A video from Flight Test Safety Committee's conference early last May offers a fascinating insight into the F-35 test program. A talk put on by NAVAIR and presented by the F-35 Government Flight Test Director, Lt. Col. D. Tom Fields, goes into detail about a couple of challenges the program has faced over the last 12 months, and it's is presented in a totally frank and unafraid manner. The open tone of the address is downright refreshing considering the usual one-sided spin we get from the F-35 Program Office and its corporate partners.
In particular, two separate testing events are discussed during the talk: Seminar by F-35 testers details tense nighttime carrier vertical landing that almost went wrong and the breaking off of a F-35B's refueling probe tip during tanker trials.
During the presentation, never seen before nighttime video recorded by the aircraft's helmet mounted display (HMD) is shown. As we have discussed many times before, the F-35's helmet uses footage from the aircraft's Distributed Aperture System, as well as a camera mounted on the helmet itself, to seamlessly project a monochromatic picture of the environment around the pilot. In the videos, we get a much better idea of what exactly the pilot sees at night while flying the F-35 and how they get to see it.
Not only does the Colonel's presentation give a clear picture of just a few of the intricacies of integrating the F-35B with "Gator Navy" flattops, but a display malfunction nearly caused disaster during one of the nighttime shipboard landing tests. Fields makes it clear: "We got real lucky that night."
We also get to see a weapon-laden F-35B struggle to refuel behind a KC-135R, and eventually its refueling probe's tip gets snapped off in the tanker's "iron maiden" receptacle basket. The test's goal was to see if the F-35B could use its afterburner to go "higher, heavier, and slower" while refueling. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the War Zone blog.
Click here for the video (night flight starts at 22 min mark) on the Google Drive website.