On 25 February the second F-35B, BF-2,
achieved its first (conventional) flight and joined the first aircraft,
BF-1, in the flight test programme. BF-1 will concentrate on STOVL
flight operations whilst BF-2's programme will include flutter
clearance, high angle of attack handling, performance and propulsion
On 19 March Defence Secretary John Hutton
announced the purchase of three F-35B operational test aircraft
confirming the UK's commitment to the Operational Test and Evaluation
phase of the JSF programme (production orders expected are now reported
to be 66 rather than the original requirement for 138).
The UK is investing $2 bn in the F-35 development programme, the
largest of eight partner nations, and from the beginning has been
deeply involved in research, engineering and development.
More than 100
British companies are involved, including BAES and R-R who provide all
rear fuselages plus tails, and lift fans respectively, Martin-Baker who
provide all ejection seats, GE Aerospace Cheltenham (was Smiths
Industries), Honeywell Normalair, Goodrich Actuation, Selex, and Ultra
Electronics. BAES is investing £800m in the Samlesbury factory.
A large BAES engineering team is contributing to the development
programme in the US which, of course includes Graham Tomlinson,
Dunsfold's last Chief Test Pilot, as F-35B CTP. On 26 March BF-1
started hover pit ground testing to demonstrate the operation of the
integrated flight and propulsion controls system which will lead to
powered lift flight this summer. The design of the hover pit was based
on Dunsfold's grid.
If you have broadband go to www.jsf.mil,
click on 'video link', 'miscellaneous' and '2008 2nd Quarter
to see and hear Graham Tomlinson reporting on progress,
including the first flight of BF-1. Amongst the film sequences you can
spot flight test operations manager Bob Burton ex the A&AEE and
Dunsfold Flight Test Department. It's nice to know that Kingston and
Dunsfold's jet V/STOL expertise is being put to good use in the JSF