ABOARD USS EISENHOWER --- Two Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets wrapped up a second round of successful test flights off the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier on Friday, a key milestone toward operational use of the jets by the U.S. Navy in coming years.
The flight tests took place about 100 miles off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, in crosswinds of about 40 knots, and included the first night flights at sea with a redesigned helmet made by Rockwell Collins Inc and Israel's Elbit Systems.
The high-risk flights also tested the jets' ability to take off with less airspeed, with after-burners and with heavier loads of simulated weapons. During normal F-35C launches, a jet goes from zero to 150 miles per hour, traveling the 310-foot length of the catapult in about two seconds.
The results will set the standards for fleetwide F-35C catapult launch settings for the service life of the aircraft, said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the $391 billion weapons program, the Pentagon's most expensive arms project.
U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Haley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, said developmental testing of the F-35C, the carrier variant of the new stealthy fighter jet, had been "pretty doggone good" compared with earlier aircraft.
"We're basically two years from being operational," Haley told reporters aboard the ship known as "Ike," which recently completed a nearly two-year period in dry dock maintenance. Navy officials said developmental testing of the F-35C is about 80 percent complete, with a third round of even more difficult at-sea testing planned next summer. (end of excerpt)
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