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Navy’s F-35 Starts New Tailhook Tests

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Navy F-35C test plane CF-3 successfully catches a wire during testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Lockheed Martin Photo

Navy F-35C test plane CF-3 successfully catches a wire during testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Lockheed Martin Photo

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has begun testing a new carrier arresting hook for the Navy’s version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

Aircraft CF-3, which is the first F-35C fitted with a production tailhook, caught an arresting wire at a shore-based test rig on Dec. 19 at the Navy’s primary flight test center according to Naval Air Systems Command. The aircraft was flow by Lt. Cmdr. Tony Wilson.

Testing will eventually move to Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in New Jersey in January 2014 for additional testing with a shore-based arresting gear. Fly-in testing is required to verify that the F-35C will be able to consistently catch an arresting wire.

After the aircraft demonstrates that it can catch a wire on land, the F-35C will have to be tested at sea. Arrested recoveries at sea should take place onboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the first part of 2014 according to Lockheed officials. However, while the current plan calls for the F-35 to perform its sea-trials onboard the Nimitz, it could be another ship depending on the availability of carriers at the time.

Demonstrating that the F-35C can recover onboard a carrier is critical for a naval aircraft. The tailhook has been a vexing problem on the F-35C variant when it was discovered in 2012 that the hook could not reliably engage an arresting wire.

Lockheed and the Joint Strike Fighter program office ultimately traced the problem back to the shape of the hook and a faulty wire dynamics model supplied by the Naval Air Systems Command. The solution was to reshape the hook point and adjust the system’s hold-down damper, which helps prevent the hook from bouncing around upon touchdown.

The Department of the Navy is set to acquire a total of 340 F-35Cs–260 of which would serve with the Navy while a further 80 would be allocated to the US Marine Corps. The Navy expects the F-35C to become operational in late 2018 or early 2019 with the full Block 3F capability.

  • ELP

    The problem (stated by DTO&E) is also an “outlier” hook placement on the aircraft. To include the short distance between the main landing gear and the hook. Also FYI, one devout F-35 cheerleader has tried to imply to the effect of “hey look, they got the A-4 aboard ship” (also a rare short main gear to hook distance). The A-4 was designed from the start as a carrier aircraft. There are many engineering reasons why an A-4 is not an F-35C. Try telling that to the cult though. STOVL design needs which also affect the needs of the A and C. As an aside, Procurement and specific R&D money for the F-35C put it at $441.1M each for 4 more mistake-jets in the FY2014 budget.

    • Little Franks

      With no plans for a purchase of the Advanced Superhornet and no alternative to the F 35 the Navy has to be glad about this. Let me just say that with China’s footing being described as similar to Inter War Japan pre Pearl Harbour and more astonishing revelations such as J10′s shooting down Su30′s and China close to sealing a deal for SU 35′s. With the potential for conflict seemingly high then the sooner an advanced plane be provided to the navy and naval pilots the better. The Navy may just have to make lemonade at this stage. While there is talk about and progress towards a more advanced Naval Fighter such as the FA XX. It would be much more the cost of a F 35 at this stage right.

      • ELP

        The idea that “there is no alternative to the F-35″ makes for an available (if useless) meme. Both the F-35 and Super will be unsurvivable against emerging threats. For every other kind of threat, the F-35 is unaffordable (own and operate) compared to other options. Then too the program office and LM still have significant development problems with the Just So Failed. The USN would be wise to invest their money in anything else but this poor project.

        • Little Franks

          That makes no sense. What options are there?

          • ELP

            Since the F-35 is unsurvivable against emerging threats; is unaffordable (its main reason to exist…hint, look at the history of the program); is massively faulty, it is by definition a failed program. It is not a valid recap option for the USN, USMC or USAF. Or I suppose you suggest the logical thing is to spend hundreds of billions on something that will bring no valid combat value to the defense of the nation or its expeditionary warfare goals? The solution is to take all that talent that is making the wrong aircraft (the F-35) and get it to build the right aircraft. As a form of national importance and not an effort like the F-35 that, 12 years after contract award is nowhere near producing anything close to a go-to-war aircraft.

          • Little Franks

            That makes no sense at all. What alternatives to the F 35 is there?

          • Cocidius

            Long term the the USN needs to develop a stealthy aircraft capable of the air superiority role against the emerging threats that our CVBG air wings will be dealing in the near future.

            While the F/A-XX is a good start, there needs to be a interim A2A solution to the advanced aircraft that we’re likely to start encountering from the Russians and the Chinese within the next 10 years (J-10B, J-11B, J-16, J-20, J-31, PAK-FA/T-50, etc). Perhaps an evolved SH, or purchasing a carrier variant of the Eurofighter Typhoon?

          • Little Franks

            Yeah you might think so but I certainly do not. While we all heard regularly about the problems with the F 35 its well back on track now. There has not been a moving production line plane like this since ww2. So where in China or Russia has this capability emerged. Do you think they will ever have a 1 a day production rate like the one LM promised. Maybe it might come sooner than 2030. So now were reading that the Navy has decided to move ahead with plans for what you want for about 2030 when Super Hornets are over the hill. I doubt they over there will have anything to beat the Raptors and they sure will also lack the Carrier ability between now and then to but Im not going to spell it all out because its out there. I to would like to see a FA XX or something like that now. You know with on board laser weapons, twin F 135 engines upgraded with the LEAP capabilities and all the other new tech in materials that have arrived since but it looks like were going to have to wait. In the mean time Ill just keep on putting up with the so called capablity of China and Russia to kill carriers like the new Ford or America which off of will fly F35 C and B respectively.

            Carrier Varient Typhoon? Why would they go for that when they could of just evolved the Raptor to be a CV Fighter. Besides I think the idea that you need fighters on a Carrier is kind of mute at the moment. The plan looks like Balistic Missiles, Long Range Precision Bombing followed by amphibious assault with CAS and OC. Fighters are more of a defensive measure to take down enemy bombers or if the enemy has carriers enemy fighters. I was thinking about this the other day in terms of Nanjing and Futenama and Kadena and realised that if a struggle over the oil fields in the Okinawa AO happens that Japanese Destroyers would hurt Nanjings air fields and shift the fight away from that zone to somewhere further north. So no need for fighters. Bombers and Helicopters might be needed to attack enemy ships and subs however. Who ever has been working on this over the last few years sure have come up with some super plans. Its all good. Besides even if you need fighters there is plenty of support to get F 22′s to bases near by as well as have fuelers up. I really cant see anyone needing to invade Russia or China though can you so cant see the need for Fighters at this stage. By 2030 however there will be new developments that might justify having better fighters even ones that would go CV.

            end of story.

          • whocares

            You make a lot of unsubstantiated charges. Why are you the one person knowing exactly what to do and everyone else is clueless?
            Just as a point of reference, the US has produced a long line of outstanding combat aircraft going back to the F4F. How many enduring designs have you produced?

          • ELP

            No charges. Just have observed the program for years. You may want to try it sometime. The F-35C has little to do with the F-4. And engineering management from the F-4s era had little or no tolerance for marketing group-think.

    • Viper550ful .

      There are many engineering reasons why an F-35C is not an A-4.
      Half a century of reasons…