An F-35A Lightning II conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, known as AF-1, completed its final test mission for clean wing flutter recently. Flutter testing was conducted to ensure the jet’s structure could withstand various aerodynamic loads verifying the F-35A’s design. The mission, flown by Maj. Ryan “Gunner” Reinhardt, marks the conclusion of three years of testing that now allows the F-35A to proceed with tests continuing to expand its flight envelope and validate predictions in real-world scenarios.
The testing demonstrated the F-35 is clear of flutter, at speeds up to 1.6 Mach and 700 knots with weapon bay doors open or closed, critical to performing its combat mission. Data collected proves the F-35A flight dynamics maintains a large margin between its designed airspeed and airspeeds where possible flutter could occur.
According to Lockheed Martin, thirteen F-35s are dedicated to flight testing for airworthiness, engine performance and mission systems testing. In addition, a series of tests of a wide range of F-35 systems - for communications, electronic warfare, navigation, and more - have been air tested aboard fully equipped F-35 test aircraft and the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATB or CATBird), a highly modified Boeing 737. Other modified fighter and passenger aircraft have tested F-35 mission systems in flight.