The first F-35C test aircraft (CF-1) flew faster than the speed of sound for the first time over a test range near the Navy and Marine Corps F-35 integrated test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River March 4.
During a test flight to expand the flutter envelope, CF-1 reached Mach 1.02 at 30,000 feet with U.S. Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col. Matt Taylor at the controls.
“It’s great to be part of bringing stealth capability to the big-deck carriers,” said Taylor. “We accomplished a large number of test points, and CF-1 handled great going past Mach 1. It was a privilege for me to take the F-35C over that milestone for the first time.”
CF-1 gathered enough supersonic flutter data for the team to continue supersonic envelope expansion in the near future.
Flutter is an evaluation of structural loads on the aircraft experienced at various speeds and while performing prescribed maneuvers. The test and evaluation team at NAS Patuxent River will expand the flutter envelope to demonstrate the required durability and reliability of the aircraft in advance of delivery of the aircraft to the fleet.
The F-35C is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B variants with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for greater control in the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment. Carrier suitability testing for the F-35C variant is scheduled to begin later this year with land-based catapult and jet blast deflector testing.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is in the system development and demonstration phase, focusing on delivering three different, new aircraft variants to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. The integrated test force at NAS Patuxent River is focused on testing and evaluation of the F-35B and F-35C.