With the F-35C aircraft going through its developmental test phase, US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are making modifications to keep up with the latest technology.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), who is currently hosting the Navy’s newest warplane, began these upgrades months ago while still in the shipyard.
In order to optimize carrier operations, Ike modified its jet blast deflectors (JBD) and catapults to better support the F-35C.
A jet blast deflector does just what its name suggests. It is a safety device that redirects the high energy exhaust from a jet engine away from equipment and people on the flight deck to prevent damage and injury.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Shamon Smith, Air Department’s V-2 division maintenance leading petty officer aboard Ike said:
We completely rebuilt catapult one’s JBD on the ship. We replaced some of the salt-water piping which allows for a rapid flow of pressure throughout the JBDs so it can cool down a lot faster under strenuous conditions which make them perfect for the F-35C.
Catapult two also received a complete overhaul, but it was built off-ship by the Carrier and Field Service Unit (CAFSU) and the Voyage Repair Team (VRT). The CAFSU and VRT engineers ensure carriers are operating under the latest instructions in order to maintain and update equipment for catapult flight operations.
Changes were also made to the arresting system that is responsible for “trapping,” or stopping, an aircraft during an arrested landing. The Advance Recovery Control (ARC), also installed while in the shipyard, aides in ensuring a safe recovery with every trap.
Besides making physical modifications to Ike, select Sailors were given the chance to visit the test site in Maryland so they could get a jump start on learning what it takes to launch and recover an F-35C.
The F-35C is currently in its second developmental test phase (DT-II). During DT-II, the test aircraft will perform a variety of operational maneuvers while simulating maintenance operations and conducting general maintenance and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment. Following the analysis of DT-II flight test data, the ITF test team will conduct a thorough assessment of the F-35C’s performance in the shipboard environment before advising the Navy on any adjustments necessary to ensure that the next generation fighter is ready to meet its scheduled initial operating capability in 2018.
Image: US Navy