F-35As conduct acoustic and emissions testing at RAF Lakenheath

Two US Air Force (USAF)-operated Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs from the Vermont Air National Guard (ANG) – which recently arrived in the UK – are being used to prepare RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, for the arrival of its first fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters.

A press release issued by RAF Lakenheath’s resident 48th Fighter Wing (FW) showed one of the F-35As undergoing acoustic and emission testing inside a protective aircraft shelter at the British base on May 4. Prior to the start of testing, acoustic sensors were affixed to the skin of the aircraft in structurally critical locations, where acoustic pressure levels cannot be exceeded.

Vermont ANG F-35A Lakenheath acoustic/emissions testing [USAF/Senior Airman Jessi Monte]
One of the two Vermont ANG-operated F-35A Lightning IIs positioned in a protective aircraft shelter to undertake acoustic and emissions testing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, on May 4, 2021. USAF/Senior Airman Jessi Monte

During the May 4 test, acoustic monitoring and hazard recognition technicians from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Greene County, Ohio, set up and calibrated monitoring devices around the F-35A for data collection purposes. The acoustic testing sensors lining the ground in the shelter monitored the acoustic levels present at different stages of an F-35A engine run, while air sampling pumps tested emission levels.

The data collected during testing will be used to ensure that the acoustic load inside the protective aircraft shelter is not exceeded, therefore preventing structural fatigue to the aircraft and also maintaining a safe working environment. The measurements taken during testing will determine the allowable noise and gaseous emissions exposure limits for pilots and maintenance personnel working inside the shelter.

These tests will help pave the way for the arrival of the first F-35As at RAF Lakenheath, which are set to arrive at the ‘Liberty Wing’ this autumn. The 495th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Valkyries’ will be the first of two 48th FW units to operate the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter and is due to be reformed this summer.

The two Vermont ANG F-35As hail from the 158th FW’s 134th FS ‘Green Mountain Boys’ at Burlington Air National Guard Base, which is an extension of Burlington International Airport in Vermont. The F-35A pair, comprising serials 18-5361 (callsign ‘Tabor 11’) and 17-5278 (callsign ‘Tabor 12’), arrived at RAF Lakenheath on April 27 to conduct operational trials.