November 10, 2017: A full scale durability test airframe known as AJ-1 of the F-35A aircraft has successfully completed its third life testing, equivalent to 24,000 hours of 'flying', in a unique testing facility at BAE Systems’ site in Brough, East Yorkshire.
While in the 350-tonnes structural test rig it has been subjected to and tested on the range of loads it would experience in actual flight, with durability tests carried out to simulate real life fleet usage based on projected operational requirements.
This durability test rig is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom and it has supported the testing of AJ-1 since it arrived in Brough in 2009. It is fitted with more than 20 miles of wiring, 2,500 strain gauges and 160 loading actuators which are attached to the airframe during testing.
The F-35A durability test airframe will now leave the rig and travel to the United States where it will go through further detailed inspections.
Kathy Nesmith, F-35 Joint Program Office Airframe Team Lead, said, “The F-35 programme requires a service life of 8,000 flight hours. This is verified through durability testing to two lifetimes or 16,000 hours. Completing third life testing on the F-35A durability article will provide us the data to enable the warfighter to maintain and sustain this aircraft beyond 2050.”
Matt Edghill, F-35 Structures Development Director, Lockheed Martin said, “The 5th generation F-35, with advanced speed and agility, pushes the boundaries of engineering and physics. This durability testing confirms the airframe will perform in and withstand the demanding environments it will experience throughout its operational lifetime. Completion of the F-35A’s third lifetime test gives our programme great confidence in the aircraft’s strength and durability for decades to come.”
Andy Prendergast, Operations Manager for Structural and Dynamic Test at BAE Systems, said, "This testing has pushed the F-35A airframe to its limits to make sure it will fly safely and effectively throughout its lifetime. We have continually checked the airframe for any signs of stresses and strains and reported findings back to the programme so structural improvements could be made, if required, long before any issues appear in the flying fleet."
The F-35 is the most recent in a line of aircraft to have been tested at Brough which includes the Buccaneer, Harrier, Hawk and most recently, Eurofighter Typhoon, which continues to be tested at the site.