Fighter stress test

The first structural test airframe for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has arrived in the UK, in preparation for testing at BAE System’s Brough site in East Yorkshire.

The first structural test airframe for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has arrived in the UK, in preparation for testing at BAE Systems’ Brough site in East Yorkshire.

Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, will benefit from six static test airframes constructed for the system development and demonstration phase of the F-35 Lightning II programme.

Mick Ord, BAE Systems’ managing director of the F-35 Lightning II business, said: ‘This is another major milestone in the F-35 programme, and we’re delighted to take delivery of the full-scale static testing airframe.

‘BAE Systems is a principal sub-contractor to Lockheed Martin on the F-35 programme, and brings military aircraft expertise that is critical to the F-35 Lightning II airframe and systems.

‘We lead on several work share areas, of which structural testing is one.’

Testing of the airframe, dubbed AG-1, will be carried out via 165 hydraulic actuators to simulate the loads the aircraft would experience in flight.

Data will be captured using 4,000 sensors attached to the airframe.

According to BAE Systems, the test rig itself weighs around 365 tonnes and has approximately 85km of wiring spread around it to connect all the systems and sensors.

Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice-president and general manager of F-35 programme integration, said: ‘The work BAE Systems is performing on AG-1 highlights just one of the UK’s many indigenous industrial capabilities that this programme relies upon.

‘We are conducting the largest-ever test programme for a fighter, and the BAE Systems structural test facilities expand our bandwidth and help us maintain our schedule.’

Ord added: ‘BAE Systems is responsible for carrying out a large percentage of the structural and fatigue testing required to qualify all three of the F-35 variants.

‘Some testing has been carried out on smaller components, but this will be among the first of the full airframe tests to be carried out.’

Trials are scheduled to begin in late July and will run for approximately 15 months before the airframes are shipped back to the US.