The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has successfully completed ‘leak-free’ fuel-system checkout testing — an achievement its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, claimed was ‘remarkable’.
The tests included methodically filling, measuring, weighing and emptying each internal tank with jet fuel, leading up to filling all tanks at operational pressure. The air-refuelling system was also checked.
‘Fuel leaks are a typical problem for modern high-performance fighter aircraft, so this success is an early indication the F-35 is a solid design and well built,’ said Doug Pearson, vice-president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.
‘The F-35 is a stealthy aircraft built with very tight tolerances, and it is remarkable that during the entire comprehensive fuel system testing there were no external leaks from any of the fuel tanks.’
After the fuel-system checkout was concluded in March, the F-35 was moved to a Lockheed Martin-run station to begin equipment and component installations for structural-coupling trials and ground-vibration testing. This is in preparation for delivery of the aircraft to US and international customers.
The inaugural flight of the first F-35, a conventional take-off and landing version, remains on schedule for this autumn. The aircraft is expected to replace the UK’s Harrier GR7s and Sea Harriers.