Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine, which powers the F-35A aircraft, has achieved a significant milestone by demonstrating the full lifecycle of its cold section during accelerated mission testing in the United States.
The cold section – fan and compressor – was put through 9400 total accumulated cycles, which is the equivalent of about 14 years of operation or 2000 F-35 missions.
The testing, which focused on the F135 engine that powers the conventional take-off and landing variant of the F-35, took place from August 2014 until October 2017 at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee. It involved running the engine in simulated operational conditions.
Accelerated mission testing is conducted to test and validate engine reliability and maintainability during its lifespan, as well as identify any potential issues well before being encountered by an operational fleet of aircraft.
Engine Structural Integrity Officer Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Rashmin Gunaratne, of the Defence Aviation Safety Authority, said the testing was conducted via a program called Lead the Fleet.
“The goal was to have a couple of engines being operated at a higher rate than the rest of the fleet to determine how the components are degrading over time,” FLTLT Gunaratne said.
“Being ahead of the rest of the engine fleet – in terms of running time – means engine failures or faults due to usage can be captured by the test engines rather than operational engines.
“It also allows sufficient time for the engineers to revise inspection schedules and servicing timeframes, as well as modify components based on the test results.”
FLTLT Gunaratne said it was important Australia continued to contribute to the Lead the Fleet program because it was focused on gaining efficiencies and improving safety.
“Further changes to inspections and component design are expected based on the program’s results,” he said.