A third phase of durability testing on an F-35 Lightning II fighter jet airframe is due to begin at BAE Systems Military Air & Information.
Each phase of testing, lasting a total of 8,000 hours, is equivalent to an entire lifetime of the airframe once it enters service. Two complete ‘lifetimes’ of the airframe – equivalent to 16,000 hours – have already been completed on a Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variant airframe at the company’s structural test facility and the third set of tests will commence in early 2016. These tests prove the airframe will be able to safely handle a variety of flying conditions it could experience when in service.
The 350-tonne airframe structural test rig at the Brough site was built to ‘fly’ the F-35 Lightning II jet through a series of flight scenarios. More than 20 miles of wiring, 2,500 strain gauges and 160 loading actuators are designed to subject the aircraft to a range of loads that it could typically encounter in actual flight.