X-35A completes first in-flight refueling mission

by Ray Johnson
Air Force Flight Center Public Affairs

11/15/00 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- The Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter X-35A successfully executed a series of airborne refuelings during its 10th flight, demonstrating the aircraft's flying qualities during refueling and paving the way for extended test flights.

Lt. Col. Paul Smith, deputy director for the JSF Test and Evaluation Support Office here, piloted the X-35 to 23,000 feet and rendezvoused with a KC-135 tanker from the 418th Flight Test Squadron. Smith then performed a series of qualification tests to verify the X-35's compatibility with the tanker's flow-field wake and refueling boom.

Smith and the KC-135 crew accomplished four refuelings during the mission, enabling the JSF concept demonstrator to continue airborne testing for almost three hours. The extended flight included several handling-quality tests and an auxiliary power unit air-restart.

"The refueling test shows that the system works as predicted - that we're able to take on fuel and thereby open up the (flight) envelope," said Frank J. Cappuccio, vice president and program manager of the Lockheed Martin JSF.

"Everything went exactly as planned with no surprises," said Smith. The conventional-takeoff-and-landing X-35A, the aircraft Smith flew, is designed to meet Air Force specifications and is externally identical to the short takeoff/ vertical landing X-35B, the Marine Corps-British Royal Air Force-Royal Navy JSF demonstrator. Consequently, much of the X-35A's flight-test data - including that from the in-flight refuelings - will satisfy government requirements for the X-35B.

The X-35C, a JSF carrier variant designed to meet Navy requirements, is scheduled to fly in late November or early December. (Courtesy of Air Force Flight Test Center News Service)