Jun 22, 2014
Lockheed F-35 Bulkhead Cracks Solution Proposed
On-the-ground stress testing may resume as soon as Sept. 30, officials said. It was suspended this past September after inspections found cracks in three of six bulkheads on a plane used for such tests.
The suspension increased scrutiny of the Marines’ F-35B, the most complex of three versions because it is intended to take off like a conventional fighter and land like a helicopter. The F-35B, is supposed to be declared combat-ready next year.
Lockheed, has redesigned the bulkhead. The new bulkhead will be installed in aircraft to be made in the ninth production contract that’s scheduled to awarded next year. Retrofit kits will be sent to depots to strengthen the aircraft already delivered, she said.
To provide an extra margin of assurance, the Marine, Air Force and Navy versions of the F-35 are all required to undergo tests for the equivalent of 16,000 flight hours. The Marine version was supposed to complete its second 8,000 hours of testing by the end of this year.
The ground-testing aircraft had accumulated 9,480 hours when testing was stopped.