Navy, F-35 JPO to test green-glow, catapult ride quality at sea this summer
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May 30, 2017 | Lee Hudson
The Navy and the F-35 joint program office plan to conduct an at-sea test for the Joint Strike Fighter carrier variant in September, assessing fixes for the helmet's green-glow problems and catapult ride quality, according to an official.
James Ruocco, F-35 chief engineer, told Inside the Navy during a May 26 interview at his office in Arlington, VA, his team performed an assessment two weeks ago at Naval Air Station Patuxent, MD, of the Gen III helmet's green-glow problem. Green-glow typically occurs when it is dark at night and makes it difficult for the pilots to see certain objects.
As part of the assessment, the program set up a room at Pax to emulate the nighttime environment, Ruocco said. Testers compared the visibility of the current helmet and a helmet outfitted with organic LED technology and compared their visibility.
"The difference being the advanced matrix CD lets light leak in around the symbology. That's how you get the green-glow," Ruocco said. "The other one does not."
Because Ruocco's team developed the modified helmet so quickly, it hasn't received the necessary airworthiness certifications to fly. He said the program is working to qualify it.
"We've got to make that prototype airworthy and then we can put it into a cockpit and fly it. We're hoping to do that within a month," Ruocco said.
After the team gathers sufficient data from flying an airworthy, modified helmet, it can be tested at sea, he said, noting the test will likely occur in late September.
"What we really want to do is get out to ship, to have that representative environment, very dark conditions, etc., and ensure that we're on the right path with the solution," Ruocco said.
The last time the Navy tested green-glow fixes at sea was aboard the George Washington (CVN-73) in August 2016. Green-glow was first identified as a problem during Developmental Test-1. Adjustments were made to the helmet but the equipment was not proven suitable during DT-2 or DT-3.
Another fix Ruocco's team plans to test at sea in September is catapult ride quality. During the August 2016 testing, pilots identified nose gear oscillations during catapult launches from an aircraft carrier. ITN first reported the Pentagon established a red team last year to investigate the issue.
The program has since developed a fix. Jack Crisler, Lockheed Martin's vice president for F-35 strategy and business development, told reporters April 4 the company is "satisfied with its solution and the proposed fixes do not include a redesign of the nose gear. Instead, they are changing the way pilots strap into position when flying the jet, and [we] modified the hold-back fitting on the aircraft."