminate the aircraft for our tests, we’re going to do engine runs at a different location (on the flightline) from the decontamination structure.
"We’re going to spray simulant down the engine inlet and let it get distributed throughout the interior of the aircraft.
“Once that contamination is done, the F-35 will get towed to the decontamination shelter and decontaminated.
"During decontamination, samples will be taken from both the aircraft and surrounding environment so we’ll have a baseline to see the effectiveness of how the decontamination process is working from beginning to end.”
The tests will be conducted at a new decontamination shelter comprising an external air beam shelter to protect the aircraft enclosure, tent to protect the enclosure from the elements such as wind loads and solar loads.
The aircraft enclosure allows the plane to be simultaneously decontaminated externally and internally within walls made up of insulated panels.
The other two parts of the shelter will decontaminate the F-35 by exposing it to high temperatures.
The heat at the facility is generated using large capacity field heaters and the Tactical Cargo and Rotary Wing Aircraft Decontamination systems.
Starting this month, the testing will be conducted through December this year.
Image: The decontamination shelter built by members of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Brad White.