Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has completed its first manoeuvring flight tests, complete with full-stick rolls.

"It worked exceedingly well," says F-35 chief test pilot Jon Beesley, who praises the aircraft and its "robust" handling characteristics.

The first 360º rolls took place during the fighter’s ninth test flight on 20 March. The first F-35, aircraft AA-1, is expected to make its 10th flight any day now, and Lockheed expects to complete initial airworthiness tests over the next few sorties.

"The aircraft is very stiff compared to the F-22 in which you feel as if you're at the end of a diving board. With the F-35 you're standing at the other end," Beesley told a symposium of test pilots late last week.

One peculiarity of the JSF design, he says, is the splitterless inlet which "picks up an extra 2,000lb thrust" as the aircraft accelerates between 80kt and 100kt for take-off. The jump in thrust is "definitely noticeable in the cockpit," Beesley says.

Speaking at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots meeting in San Diego, California Beesley also praised the F-35's Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, which produces "perfect linear thrust" throughout its 40,000lb-plus power range.

To date the aircraft has reached 340kt, Mach 0.78, +3g and 16º angle of attack.

Source: FlightGlobal.com