Tuesday, November 4, 2014

F-35C lands on carrier... Doesn't explode!



What?  You were expecting it to crash?  Explode?  Plunge into the watery depths?

Carrier trials would simply not have happened if simulated tests performed on land did not pass with flying colors.  Infamously, the F-35C's initial land trials were a bit of a bust.  This forced a tailhook redesign.

There it is.
The newer tailhook is more heavily dampened and boasts a sharper "hook".  This addresses two of the F-35C's three major issues with its tailhook.  Earlier models were unable to snag the arresting wires reliably enough to be deemed carrier-worthy. As it was, oscillations created by the rear landing gear wheels created a bouncing effect that made it difficult catch the wire.  This is exacerbated by the short distance between the landing gear's rear wheels and a tail hook that was too dull.

The fix?
This does not mean that the F-35C is out of the woods yet.  The aircraft needs to not only demonstrate the capability to reliably catch the wire, but to do so in rough weather and without causing undue stress to the aircraft.  Even it the JSF can land perfectly 100% of the time, it means little if the resulting stresses cause cracks in the bulkheads or engines.

The real results likely will not be known until a thorough inspection is done after carrier testing is complete.  Also, while the the landing trials will be receiving all the headlines, more mundane tasks need to be tested as well.  As it is, the JSF's large single engine and stealth coating may prove to be difficult maintain in a wet and salty environment.

We will have to wait and see.

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