Pilots Begin Flights in F-35 Simulator in Preparation for Trials on U.K. Carrier
LONDON — A flight simulator created by BAE Systems is ready to be “flown” by F-35 Lightning II pilots for the first time as they prepare for flight trials on the U.K.’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier next year, the company announced in a March 29 release.
The refurbished simulator will test pilots’ skills to the limits as they practice landing on the deck of the new aircraft carrier in a range of difficult sea and weather conditions provided by the simulator.
The simulator facility offers a 360-degree immersive experience for pilots to fly the jet to and from the U.K. carrier. It comprises a cockpit moved by an electronic motion platform and a full representation of the ship’s flying control tower, where a landing signal officer on board the carrier will control aviation operations.
The 360-degree view for pilots is vital as potential obstacles on an aircraft carrier are often behind the pilots as they land. Over the coming months, the simulator will be used by U.K. and U.S. military test pilots who have experience of flying F-35s on U.S. carriers.
The pilots will practice thousands of ski-jump short takeoffs and vertical landings that use both the vertical thrust from the jet engine and aerodynamic lift from the wings, allowing the aircraft to takeoff and land on the carrier with increased weapon and fuel loads compared to predecessor aircraft.
Peter “Wizzer” Wilson, BAE Systems’ test pilot for the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant on the F-35 program, said the simulator trials will provide engineers with the data to begin flight trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of class aircraft carrier, in 2018.
He said: “The immersive experience is as near to the real thing as possible. The data will show us exactly what will happen when F-35 pilots fly to and from the Queen Elizabeth carriers. The trials we can run through the simulator are far more extensive than what we will do in the actual flight trials because we can run and rerun each trial until we have all the data we need. The simulator provides greater cost efficiency for the overall program and is extremely important to the success of the first flight trials.”
Over the last 15 years, BAE Systems’ flight simulation has been used to support the design and development of the interface between the F-35 and the U.K.’s next generation of aircraft carriers.
The new simulator replaces a previous version which was first built in the 1980s to develop technology for the Harrier jump-jet and the Hawk advanced jet trainer before being converted for F-35.