What’s wrong with this F-35A photo? [UPDATE: mystery solved!]

[UPDATE:] There are so many things we don’t know right now about the F-35: When will the US Air Force and US Navy reschedule initial operational capability dates for the F-35A and F-35C? How long will it take the F-35B to get out of Secretary Robert Gates’ probationary doghouse? Will there be two engine options or one?

With so many questions, at least we have one definitive answer: Those weird humps in the photo below are not part of the aircraft, nor are they conformal fuel tanks as some have reasonably guessed. Lockheed Martin confirms the humps on the F-35A pole model is actually part of a rotator fairing, allowing the radar cross section tests to spin the model around the pole. Now, about those other questions … [END UPDATE]


The good folks at F-16.net have spotted what must be the first publicized view of an inverted F-35A model. In this case, it’s the highly accurate low observable (HALO) pole model of the F-35A developed by Janicki Industries for radar cross section testing.

But there seems to be something wrong with either the model or the photo. Can anyone explain the reason for the strange humps on either side of the canopy?



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15 Responses to What’s wrong with this F-35A photo? [UPDATE: mystery solved!]

  1. Kevin 8 March, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Conformal fuel tanks?

  2. F14 RIO 8 March, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Best guess would be conformal fuel tanks.

  3. Dave 8 March, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Is it a A-model? Might be an A and B model kludge for RCS testing to save some bucks.

  4. Urban 8 March, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I think it’s part of the support structure and not there when the model is mounted in other attitudes.

  5. RobH 8 March, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    This is how they change the oil every 5000 miles.

  6. alloycowboy 8 March, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    It’s for the F-35′s airborne 150-kilowatt laser system.

    http://news.cnet.com/2300-1022_3-5843096-7.html

  7. Znapel 8 March, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Who said it was an A model? I think it’s a B model, and the ‘humps’ are the parts of the lift-fan assembly that protrude out past the side of the canopy. Surprisingly hard to find a pic of the F-35B without the doors open, from a straight-on angle, but see the pics in the URLs below…

    Easy peasy…

    From behind: http://www.jsf.mil/images/gallery/sdd/f35_test/b/sdd_f35testb_053.jpg

    From front:
    http://www.sflorg.com/aviation_gallery/albums/military_multimedia/imflvmilitary_14.jpg

  8. Stephen Trimble 8 March, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    It’s definitely an A-model. That bump on on the upside-down-left-wing is the gun, which is only on the A variant.

  9. Znapel 8 March, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Good catch, my bad.

    Seems a bit silly to put all that work into an accurate model and then goof it all up with the rotating mechanism.

    Oh well, we tried ; P

  10. Stephen Trimble 8 March, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Thanks for trying! I, too, had ruled out support structure on the grounds that it seems like it would mess up the purity of the RCS test, but I suppose it’s easy to factor that stuff out. I was really hoping it was some new modification to the aircraft that we hadn’t heard about yet. As you say, Znapel, oh well …

  11. PhredtWK 8 March, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Simple really, it’s a ‘B’ model and those are the “shoulders” of the lift fan.

  12. Angelo M. Halperin 9 March, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    If you are talking about the bumps in front of the intakes those are the DSI (Divertless Supersonic Intakes). First tested on an EAFB based F-16ES Serial #83-1120

  13. Stephen Trimble 9 March, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Thanks for chiming in, but the mystery is already solved! Read the updated version above. It’s not the B and I’m not talking about DSI bumps.

  14. Tim D-T 9 March, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Whoa, whoa! Only the -A has a gun?

  15. Stephen Trimble 9 March, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    The B and C will fly with a gun pod mounted on the fuselage center-line, but only for missions where it’s necessary. The navy has never been too excited about an internal gun for its fighters. That’s an air force thing.

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