Pushing Environmental Limits

An F-35B strike fighter from the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force in Maryland has spent the last four months undergoing extreme weather testing at the Air Force’s 96th Test Wing at McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB, Fla., to ensure the aircraft can deploy around the globe, officials announced Thursday. A total of 13 countries are involved in the program, so the fifth-generation fighter must be able to operate in a variety of weather conditions, from extreme heart to Arctic cold. “While we are testing in the world’s largest climatic testing chamber, we’re pushing the F-35 to its environmental limits—ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to negative 40 degrees, and every possible weather condition in between,” said F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn, who performed extreme cold testing on the aircraft. “To this point, the aircraft’s performance is meeting expectations … In its final days of testing, it will fly through ice and other conditions such as driving rain with hurricane force winds.” The aircraft was ferried to Eglin last September to begin a six-month assessment of the aircraft’s performance “in wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing, and snow,” states the release.