Flight testing of the F-35 JSF has got off to a promising start in 2011, with all three variants exceeding their planned schedule in January and February.
Lockheed Martin’s vice president of JSF program Tom Burbage told a briefing at the Avalon Airshow on Thursday that the program had completed 114 flights so far this year and that it was on track to complete more than 800 flights in 2011, with the previously troubled F-35B STOVL variant tracking well after exceeding its planned schedule by more than 50 per cent and completing 34 vertical landings.
Burbage said the aircraft’s Martin Baker ejection seat had been certified recently after initial challenges in making it suitable for a wider variety of body shapes and weights than required on ‘legacy’ fighters. He also said he was confident that development issues with the revolutionary helmet mounted sighting (HMS) system, specifically with latency and acuity issues at night will be overcome this year, but added that a “risk off-ramp” of a more conventional helmet sighting system was in place if needed.
The first production F-35A, AF-06 made its first flight last week and will soon be followed by AF-07, both of which have been instrumented for flight sciences and envelope expansion work at Edwards AFB.