FARNBOROUGH, England — The US Navy's F-35C will head back to the seas next month for the third round of developmental tests aboard the aircraft carrier George Washington, the F-35 program executive officer (PEO) said.
During a July 9 interview at the Royal International Air Tattoo, F-35 PEO Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told Defense News the sea trials would take place off the East Coast of the United States.
"They're going to open up the full envelope of the airplane to land and take off from the carrier, which means things like heavyweight, asymmetric stores, heavy cross winds, high seas," he said. "Plus we'll do a lot of reliability, maintainability and maintenance administrations to make sure we get that right."
At the same time, student pilots will conduct carrier qualifications onboard the ship, he said.
The F-35C has operated aboard an aircraft carrier twice so far: in October 2015 on the Dwight D. Eisenhower and November 2014 on the Nimitz. In those tests, pilots conducted catapult takeoffs, arrested landings, and touch-and-go landings on the deck, gradually working in night operations and opening up the flight envelope of the aircraft.
The second round of tests also included launches and landings with simulated weapons, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, inside the F-35's internal weapons bay.
The "C" model is planned to become operational in 2018, the last of the three joint strike fighter variants to do so.
The US Marine Corps is also preparing for developmental testing of the F-35B aboard the amphibious assault ship America, which will start this fall when the ship is sailing off the West Coast.
"They're going out to do basically the same thing that the Navy is doing," Bogdan said. "We will finally fully open up the envelope for them on different landing spots and different takeoff conditions, including asymmetric stores, short takeoffs, high seas, different winds."
Aside from the developmental tests, the service will also conduct some operational testing with the "B" model, he said.
Previous sea trial events occurred on the amphibious assault ship Wasp in August 2013 and October 2011.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.