2016-08-20 By Todd Miller
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) is hosting the F-35C in its final Developmental Testing cycle (DT-III) Aug. 14-23.
However, for a few of those days the two VX-23 “Salty Dogs” F-35Cs from NAS Patuxent River were joined by 5 F-35Cs from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” out of Eglin AFB.
The 7 F-35Cs gathered on the deck of the USS George Washington represented the largest carrier contingent of F-35Cs to date.
Media were hosted on the USS George Washington August 15 to observe the carrier qualifications at the onset of DT-III. All pilots embarking must perform a number of “cats” and “traps” prior to executing the specific tests involved with DT-III.
DT-III is focused on; validation of the aircraft’s flying capabilities with full inert internal and external stores (up to 4 GBU-12s and two AIM-9X on external hardpoints); handling tests with asymmetrical loads; testing for maximum weight launches at minimum power; evaluating all of these in a variety of wind and sea conditions.
As explained by Tom “Briggo” Briggs ITF (Integrated Test Force) Chief Test Engineer, there were additional minor tests to run through, such as ship borne evaluation of minor adjustments made to control laws (based on previous DT testing), and night launches to verify the Gen 3 helmet performed as desired.
Briggs made clear that the testing is to prepare the aircraft launch and recovery bulletins (ALB/ARB). These are the operating guides the Navy will utilize to determine the appropriate launch and recovery parameters for the aircraft given weights and conditions. These bulletins will ensure the aircraft can safely launch with the desired loads to complete assigned missions. Complete ALB/ARBs will enable the F-35Cs to be very combat capable as they reach IOC utilizing the Block 3F software.
DT-III is a significant milestone for the F-35C program and represents the progression towards US Navy IOC somewhere between August 2018 and Feb 2019.