F-35C with wings up
The F-35C, the Navy version of the Joint Strike Fighter and the plane most in danger of being cut or reduced by its service, has passed the first round of critical tests of its tail hook, the part of the plane that makes traditional carrier landings possible.

“All flight test objectives were met,” Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program spokesman, said in an email. “We’re not declaring victory but last month (9 to 16 Jan) the F-35 team accomplished 36 successful roll-in arrestment tests at Lakehurst with the redesigned F-35C arresting hook system on CF-3.”

CF-3 is the first F-35C to be fitted with the redesigned Arresting Hook System, as it’s formally known. The plane has returned to the Navy’s Patuxent River test facility where for the next three to four months it will undergo “field-based ship suitability tests, including fly-in arrestments.” Those tests are expected to lead to a certification of the F-35C for carrier flight trials, planned for October aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).

Critics have repeatedly slammed the F-35C for its problems with the arresting hook. The program office has said for more than a year that they believed they had found a sound solution but the F-35 has developed a cadre of critics who, not unreasonably, refuse to believe anything is going well with the program until tests are finished and the plane can do what the program office says it should.

Here’s some background on the tail hook problem. The initial design did not reliably engage the cable and wasn’t strong enough. “Improved damping and optimized hookpoint shape addressed part one,” DellaVedova said. And they basically redesigned the tail hook and made it, and where it connects with the airframe, much stronger.

Comments

  • mehmet
  • bigred8690

    Don’t count out the F-35 yet. There is one more customer left that could eventually place a large order to offset the cancellations from those countries that are balking at the soaring price. Hint: it’s in the Far East, and it would need around 300 F-35s to replace F-16s, Mirage 2000s, and an indigenous fighter called the Ching-Kuo.

  • Dlaw

    They must be desperate to find an “Obama’s son” to put on this video. Now I’m not at all confident with the program. Unless he was just a PC talking head.

    • SMSgt Mac

      Your’s is an incredibly offensive comment. Made all the more so by the effusive ignorance. The kid sounds like a pretty sharp test engineer.

  • ELP

    The reasons it failed from the 2011 DOTE hook mention was an “outlier” hook placement on the aircraft: a product of the A and C having to go along with B model needs (you can’t put a lift-fan just anywhere on the aircraft). As for the hype mentioned in about the roll-in tests, well, let us review. Since there aren’t any photos or video of worth (are there?) we have to disregard what is said. That which is claimed with no evidence can be dismissed with no evidence. The program has a history of marketing before substance; poor performance and not delivering what the vendor promised. As for the F-35C, it is 15 percent over-weight compared to its 2002 design requirement (the A and B 9.5 percent). So, all the assumptions of maximum-G, combat radius, combat performance and for the C…. approach speed to the carrier, along with bring-back are now in question. I suspect for the C (if it ever does trap consistently) it will carry less fuel and weapons (2x 1000k A2G weapons like the B anyone?) in order to meet a pencil-whipped OPEVAL. Wing-roll-off (which has reached the limits of what software can fix without affecting flight safety) should be interesting too, especially in the landing pattern. None of the combat systems on the aircraft work. The maintenance plan for the F-35 does not work. And many other things. I suppose the flight test video showing AOA efforts is supposed to impress the gullible in these times of program desperation? Quick! Do something. Do anything, the 2015 budget is coming up! And, Congress refused the Navy to take a 3 year break on the Just So Failed. Don’t like the critics? Well, all that has to happen is for the program to perform. Something we have been promised for years, with luke-warm results.

  • Don Bacon

    There has been a coverup in the F-35C program.

    The F-35C, the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, has an inherent design problem. The plane’s arresting gear, which is required to grab a carrier’s arresting cable upon landing, because of the plane’s design is too far forward. The upswept F-35C fuselage has forced the “tailhook” some half the distance forward to the landing wheels compared to other carrier-qualified aircraft, converting it to more of a bellyhook. When the plane hits the deck the wheels distort the cable, which doesn’t have time to recover before the hook hits the cable, thus resulting in aborted attempts.

