Well, with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter wrapping up its first batch of sea trials last week, the F-35C carrier variant has completed its initial catapult testing.
F-35C test plane, CF-3 has returned to NAS Patuxent River, Md., after performing more than 50 catapult launches since July at the Navy's Lakehurst, N.J., air engineering and test center.
This round of tests measured the jet's ability to withstand launch stresses and the impact of catapult steam ingestion into the engine, according to NAVAIR.
“The testing went very well,” said Tom Chaillou, lead government ship suitability engineer in a NAVAIR press release. “The aircraft completed the structural survey, and the steam ingestion was a non-factor.”
“[The F-35C] did really well from the cockpit perspective,” said Cmdr. Eric Buus, F-35 test pilot in the same release. “The aircraft actually flew away after launch a bit better than was predicted.” (His call-sign is Magic, just like The Who song, get it?.)
Cat tests will continue at Lakehurst and Pax River where F-35Cs will be launched at varying weights and with a variety of stores, and "with increased mission system functionality."
While the steam ingestion was a "non-factor", I'd like to know how the launch stress portion of the testing went. I'd also like to know when the F-35C will take its first launch from the Navy's new electromagnetic catapults known as EMALS.
The F-35C has bigger wings and a tougher body to withstand the stresses of carrier landings and take-offs. The plane is set to be operated by the U.S. Navy and Marines Corps as well as the Royal Air Force (and possibly the Royal Navy if its Naval Strike Wing is reconstituted to fly the JSF).
Click through the jump to watch a video of the F-35C's first cat shot back in July: