U.S. Marines successfully removed and replaced an F-35B Lightning II LiftFan for the first time at sea aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) variant’s third and final shipboard developmental test phase in November.
The F-35 Lightning II Patuxent River Integrated Test Force from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 and personnel from Lockheed Martin observed as the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 Marines tested the LiftFan removal and replacement process. Prior to embarking America, the VMX-1 maintainers leveraged their experience in legacy AV-8B Harrier and F/A-18 Hornet squadrons while learning and testing land-based F-35B maintenance procedures.
As they conducted the first LiftFan swap at sea, the Marines accounted for and tracked each step of the process by entering the individual maintenance steps into ALIS, the Autonomic Logistic Information System, which equips personnel with the ability to plan ahead, maintain and sustain F-35 subsystems over the life of the aircraft.
Testing the ability to swap entire engines, engine components and LiftFans at sea proved the shipboard maintenance construct and provided critical hands-on experience dealing with the confined space and deck motion aboard ship—vital elements that cannot be replicated ashore.
Their testing also refined and improved the procedures, ensuring efficiency of future training and maintenance actions by fleet maintainers.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The reason why the US Navy announced this “feat” of at-sea maintenance 8 months after it happened is not clear, unless it is part of the continuing “feel-good” stories that the F-35 enterprise continues to spout.
But, any way you look at it, this is a prime example of misinformation, and even arguably of government-sponsored “fake news” because it is untruthful from the very first sentence.
As he made clear in his final report, the Pentagon’s outgoing Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, attempts to change the F-35B’s engine during the November 2016 sea trials of the F-35B were far from successful.
While preparing to remove the engine, the maintenance “crew found that one aircraft (BF-20) had a thrust pin that had unseated,” and which required investigation.
In addition, while reinstalling the engine, a part fell onto the lift fan, “damaging a rotor strut…..Repairs to this strut took another couple of days to complete.”
Because of the “unusual circumstances of this event primarily drove the 2-week long [Remove & Install] process,” Gilmore said.
The above US Navy press release ignores these events, even though they caused the engine change to take over two weeks (!), but this is typical of the F-35 enterprise’s selective approach to the truth in its communications.)