HRM

The F-35 Lightning II Can't Fly Near...Lightning

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The F-35 Lightning II Can't Fly Near...Lightning

Weakness is its middle name.

Jun 26, 2020
 
  • A key F-35 safety system is sustaining damage in Air Force service, forcing the office that overseas the F-35 program to recommend flight restrictions. 
  • Under the new guidelines, F-35 jets should socially distance from lightning, maintaining a distance of least 25 miles. 
  • The faulty systems could cause a F-35 hit by lightning to literally explode in midair. 

The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is temporarily barred from flying near actual lightning. More than a dozen Air Force F-35s were discovered with damage to a system designed to prevent catastrophic damage from lightning strikes. The damaged systems place the aircraft in danger of exploding if the airplane were hit by lightning in mid-flight.

The problem is with the Onboard Inert Gas Generation System (OBIGGS) is a safety subsystem common in modern airplanes. A typical OBIGGS system diverts air from the aircraft engine and separates the nitrogen, injecting it into the jet’s fuel tanks. The more inflammable nitrogen present the less flammable oxygen, helping reduce the possibility of fuel tank explosions. Wartime damage aside, one way a fuel tank explosion might take place is as a result of a lightning strike. 

Inspectors at the Air Force’s Ogden Logistics Complex discovered damage to the tubes that funnel nitrogen into the fuel tanks in 14 out of 24 out of F-35As inspected. The problem appears limited to the Air Force’s F-35A model. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, which operate the -C and -B versions of the F-35, have not seen similar problems.

According to Defense News, manufacturer Lockheed Martin paused F-35 deliveries to look into the issue with aircraft on the production line. The company believes that the problem is being caused “in the field after aircraft delivery” meaning while in the hands of the Air Force. There are no reports as of yet in the hands of foreign F-35 operators, though that sample size might still be pretty small so far. Air Force Magazine’s 2020 almanac lists the Air Force and Air Force Reserve as currently operating 203 Lightning II fighters, the most of any air force worldwide. 

For now, the F-35 Joint Program Office, which overseas the global F-35 enterprise, is recommending that F-35As avoid lightning and thunderstorms. The jets should maintain a distance of 25 miles from either type of weather, until the source of the problem is found and a fix is implemented.

Ironically, this is the second time the Lightning II has been prohibited from flying near actual lightning, after an earlier problem was discovered with the OBIGGS in the early 2010s.

Source: Defense News.

Edited by HRM
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13 hours ago, HRM said:

The more inflammable nitrogen present the less flammable oxygen

While an EEng might think this is correct, this ChemE knows better.  Inflammable=flammable, since the origin of the word inflammable is "inflamed".  Just another example of the imperfection of the English language.

Also, nitrogen is NOT less flammable than oxygen.  Neither is flammable.  Oxygen is an oxidizer that allows a flammable material (i.e. fuel) to burn.

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3 hours ago, neilpilot said:

While an EEng might think this is correct, this ChemE knows better.  Inflammable=flammable, since the origin of the word inflammable is "inflamed".  Just another example of the imperfection of the English language.

This poor Mechanical Engineer learned in high school that "inflammable" things burn nicely; those that strongly resist bursting into flames are "not flammable." And then there is "imflammable." it's really no more difficult than learning to differentiate between "affect" and "effect". Just a shame that so many pilots confuse "hangar" and "hanger" . . . . . And we all went to school way longer ago than Common Core's introduction!  :wacko:

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5 minutes ago, Hank said:

This poor Mechanical Engineer learned in high school that "inflammable" things burn nicely; those that strongly resist bursting into flames are "not flammable." And then there is "imflammable." it's really no more difficult than learning to differentiate between "affect" and "effect". Just a shame that so many pilots confuse "hangar" and "hanger" . . . . . And we all went to school way longer ago than Common Core's introduction!  :wacko:

Imflammable is rarely used, even by engineers.  I call a material (liquid or solid) that is not flammable but will still readily burn "combustible".  These terms have technical definitions that I won't go into here.  Jet fuel or diesel fuel, for example, will not easily vaporize so they are classified as combustible, NOT flammable.

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Wait a minute....I've been flying for 42 years without inert gas in the head space of my fuel tanks (that are partially filled with 100LL GASOLINE and not Jet-A).  Am I doomed to die in a lightning related explosion?

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18 minutes ago, neilpilot said:

Imflammable is rarely used, even by engineers.  I call a material (liquid or solid) that is not flammable but will still readily burn "combustible".  These terms have technical definitions that I won't go into here.  Jet fuel or diesel fuel, for example, will not easily vaporize so they are classified as combustible, NOT flammable.

During the first Oil Embargo, we heated our (uninsulated) house (in Japan) using "contaminated" JP-5, since sales of kerosene were highly restricted. It burns very well, very hot, we had to replace wicks and screens in the kerosene heaters frequently. 

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6 hours ago, neilpilot said:

While an EEng might think this is correct...

Nah, I just found the article amusing on so many levels and thought I'd share.

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2 hours ago, Hank said:

This poor Mechanical Engineer learned in high school that "inflammable" things burn nicely; those that strongly resist bursting into flames are "not flammable." And then there is "imflammable." it's really no more difficult than learning to differentiate between "affect" and "effect". Just a shame that so many pilots confuse "hangar" and "hanger" . . . . . And we all went to school way longer ago than Common Core's introduction!  :wacko:

And every now and then you see "yoke" and "yolk" mixed up as well. Which I guess works if you are mixing up the "yolk" while making an omelette. :P

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^ ^ ^ ^  Yuummmm . . . . Omelettes!!  :P

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Language lesson of the day MS style...

Go ChEs!

:)

Best regards,

-a-

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So I've read that the F35 is fat to accommodate the ducted fan for the Marines.  Of course, fat means that it's slower, less maneuverable and has shorter legs.  The version I heard is the Chinese stole the plans.  They couldn't build a ducted fan, don't have the technology, so they left it out.  Their version is supposed to be skinnier and can outfly ours.  Don't know if it can get near lightening.

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