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F-35 ejection seats raise worries on Capitol Hill
by Ryan Maass
Washington (UPI) Oct 5, 2015

U.S. Navy tests F-35C onboard USS Eisenhower
Washington (UPI) Oct 5, 2015 -The U.S. Navy completed its first arrested landing of an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, part of the craft's two-week testing phase.

With these tests, the U.S. Navy aims to observe the suitability and integration of the fighter on a sea platform. Currently, the F-35C Lightning II is in the second phase of its at-sea Developmental Testing. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower ("Ike") crew teamed up with the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) to perform the tests.

The F-35C will continue to be tested, and is scheduled to perform more operational maneuvers while also simulating maintenance operations. The performance data will be cataloged by the ITF, and presented to U.S. Navy officials on what changes to the program may be necessary.

"The goal of this test phase is to find out how we can expand the envelope in which this aircraft works in an effective and safe fashion," said Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 Navy test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts in a statement. "We have a huge team working on this, and I know that each time I get in this aircraft it's the culmination of a lot of people's hard work."

The F-35C joint strike fighter's development has been highly anticipated by U.S. military officials. The fifth generation multi-role fighter has been in development for 14 years. The fighter, developed by arms manufacturing giant Lockheed Martin, has only achieved operational status with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Despite the developmental setbacks, the company and several top U.S. officials remain confident the craft will be able to outmatch any other fighter in development today, according to Lockheed Martin.

U.S. lawmakers and defense officials are concerned as more tests on the F-35 joint-strike fighter reveal more complications than they thought.

Defense News reports the concerns stem from the testing of the new Martin-Baker US16E ejection seat system, which, testers discovered, may put pilots at risk of fatal injury. During the tests, ejections performed during low-speed flights showed test dummies snapping their necks.

Test results revealed that when lighter pilots are operating the F-35, the Martin-Baker seats rotate too much. The U.S. military now prohibits pilots weighting under 136 pounds from operating the F-35.

In response to the potentially grim test results, some lawmakers are calling for increased oversight of the joint-strike fighter program. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon is erroneously rushing the program.

"We're seeing these flight restrictions because the F-35's ejector seats weren't tested to the level they would be on a normal aircraft," the congresswoman said. "This is yet another example of the kind of procurement malpractice we should be avoiding."

The F-35 continues to amass mixed reactions and skepticism as more governments move to procure the aircraft.The ejection seat issue is just the latest setback for the F-35. Pentagon officials stated the joint-strike fighter was not yet "combat ready" in September, despite Marine Corps testing officials claiming the opposite.

The F-35 is Lockheed Martin's winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which Vanity Fair called the most expensive military weapons system in history.

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Previous Report
Northrop Grumman produces center fuselage for Japanese F-35
Palmdale, Calif. (UPI) Oct 5, 2015
The first of 43 center fuselages for F-35 Lightning II aircraft to be assembled in Japan has been produced by Northrop Grumman in California. The center fuselage, the core structure of the aircraft, is for the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the F-35 and will be integrated with the plane's forward fuselage/cockpit and wings produced by Lockheed Martin, and the aft fuselage p ... read more

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