    The F-35 Quick Look Review back in November 2011 first reported the tailhook problem. “There are significant issues with respect to how the CV (carrier variant) AHS (arresting hook system) interoperates with aircraft carrier based MK-7 arresting gear. Rollin arrestment testing at NAWC-AD, Lakehurst, resulted in no successful MK-7 engagements (0 successes in 8 attempts). problems: -aircraft geometry, hook design and ineffective damper. All eight run-in/rolling tests undertaken at NAS Lakehurst in August 2011 to see if the F-35C could catch a wire with the tail hook have failed.”

    In January 2012 the F-35 prime contractor Lockheed said: “The good news is that it’s fairly straight forward and isolated to the hook itself,” said Tom Burbage, Lockheed program manager for the F-35 program. “It doesn’t have secondary effects going into the rest of the airplane.”

    That was two years ago, this is now. The arresting gear still doesn’t work. After twelve years of development the F-35 carrier variant hasn’t been able to go near a carrier, and there’s no indication that it will have the ability to land on a carrier any time soon. There’s no “good news.” In fact, there’s almost no news at all.

    The F-35C tailhook problem continues, now with a significant coverup. The initial 2011 diagnosis of a problem isolated to the hook itself was expanded to include the damper, requiring merely a hook redesign and a damper adjustment. Then in 2012 a much more significant structural problem was found. testing revealed higher than predicted loads, impacting the upper portion of the arresting hook system, referred to as the “Y frame,” where loads are translated from the hook point to the aircraft) and hold down damper. So much for “no secondary effects.”

    Now in 2014 after a significant, ongoing F-35C delay we get the DOT&E report and it doesn’t mention any structural load problem leading to a significant F-35C redesign. The report doesn’t mention the “Y frame.” But the report does say, without explanation, that there has been an F-35C weight gain of 139 pounds. “The program added 139 pounds to the F-35C weight status in May 2013 to account for the redesigned arresting hook system.” That’s a significant weight increase on a plane where weight is critical and performance requirements have been reduced because the heaviest variant F-35C at 34,593 pounds already weighs too much. It strongly implies major structural changes in an attempt to correct a serious stress failure(s).

    The Quick Look Review back in November 2011 was prescient. “With corrective action still in development, the AHS is considered an area of major consequence. If the proposed redesigned components do not prove to be compatible with MK-7 arresting gear, then significant redesign impacts will ensue.” Significant design impacts would effect (and already are affecting) the planned buys, 260 for Navy and 80 for the Marine Corps.

    Politico has recently reported that the Navy asked to take a three-year “break” from its procurement of the F-35C. That’s logical. The Navy shouldn’t have to procure non-performing planes at such high cost, $200 million plus each, beyond what is required for development until performance is acceptable and there is a Milestone C production decision. Office Secretary of Defense (OSD) reportedly turned down the “break” request, because nothing is permitted to interfere with the mistaken-ridden, behind schedule and over budget F-35 program.

    Meanwhile, we haven’t been given the facts on the serious F-35C tailhook situation. It’s been covered up, as with other aspects of the program. It’s just what Navy doesn’t need, another tailhook scandal.

    And now it’s: “All flight test objectives were met” by — wait for it — 36 successful roll-in arrestment tests at Lakehurst. Can the F-35C just roll in to the cable on a carrier instead of landing on the carrier?

    • USNVO

      Did you even read the article?

      “The F-35C, the Navy version of the Joint Strike Fighter and the plane most in danger of being cut or reduced by its service, has passed the first round of critical tests of its tail hook, the part of the plane that makes traditional carrier landings possible.”

      Notice the part where it clearly states it is the first round of testing. You know, the one they had problems with before because of a faulty NAVAIR model and poor design of the arresting hook (which was done by Northrop-Grumman but I digress)?

