F-35 Tested in Extreme Weather Conditions

BF-05 Ice Cloud Calibration and Teams.The Pentagon’s F-35 Lightning II has been test-flying in extreme heat, artic cold, rain, humidity, ice and desert winds in a specially engineered climactic laboratory hangar at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida — as a way to prepare and certify the new aircraft to fly into any corner of the world.

“They have been testing since September of last year. They are seeing how the components handle a range of weather conditions. In the hangar they can replicate harsh desert winds and sun along with freezing rain conditions,” said Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program spokesman.

With 13 countries currently involved with the program, the F-35 must be tested in meteorological conditions representative of those locations from which it will operate, ranging from the heat of the Outback of Australia to the bitter cold of the Arctic Circle above Canada and Norway, an F-35 program office statement said.

The Air Force’s 96th Test Wing’s McKinley Climatic Laboratory, located at Eglin Air Force Base, is the world’s largest climactic testing chamber. It is designed to replicate the full range of potential weather conditions in which the F-35 might need to fly, DellaVedova said.

“We’ve designed an environment here at the chamber where we can simulate virtually any weather condition—all while flying the jet at full power in either conventional or vertical takeoff mode,” Dwayne Bell, McKinley Climatic Laboratory technical chief, said in a written statement.

The ongoing tests are part of a six-month long assessment of the F-35’s ability to perform in wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain, ice build-up, vortex icing and snow, officials said.

The testing includes flying the aircraft in extreme temperatures ranging from 120-degress Fahrenheit to minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the testing, the aircraft is basically flying in place, meaning it is tethered down but fully powered up, allowing testers to simulate meteorological conditions with an operational aircraft, DellaVedova explained.

“To this point, the aircraft’s performance is meeting expectations”, said F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn.  “It has flown in more than 100 degree heat while also flying in bitter subzero temperatures.  In its final days of testing, it will fly through ice and other conditions such as driving rain with hurricane force winds.”

The F-35 program is beginning to analyze the results of the ongoing test with a mind to making any adjustments that might be needed for the aircraft to maximize performance in various environments and climates across the globe.

“The jet tested really well during hot temperature testing. In cold weather the oil did not flow as well. They are learning and testing,” DellaVedova said.

Every aircraft in the DoD inventory has gone through climactic testing at the climactic laboratory at Eglin, which was completed in 1947 just after the end of WWII.

Since December 2006, the F-35 Lightning II has surpassed 25,000 combined flight hours with 16,200 hours in the F-35 military fleet aircraft and 8,950 hours of system development and demonstration testing, F-35 officials said.

The F-35 has completed multiple weapons tests as well as F-35B and F-35C first-life durability testing.  Additionally, the test fleet has conducted two F-35B sea trials aboard a large amphibious assault ship – the USS WASP (LHD 1), and last November the F-35C completed its first sea trial aboard an aircraft carrier – the USS Nimitz.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • rtaylor

    Is it just me or does this seem like something that should have already been tested by now? And maybe repeated again later just for good measure after changes have been made to the aircraft?

    • crackedlenses

      Due to all of the attention and nay-sayers they are probably giving press releases on every little detail to keep optimism up.

    • BlackOwl18E

      Oh, it’s already been tested before. It’s just been failing the tests.

    • bbabbitt

      They don’t want anything bad to happen to their baby. I say test it on the front. Just put the damned thing in service and see if it can live up to all the hype the AF has put on it.

  • BlackOwl18E

    The services are already developing replacements for this aircraft before it has even entered service. That’s how much of a failure this aircraft is.

  • 11BVeteran

    So you simulate testing because you have not tested it! And, it still has NO GUNS! hahaha This thing has failed and costs 200 Million per aircraft. So, for 1 Billion Dollars you get 5 aircraft with no guns and that still has not even been tested when you do put guns on it to fire 2 bursts. What a failure and the Tax Payer paid for it all and Air Force Generals got promoted!

  • oblat22

    These are only simulated tests. The real tests are years away if ever. The F35s isnt capable of being flown in ant of these conditions without a high risk of crashing.

    As the say you test to find the problems, you simulate testing to cover the problems up quietly.

  • ken

    I thought this plane is obsolete.

    • Big-Dean

      10 years from now, by the time they finally get it “operational” it will be way way obsolete.

      Heck, the F-22 is going on 10 years now, so it’ll be a very old plane by the time the F-35 get’s up to speed, and all of the other legacy fighters will be in the bone yard. So, we’re basically screwed.

      btw, all of the air farce generilli’s who pushed this travesty, will be long since retired and living high off the hog with with duel pensions from DoD and Lockhead. So they have no worries

      • William_C1

        And the F-15 is a design now over 40 years old. The F-16 is only a few years younger. Meanwhile across the pond the Eurofighter Typhoon first flew in 1994 and the Rafale in 1986.

        What matters these days is keeping the avionics and weapon systems up to date. This is something we still need to improve upon but we’re still ahead in most areas

  • NathanS

    I thought the nay-sayers would have been happy to hear that there was heat put on the F-35 and it was put on ice…

    Bad joke, I know.

  • Big-Dean

    The F-35 mafia is in full-combat-foaming-at-the-mouth-hysterical mode right now

    like a jilted lover, they are bringing out the knives and swinging at everyone who DARES speak the TRUTH, I’m surprised they haven’t pulled the race card yet.

    (let see have many thumbs down I get from the Mafia)

  • bbabbitt

    I say arm this “Super Weapon” and put it on the front line. It will get tested real good out there. Let’s see if it can live up to the hype.

  • Patron66

    Maybe one of these days, the people will figure out that the Politicians make the purchase of the aircraft, not the Air Force. As long as Lockheed keeps donating to the “correct” politicians & promising completion dates they know they won’t meet, our AF will get high dollar F-35’s that Taxpayers pay for.

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