Tests Simulate A Carrier Landing
The carrier variant of the F-35 Lightning II is undergoing drop
testing at the Vought Aircraft facility in Dallas. Vought is one of
only two test labs in the country that has full-scale carrier
suitability drop test capabilities, the other being Boeing's St.
Louis plant. According to John Vaught, Test Lab Manager, the F-35
Drop Test Program in total represents a very high level of
complexity generally not seen on previous drop test programs. "The
ability and know-how to do these drop tests are very unique," he
F-35C Drop Test
Hundreds of wires snake along the light green test fuselage,
which is suspended in a harness just below the rafters of the test
facility. Those are connected to an array of instruments that are
streaming signals back to a computer which will compare the data to
computer models. The testing is necessary because as a fighter jet
approaches the deck of a carrier, forty-six thousand pounds of
airplane traveling at 138 knots hits the deck at full military
power, creating enormous stress on the airframe and landing gear.
Every part of the gear must withstand that stress repeatedly with
no structural failure. F-35 Drop Test Director Tom Foster says the
instruments measure measuring strain, acceleration, deflection and
There are 512 data channels connected to this aircraft.
Twenty-five hundred data samples are gathered per second per
channel during each drop test for this aircraft. High speed video
of each landing gear is simultaneously recorded at two thousand
frames per second and synchronized with the aircraft test data for
post-test, image-to-data correlation. In other words, each high
speed video picture can be directly compared to the load and
deflection data measured and recorded on each landing gear.
Eventually, there will be about 53 landing gear drop tests at
various aircraft roll, pitch and landing sync rates performed on
this one jet. Dummy ordinance will eventually be loaded onto the
test airframe to gather data for maximum landing weight
F-35 Conventional Take Off And Landing Variant
With the level and type of test capabilities the labs possess,
Vought has a long, and very reputable history of accomplishing
carrier suitability testing for the Navy, said John. "We can go all
the way back to the XC-142, F-8, A-7, S3A, and now the F-35. All of
these legacy aircraft programs required fullscale drop testing to
qualify for aircraft carrier operations. Full-scale dynamic tests
of this nature present a very complex test set of problems to run,"
The F-35 tests at Vought should be completed within the next few
months. The Carrier Variant F-35C should make its first flight in
the second quarter of 2010.