The 2017 Paris Air Show marks the The F-35 Lightning II’s debut aerial demonstration. Critics have been saying that the F-35 is not maneuverable and not competitive in the Within Visual Range (WVR) arena. Lockheed Martin and USAF developed the show routine to silence these with a ‘BEAST’ of a performance. The demonstration was flown by Lockheed Martin test pilot Billie Flynn on a USAF F-35A flown in from Hill AFB.
Head on with the F-35A Lightning II
In a press conference hosted on the first day of the show, Lockheed Martin’s chief test pilot of the F-35, Al Norman and USAF pilot LTC Scott ‘Cap’ Gunn went through how the five different maneuvers performed in the demonstration is relevant to real world scenarios that pilots would face. It is stressed that the current aircraft is flying with the Block 3i software which limits it to 7g but it would be able to do 9g once the aircraft is in Block 3F configuration. The aircraft in this demo was being flown with a 50% fuel load out and clean configuration. Norman states there would be negligible aerodynamic hit if the aircraft is loaded with weapons in the internal bay and external AIM-9Xs. They would still be able to perform the same set of sequences.
Lockheed Martin Chief Test Pilot Al Norman
USAF F-35 Pilot LTC Scott ‘Cap’ Gunn
Ribbon Diagram of the Aerial Demonstration – Credit : Lockheed Martin
1. Maximum Power Takeoff: The F-35 begins the display by exhibiting the remarkable power and 40000 pounds of thrust from its Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, as it soars vertically into the sky at maximum afterburner. At the tip of the vertical, it made a Split-S and comes back for the second maneuver.
Maximum Power Takeoff
2. Square Loop: The Square Loop demonstrates the F-35’s instantaneous pitch rate, which allows it to pull turns aggressively at high and low speeds. Exiting the Square Loop, the F-35 makes a turn around to perform the Slow Speed Pass to Vertical Climb.
Pulling up to start the Square Loop
3. Slow Speed Pass to Vertical Climb: The F-35 then assumes a greater than 25 degrees high Angle of Attack (AoA) for the slow speed pass – enabled by its flight control system that permits post-stall maneuverability. The Vertical Climb after the Slow Speed Pass displays the F-35’s impressive engine power in the slow speed regime. Following that, the aircraft flies pass show centre to perform the most impressive sequence of the display, the Pedal Turn.
F-35 Slow Pass – Video credits : Jerry Taha
Vertical Climb after Slow Pass
4. Pedal Turn: Only 5th Generation fighters like the F-35 and Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor can execute high AoA pedal turns. This signature capability proves the F-35’s extreme maneuverability in very slow speed flight and the robustness of the flight control system. Completing this, Billie takes the F-35 around and does a Minimum Radius Turn.
Vertical Climb before the Pedal Turn
F-35 Pedal Turn – Video credits : Jerry Taha
5. Minimum Radius Turn: The F-35’s advanced flight controls combines with its powerful engine allow the F-35 to pull up to 9g in the Block 3F configuration, limited at 7g now, it still executes an impressive 360-degree turn, showing the excess power and maneuverability of this best-in-class fighter jet.
F-35A performs the Minimum Radius Turn pulling 7g
F-35A Lands back at Le Bourget Airport
The F-35 made a loop and returned to land after completing this six minutes of aerial demonstration. Will the F-35 perform at the Singapore Airshow 2018? We certainly hope it will and with the 3F software!