20 Jul 2018

F-35 Lightning simulator instrumental to Royal Navy flight trials

A leading Royal Navy test pilot has emphasised the importance of a bespoke £2 million simulator in preparing the F-35 Lightning for flight trials later on in the year.

Commander Nath Gray is part of an elite cadre of Royal Navy test pilots who will carry out the very first F-35 flight trials on board HMS Queen Elizabeth. In preparation, Gray has completed the latest batch of simulator trials at a BAE Systems facility in Warton, Lancashire.

Remarkably, the F-35/QEC Integration Simulator is able to replicate both the cockpit of the F-35 and the flight control tower (FLYCO) on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, giving test pilots a fuller picture of the process. To date, thousands of simulation take offs and landings have been conducted in a fully immersive 360-degree environment.

The simulator applies highly specialised computational engineering to model the air wake of the ship – the way in which air moves around and behind the carrier and flight deck – to replicate the real-life motions that F-35 pilots will face.

Commander Gray said: “The facility is unique in providing the most realistic environment and conditions that I’ve ever experienced in a simulator. The flying qualities, aircraft handling, air wakes and way the ship rolls are as real as it gets.

“Being able to experience both the F-35 and Queen Elizabeth Class FLYCO together is crucial in allowing us to successfully take that next step in bringing together a brand new aircraft carrier with a brand new aircraft in First of Class Flight Trials.”

Over the past 18 months, pilots and landing signal officers have used the simulator to better develop the way the Royal Navy will operate in the future. Once ready, HMS Queen Elizabeth will cross the Atlantic to the United States to ensure the real-life flight trials are as safe and effective as possible.

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