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Combat aircraft ‘takes flight’ at the HEP

25th April 2018
On April 15th, the test airframe of a F-35 Lightning combat aircraft was lifted out of its test facility at BAE Systems on the Humber Enterprise Park as it began its journey back to the United States to join the RAF’s front-line in the summer.

BAE Systems led the structural testing of the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variant of the airframe, which will be operated by the US Air Force amongst others.

The full-scale airframe has been ‘flown’ for 24,000 hours over the past nine years in a unique 350-tonne rig at the HEP site, being subjected to and tested on the range of loads it would experience in actual flight. Durability tests were carried out to simulate real life fleet usage based on projected operational requirements.

The airframe, known as AJ-1, was lifted out of the test facility using a special transport trolley and taken to a barge waiting on the River Humber using a crane with a 350ft reach.

From there the specially wrapped airframe was taken to the Hull docks where it will be taken by sea to the United States and delivered to Fort Worth, Texas.

The F-35 is the latest in a line of aircraft to have been tested at the Humber Enterprise Park, including the Buccaneer, the Harrier, the Hawk and most recently Eurofighter Typhoon, which continues to be tested.