Vought Aircraft Industries will perform a series of drop tests starting in January on a full-scale version of the carrier-based F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The tests scheduled between January and April should verify that the landing gear and airframe can survive repeated landings on aircraft carriers, Vought says in a press release issued on 11 November.

The Vought Structures Test Lab will install special fixtures, systems and instrumentation to capture more than 500 channels of data recorded during drop.

Test articles for the Lockheed Martin F-35C are the last of the three JSF variants to complete production in Fort Worth, Texas. The US Navy plans to start operating the F-35C after 2015.

So far, the USN is the only customer for the F-35C, but the service has not clarified how many it will buy. Current plans call for buying 640 total F-35Cs and short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35Bs, but the precise split between the USN and US Marine Corps is not publicly disclosed.

The single-engine F-35C features a larger wing surface to enable slower landing approaches on carrier decks, as well as the ability to store more fuel for increased range over the ocean.

Source: Flight International