The first F-35C test aircraft has left Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for the first volley of carrier-suitability tests at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
CF-2, the second test aircraft delivered by Lockheed Martin to the Navy, arrived at Lakehurst on June 25 and was flown by test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus. While there, the airplane will be used for jet blast deflector tests, including deck heating, deflector panel cooling and other aspects. Shipboard testing is scheduled for 2013.
But this isn’t exactly how things were planned, and this change-up, unlike others that have dogged the Joint Strike Fighter program, isn’t something to worry about. Originally a different test aircraft, CF-1, was supposed to head to Lakehurst first. However, tests earlier this summer went better than expected, allowing a change of plans, said Cmdr. Victor Chen, a Naval Air Systems Command spokesman.
“F-35C testing is currently ahead of schedule, allowing previously unplanned testing on CF-1 to eliminate the requirements that caused it to be the only aircraft that could support initial (jet blast deflector) testing. With both aircraft able to support, the decision was made to keep CF-1 at the F-35 integrated test facility at NAS Patuxent River in order to perform a software upgrade, modify flight test instrumentation and execute flight test points, which it did on its first Pax fly day,” Chen said.
Two test aircraft are expected to go to Lakehurst later this summer for more carrier-suitability tests, including catapult launches and roll-in and arrested landings.