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Preparing for F-35 sea trials

Senior Simulation Engineer, BAE Systems Air
Later this year, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the UK's new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, will head out to the east coast of the United States to operate with the F-35 Lightning aircraft for the first time.
This will be a historic moment for the UK and a major step towards delivering carrier enabled power projection as these two remarkable pieces of engineering, the QEC carrier and the F-35, work together.

From a small corner of Lancashire, our specialist team of engineers will be looking on from our world-class simulation facility, observing the action with intense interest.
 
The facility is unique. We have replicated the cockpit of an F-35 and linked it to a simulation of FLYCO, the flight control tower on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, to allow pilots from the RAF, Royal Navy, the United States armed forces and test pilots from both BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-35 programme, to 'fly' onto the carrier deck.
 
Image of Dr Steve Hodge in the simulator facility

Over the past 12 months, the team has simulated thousands of landings using the facility to make sure that the real-life flight trials later this year are as safe and as effective as possible.

This month, we have members of the Royal Navy team joining us in the facility as they continue to develop the way pilots, Landing Signal Officers (LSO), and the rest of the FLYCO team will operate for generations to come.

What makes this simulator even more special is the application of highly specialised engineering that allows us to model the air wake – essentially the way air moves around HMS Queen Elizabeth flight deck.
 
When you take a ship to sea and operate aircraft from it, the turbulence caused by airflow moving across the deck and around the ship is something you have to be particularly aware of.
 
Image of Dr Steve Hodge demonstrates simulator capability
 
In order to create this, we took real data from the ship and modelled it using computational fluid dynamics.

We fed this data into the simulator to replicate the disturbances that an aircraft would experience, meaning that when a pilot lands an F-35 in our simulator, they feel the motions that they would feel in real life.

This is a hugely exciting function, which the UK has never been able to accurately simulate before.

All these preparations help significantly de-risk the trials and ensure that when it comes to the real thing, the flight tests we are planning can be conducted safely.

All of this work contributes to the UK's ultimate goal of declaring Initial Operating Capability for the F-35 at sea by 2020.
 
When this milestone is reached, our people and our technology will have played a major part in achieving it.
 
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Dr Steve Hodge Senior Simulation Engineer, BAE Systems Air 20 March 2018