F-35: Fixed problems with the baby seat, but that 5,1 pound helmet worries the Pentagon. Operational changes by the end of the 2018

(To Franco Iacch)

The Pentagon reports that it has solved the problems, potentially fatal for the pilots, connected to the e-seat of the F-35. However, the changes will not be implemented before the end of the 2018. This means that until then, the flight restrictions in force since last August will remain valid.

The Department of Defense is working with Martin Baker and Lockheed Martin on three major corrections: design of a lighter helmet to reduce pressure on the pilot's neck, installation of a system that will delay the deployment of the main parachute and the assembly of a panel support for the head between the parachute risers. In the seat built by the British company Martin-Baker, a "Potentially fatal error for the pilot's life". This mistake already has a number of potential victims: a third of the pilots who will fly with the F-35. In the ejection phase, so we are in emergency conditions, the system would provoke such a violent whiplash due to a wrong position of the seat propelled outside the aircraft. The risk, recognized by the Department of Defense, is real for riders between 60 and 65 kilos.

Tests have shown that pilots, whose weight is close to little or too short at 135 / 140 pounds, have a probability of death equal to 98% during expulsions to 160 nodes. For those who did not know it is the average speed of a take-off or landing. The American pilots qualified with the F-35 that fall in this weight category are equal to 7%. Their rating has been suspended. But the problem may have been underestimated because the percentage of risk remains high even for pilots with an average weight. The Pentagon has solved the problem with a sort of "switch". The device will be adjusted according to the rider's weight. When a lighter driver is seated at the controls, the ejection device will delay the release of the parachute by a fraction of a second, which is believed to reduce the impact on the rider's neck. A support device has also been added between the parachute risers to prevent the pilots' head from performing unnatural and potentially fatal movements. The two changes, according to the Pentagon, will be in production by the end of the 2016. Estimated, the latter, considered too optimistic by the Congress that provides at least a year of tests and optimizations before the production on a large scale.

The helmet problem, however, will take longer. A pilot weighing 60 pounds, can not wear the actual helmet by 400 thousand dollars. A pilot with a weight of 60 pounds (excess tolerance threshold and two pound defect) has a probability on 50 to suffer a neck injury in case of expulsion. Pilots weighing between the 63 and 74 pounds have fewer risks with a chance that 200 will suffer a potentially fatal neck injury. Engineers are trying to reduce the weight of the helmet to ward off the potentially lethal neck injuries for ejectors from the aircraft. The helmet currently weighs 5,1 pounds. The minimum security threshold to reduce potentially fatal risks is 4,6 / 4,8 pounds.

According to the Department of Defense's report, the corrections on helmet weight have a delay of at least nine months compared to the other two solutions found. It would be right to note that restrictions will remain in force until the three changes are operational. Implementations will take at least one year of testing. It was planned that the three corrections would be implemented by the summer of 2017. The Air Force, in an e-mail last January 8, acknowledged that the fixes will be implemented by December of the 2018.

According to the Marine Corps Aviation Plan, the F-35 will replace the entire EA-6B Prowler fleet within the 2019 and will displace the AV-8B Harrier from the 2026. Finally, the F-35 will detect the F / A-18 Hornet in the 2030. The Air Force will reach the F-35A Initial Operational Capacity as soon as the first squadron consisting of 12-24 aircraft has been formed, with airmen and crews trained and able to carry out close air support missions, interdiction and limited suppression and destruction of enemy antiaircraft defenses. The F-35A will reach the Initial Operating Capacity between August and December of the 2016. Finally, the US Navy, equipped with the F-35C, will reach the Initial Operational Capacity as soon as the first squadron composed of 10 aircraft has been formed, with personnel and navy pilots trained and able to carry out the assigned missions. The F-35C will reach the Initial Operational Capacity between August 2018 and February 2019. The 55 years of life of the F-35 fighter will cost the United States 1500 billions of dollars. In addition to the United States, the hunt was ordered by Britain, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea and Israel.

(Photo: Lockheed Martin)