      ““All flight test objectives were met,” Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program spokesman, said in an email. “We’re not declaring victory but last month (9 to 16 Jan) the F-35 team accomplished 36 successful roll-in arrestment tests at Lakehurst with the redesigned F-35C arresting hook system on CF-3.””

      Notice here that it is clearly speaking to the roll in tests discussed in the paragraph above. I know this because the next paragraph goes on to say…

      CF-3 is the first F-35C to be fitted with the redesigned Arresting Hook System, as it’s formally known. The plane has returned to the Navy’s Patuxent River test facility where for the next three to four months it will undergo “field-based ship suitability tests, including fly-in arrestments.” Those tests are expected to lead to a certification of the F-35C for carrier flight trials, planned for October aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).

      Notice here that the article goes on to discuss future testing at PAX river and on the USS NIMITZ. So no, passing roll over testing does not prove carrier suitability. However, it does disprove one of the fears from 2011 that it can’t be fixed.

      As I always tell my son (he’s 8 by the way), you can not disprove a conspiracy because you can not disprove a negative. Bigfoot could exist, UFOs could exist, etc. But you can prove/disprove a positive, and now we know the F-35 can pass the rollover tests. So lets see how it does on the landing part on land (which has already been shown with video to prove it but not with the full battery of tests) and then on a carrier. Then, and only then, can the F-35C developers can claim victory in making a carrier capable aircraft. But then, that is what the spokesman implied in his e-mail.

  • SMSgt Mac

    Well, I was going to just quote JK Pierce: “Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems”. But I see they’ve already answered roll call, so let’s move forward shall we?
    First, thanks for identifying how wrong DOT&E can be in jumping to conclusions. If accurately cited, they really botched guessing at the root cause, eh? Makes you wonder about the rest.
    Second, if we’re going to recall history, then let’s recall all of it and not just the parts that promote some bizarre world view.
    “10 August 2012: First F-35C Fly-In Arrestment
    Navy Lt. Chris Tabert accomplished the first fly-in arrestment into the MK-7 arresting gear cable by an F-35C at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Using an interim arresting hook system, an engineering team composed of F-35 Joint Program Office, Naval Air Systems Command, and industry officials conducted tests to assess cable dynamics, aircraft loads, and performance on F-35C CF-3. During testing, Tabert achieved five of eight attempts into the arresting gear. Completing these tests enabled the F-35 program to improve the redesigned arresting hook system”.
    Since then?
    “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 flown by Lt. Cmdr. Tony Wilson.”
    Note: The test rig only has 1 wire (vs. 2 or 3 on a carrier).If you search around you will find that the three misses were because the landing was long or short. The only change at that time was to the hook ‘point’. IMHO the rest is overkill to make sure the fix works. Understandable given the hysteria at the time and apparently lingers still..
    Third, Tom Burbage is an Naval Aviator. ‘The hook’ in Navy parlance means the arresting gear system. The arresting gear system is the only system that was affected. I’m sure when he said what he did, he wasn’t thinking someone who hadn’t a clue as to what ‘hook’ meant would create their own definition.
    Fourth. Weight? All three variants are under the planned weight targets. Where performance will be measured.

    • bigred8690

      Thanks for explaining all this. I am confident the problems will be ironed out eventually.

    • Uniform223

      Finally someone with a level head. It is always entertaining that when ever this aircraft shows progress there are always one sided people so quick to come up and spout things they don’t know and issues of the past. The fact that many people can’t or won’t comprehend is that the F-35 is moving along at a steady and cautiously optimistic pace. I remember when there were concerns over the F-35 flying in inclement weather, specifically in lightning storms. I am no pilot but I don’t think its a good idea to take a green aircraft and flying into a lightning storm. I would think that even experience pilots in proven aircraft try their best to avoid such weather conditions. Also here a fact that many people look over… not ONE F-35 has been lost during the whole time of testing and validation. If I recall correctly one of the most famous aircraft in USN inventory in history crashed on its second flight and killed both crew members.

