By Tommy H. Thomason

Saturday, November 1, 2014

F-35C Unique Features

Lockheed Martin, which does great PR stuff like its Code One Magazine and makes excellent photos readily available, unlike some other aircraft companies, just released this:

This release is almost certainly timed to build interest in and provide information about the carrier-based F-35 in advance of its at-sea trials this coming week.

However, it does appear to have been written (or edited) for the general public and some oversimplifications or downright errors have resulted. For one thing, the lead states that "For the first time in U.S. naval aviation history, radar-evading stealth capability will come to the carrier deck". I may be mistaken, but I thought the Boeing F-18E/F had some "radar-evading stealth" features, although certainly not to the same extent as the F-35. But in any event, there's more:

1 Larger wings: The lead picture in the release does some justice to the difference in planform with the F-35A and B but not the one used to illustrate this first feature. This crop of a photo on the Lockheed website is even better for that purpose.

"The aircraft lands at a high speed so that if they miss the hook when attempting to land they are still able to take off and try again."

The pilot actually approaches at a low speed consistent with stall margin, control power, thrust response, etc. What might be missed is one of the arresting cables, not the hook. Perhaps what the writer meant to convey was "miss the hook-on".

2 Wingtips that fold: "While a wide wingspan is essential on a carrier ship, it also takes up precious cargo space on the deck. To combat this, the F-35C's wingtips fold to allow for easy storage in tight quarters to create more room on the carrier's deck while deployed."

I understand what was meant, but "cargo space" isn't the usual term of art and "deployed" might not be good grammar or unambiguous in that it appears to refer to the wingtips, not the aircraft, and deployed could be taken to mean extended...

3 More robust landing gear: "The limited runway on the flight deck means there isn't much room to slow down after landing."

Strictly speaking, the landing area isn't a "runway" but I understand the need to use familiar words.

"Instead, the pilot has to perfectly time and aim the aircraft to hook the line on the carrier deck to bring the aircraft to a halt."

Well, sort of... Aim isn't too far off the mark but there is no timing involved since the pilot doesn't flare for a landing on a carrier. The word "line" doesn't do the justice to the steel wire that is usually known as the arresting cable or more nautically, cross-deck pendant.

4. Two wheels in front: "Stability is a priority and a necessity when landing on a naval carrier ship. While the robust landing gear takes care of the logistics of landing at a high capacity, the two wheels in the front of the aircraft provide stability, and absorb the shock of landing."

I was doing okay with the press release until I got to this paragraph; English appears to be a second language for its author. For starters, "naval carrier ship", "logistics", "at a high capacity"?  What's wrong with aircraft carrier, shock absorption, and high sink rate? And then there's the technical content. What do two wheels in front have to do with stability? The tailhook does a pretty good job of providing directional stability after landing on an aircraft carrier with a proper lineup before touchdown. Ideally, the main landing gear absorbs most of the shock of landing although the nose landing gear still has to be pretty robust. The necessity for two wheels in this case is the use of the nose-tow launch system. See

5. Greater internal fuel capacity: "The F-35C carries nearly 20,000 pounds of internal fuel for longer range and better persistence than any other fighter in a combat configuration."

Any other fighter? Maybe combat configuration, meaning no external tanks, makes this claim valid. I don't know offhand that it isn't incorrect. Maybe someone would like to comment?


Rex, the accidental Cag said...

Thank you Tommy, this provided me with a couple of smiles.

I do have a theory about the "two wheels on the front providing more stability", if you take them as a pair, that is.

I saw a Skyhawk once that no longer had a wheel on the front, or a leg for that matter. And that was one unstable aircraft on the ground. I imagine that would be true of L-M's new baby, as well.

(to be fair, that Scooter still had a wheel and leg up front,,,,but, it didn't swing down to "impact the static landing surface" in the way it should have)

SpazSinbad said...

LM have redeemed themselves some what by this special feature on 'how it is done' written by "Lockheed Martin F-35C expert and retired U.S. Navy Captain (Ret) Tom Halley":
Another writer (USAF oriented) took my award for calling the hook 'the bar':

fliermike said...

I find it surprising that a company like Lockheed, who do business with the Navy and would presumably like to do more, does not have someone in their PR department that is conversant in ‘Navy speak’. This reminds me of books that claim to include everything about aircraft carriers but then reverse the picture on the cover so that the angled deck it to starboard. I’ll bet Grumman or Vought would not have put out such a silly description of their aircraft’s capabilities but, of course, they no longer exist.