19–22 August 2019
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Lessons Learned From Developing the F-35B’s F135 Engine and LiftSystem

Posted: 10 July 2018, 9:30 a.m. EDT

James Kenyon, executive director of advanced programs, Pratt & Whitney; Glenn Bartkowski, F135 short takeoff and vertical landing chief engineer, Pratt & Whitney; Andrew Copeland, chief design engineer, Joint Strike Fighter F-35B LiftSystem, Rolls-Royce; Carl McMurry, director, F-35 Vehicle Sciences and Systems, Lockheed Martin

by Hannah Thoreson, AIAA social media content specialist

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II program has benefited from a complex testing and integration process that involves several of the largest defense contractors working together, a panel of engineers said July 9 at the 2018 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Cincinnati.

The F-35 development program ended in July 2016, but panelists in the “F135 LiftSystem Development: How Complex Systems Integration Works in Real Life” session discussed what they learned while developing the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing vehicle’s F135 engine and LiftSystem.

“The testing included over 17,000 ground test hours on 14 engines, over 13,000 flight test hours on 18 aircraft,” said Glenn Bartkowski, the F135 STOVL chief engineer at Pratt & Whitney. “You have to go test at the extremes of the flight envelope. Some of the testing we did was corrosion testing where the engine was exposed to salt for over 3,000 hours, rain testing where it ingested over 2,500 gallons of water, including rainfall rates of up to 23 inches per hour, as well as a sand test where the propulsion system ingested over 100 pounds of sand successfully ... In addition, we also obviously did the ballistic testing and fuel ingestion testing that was required to meet the survivability requirements.”

Carl McMurry, director of F-35 Vehicle Sciences and Systems with Lockheed Martin, shared a few lessons he learned from the development phase.

“You don’t start and say I want to develop all these new technologies and integrate them on the airplane,” he said. “You start well ahead.”

McMurry explained that some new technologies were tested first on the F-16 since it is a well-studied aircraft. He also advised not to wait to solve problems.

“The worst thing you can do is sit on a problem for a while and then it becomes bigger, because we’ve got 305 airplanes out there,” he said. “We’re trying to get problems solved as fast as we can.”

Panelists also said some things should have been considered earlier in the process.


AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher (far left), with participants in the panel discussion "F135 LiftSystem Development: How Complex Systems Integration Works in Real Life," July 9 at the 2018 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Cincinnati.

“I think in some areas we maybe played it too conservative,” said Andrew Copeland, chief design engineer of the Joint Strike Fighter’s F-35B LiftSystem at Rolls-Royce. “There’s things that we embedded in the design early on that we decided we didn’t need.”

Bartkowski agreed and said: “We should have taken advantage of the partner model sooner.”

Working together is crucial, McMurry said.

“Throughout this process, it’s critical that you have a team that is willing to work together not for their own contracts, but for the end item,” he said.

But Copeland believes the effort has been well worth it.

“For the pilots, the feedback that we hear is that this thing is very seamless to them. They’re able to kind of dial in and say, I want to maintain this airspeed and this altitude, hit a button and doors start opening up,” he said. “All these systems are now active and online.”

McMurry agreed.

“In some earlier aircraft, you might have an ISRD, you might have a radar; the pilot was the integrator of those systems,” he said. “In the F-35, those systems are integrated for him. He gets a full picture of his battlespace and maximal situational awareness.”

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Dates to Remember

  • Manuscript Deadline: 15 Jul 2019
  • Early Mem Reg Deadline: 28 Jul 2019
  • Cancellation Deadline: 05 Aug 2019

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