The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin have completed F-35 static, drop test, and durability testing and early results indicate a potential for an increased service life certification for the F-35A variant.
The rigorous testing supports validation of the airframe’s strength and resilience to perform in the demanding environments it will experience throughout its operational lifetime. The final results will support fleet management and maintenance forecasting for decades of operations.
Ground testing includes a full-scale durability airframe of all three variants, which were loaded in unique test rigs and laboratories to simulate ground and flight load conditions during fleet operations. The F-35 aircraft’s service lifetime is 8,000 hours, and each test airframe is required to complete two life-times of testing, or 16,000 hours.
The F-35A vastly exceeded the requirement by completing three full life times of testing, or a simulated 24,000 hours, which gives the program confidence in a potential service-life increase.
“The transformational F-35 pushes the boundaries of engineering and physics with supersonic speed, agility, high attitude and angle of attack, weapons capacity, vertical landings, carrier operations and much more,” Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, said.
“Durability testing gives the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in the aircraft’s performance today and for decades to come.”
“We look forward to analysing the results and bringing forward the data to potentially extend the aircraft’s lifetime certification even further,” Ulmer said.
“Already certified for one of the longest lifetimes of any fighter, an increase would greatly reduce future costs for all F-35 customers over several decades to come.”
The F-35A airframe completed its testing at BAE Systems in Brough, England and the F-35B and C variants were tested at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. All variants undergo final teardown inspections at the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, Kansas.
News of frame durability will come as good news following debate around pricing and availability issues in the global fleet. Australia’s first F-35s are scheduled to arrive in-country later this year.