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F-35B ready for ‘high alpha’ tests

by Mike Hoffman on September 4, 2012

It’s hard to imagine a much scarier scenario than turning off the engine to an aircraft in flight to test if it’ll restart.

That’s just what Navy test pilots did with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter this summer. And lucky for those pilots and the Joint Strike Fighter program, the F-35B and its F135 engines turned back on.

Navy officials announced the F-35B passed  it’s “air start” tests meaning the program can move on to “high alpha, or angle-of-attack tests” — the maneuvers that set the fifth generation fighters apart from their 4th generation (F-15 and F-16) peers when it comes to a dog fight

“High alpha, or angle-of-attack tests, are important for us to fully evaluate the aircraft’s handling characteristics and warfighting capability,” Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Matthew Kelly said in a statement. “Maximizing the performance of the airplane around the very slow edges of the flight envelope is probably some of the most challenging testing we will conduct. After we get through it, we’ll know a lot more about how this aircraft will perform during combat within visual range.”

Test pilots completed 27 engine restarts at different altitudes of flight, Navy officials announced Tuesday. The Navy completed the tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., over the Rogers and Rosamond Dry Lakes.

Air Force officials have already completed air start testing on the F-35A. Navy leaders said they were able to benefit from the Air Force’s experience.

“We’ve recently completed air start testing on the F-35A, so we’re able to share some of our expertise with the Pax team as well,” said Lt. Col. George N. Schwartz, Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and Government Site Director, in a statement.

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