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Center Performs Mission Critical Tests on F-35

Arnold Engineering Development Center conducted aerodynamic loads testing on a 12-percent scale model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the center's 16-foot transonic wind tunnel.
by Philip Lorenz
Arnold AFB TN (AFNS) Jul 21, 2006
Arnold Engineering Development Center recently conducted successful aerodynamic loads testing on a 12-percent scale model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the center's 16-foot transonic wind tunnel.

The test was tentatively the next to last in a series of similar tests providing critical support to the F-35 program before aircraft production can commence.

The F-35 model, which had modified exterior mold lines, is capable of being reconfigured, allowing the test team from Lockheed Martin to run it in two variants, a conventional takeoff and landing version for the U.S. Air Force and a short takeoff and vertical landing for use by the U.S. Marines, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

"They were looking at the aerodynamic loads on the wings, overall aircraft and the horizontal tail," said Melissa Minter, an Aerospace Testing Alliance project engineer at the Propulsion Wind Tunnel Facility.

The F-35 is a stealth, multi-role fighter with both air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities. It is designed to meet the warfighting needs, including survivability, precision engagement capability and mobility, of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines and allies.

The aircraft exploits a high level of commonality and modularity to maximize affordability, keeping life cycle costs down. The Air Force's version is intended to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

The short takeoff and vertical landing version will replace the Marine Corp's AV-8B Harrier, the Royal Navy's Sea Harrier and the Royal Air Force's GR7 Harrier.

The Department of Defense selected Lockheed Martin's version of the Joint Strike Fighter as the winner of the competition to develop the new fighter in 2001.

"The critical design reviews for the F-35 conventional takeoff and landing and short takeoff and vertical landing variants are complete," noted Marc Skelley, Defense Department project manager at Arnold Engineering Development Center.

"The next step is the critical design reviews for the carrier variant, where the program office approves the final design and the airplane moves into production," he said.

"We're tailing off on the end of our Joint Strike Fighter wind tunnel testing," Skelley said. "The unique part of loads testing is that we put hundreds of pressure taps all over the fuselage, the wings and tail - to get a pressure distribution of the load acting on all of the vehicle's surfaces."

"Lockheed analysts take that data and use it to design the structure of the aircraft," he explained. "The next and last test in this series is tentatively scheduled for later this year."

"That one and the few other wind tunnel tests remaining will allow the Lockheed team to build that final aerodynamic database," Skelley concluded.

Source: Armed Forces News Service

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