      • SMSgt Mac

        Your instincts are good. The brouhaha over lightning strikes will soon be ancient history. the plane isn’t even SCHEDULED for the certification to be complete until this year. Every plane goes through this process. What the perennial critics are doing is analogous to holding their kid back in grade school (slow down production – stretch development) then berate them because they haven’t finished college yet (not operational).

  • Gary Church

    A trillion dollars over the next half century. Jeez. Kill it. We are in the age of robots and missiles and this albatross will do nothing but waste money we should be spending elsewhere. Kill it NOW!
    Of course that won’t happen because like the Osprey, it has a part made in every state and is like a vampire- the only thing that will do it in is exposing it to the light of day. Or the possibility of real combat- which will drive a stake through it’s heart when it is realized they will all be shot down if committed to battle.

    • SMSgt Mac

      The whole “spread the contracts for political purposes” lie (although I’m sure
      politicians think that way) is a contrivance of the anti-defense types like
      POGO. Contracts on a program of this scale not only require multiple supply
      sources (who compete for parts of the production shares above any guaranteed
      level) for a lot of parts, but simply the sheer number of components and
      specialties involved would be naturally distributed all over the US. If it wasn’t it would look statistically suspicious.
      Look at the
      distribution of work and it is still centered dollar-wise in the usual
      locations: where industry leaders or specialists are located. As you move out of
      those centers, the amount of work done at a location goes down. Frankly, I’m
      surprised there aren’t 50 states and all the US territories with suppliers on
      any major aircraft program. The distribution of work has become the norm for
      several reasons. Just a few: 1. USG frowns on vertical integration in defense,
      which forces Primes to compete subcontracts as much as possible instead of just
      passing business to their own subsidiaries automatically. 2. USG requires
      percentages of the subcontracts to go to disadvantaged/minority-owned businesses
      which are everywhere. 3. USG requires a percentage of work to go to
      small-businesses and those are everywhere as well 4. As the aerospace industry
      shrank, companies in low-cost living areas leveraged their affordability to make
      their bids more attractive, driving less competitive companies in big metro
      areas out of the sector or even out of business–or companies moved to low-cost
      of living areas as a survival tactic in the first place.
      Pretty much the
      only reason the defense contractors started highlighting the details of their
      diverse supplier networks was because the low-information types (the kind of folks who believe
      there really is a ‘Military-Industrial Complex’) who want more social spending
      or just less defense spending started commissioning faux’d-up hit-piece
      ‘studies’ claiming defense jobs weren’t that big of a deal to the economy or
      export balance. It was a defensive move. I saw it happen to the B-2, used as a
      tactic second only to the ‘passé cold-war weapon’ canard to cut the buy of those
      aircraft. In any case, the wide supplier network came first, talking about it
      came about second. BTW, this is so old hat I pretty much just copy/paste what I’ve already written at my place or elsewhere.
      The domestic enemy is the Social-Spending-Entitlement Complex.

  • PolicyWonk

    Given the history of JSF (inability to reach even the multiple-times reduced mission profiles, etc.), one has to give Lockheed the nod when it comes down to seeing to it that the components that build this corporate welfare program are being built in virtually all of the lower 48 states.

    Hence – killing the program is very difficult. Victory: Lockheed’s boardroom. Losers: US taxpayers.

    I think its notable that the tail-hook problem (a long standing issue) was not highlighted or discussed, by the video provided – hence it isn’t pertinent to the topic at hand.

  • flash321

    Oh, the negative Nellie’s MUST be crying in their cornflakes. Hey, they fixed the helmet too. NOW what are you going to complain about?
    The plane is on schedule, and it’s a wicked machine. Air superiority, and innovation is never easy. Every new idea has problems and the same whiny attitudes by people with no vision.

  • Mysterio! BOOGAH BOOGAH

    the reason this bird stinks so bad is because they want to put robots in the seat instead of men.