Awarded for an exceptional achievement or contribution, by an individual or team, to the operational assessment or development of a manned aircraft(s) or airborne system(s).
2019 Awarded to: The Test Pilots of the F-35 Integrated Test Force
Nathan J Gray, Lieutenant Commander Peter Wilson, Squadron Leader Andrew Edgell, Major Michael Lippert USMC
The F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) is responsible for all the developmental testing (DT) of all models of the F-35 across all the partner nations. The four nominated test pilots (TP) were assigned to conduct the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carrier First of Class Flight Trials (FoCFT) in autumn 2018. Part of this trial involved the comprehensive use of simulation in deriving the boundaries of the testing to be conducted.
Operating the latest 5th generation aircraft on the new Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carriers was one of the most complex and highest profile flight test programmes ever conducted by the ITF. To mitigate the risks a series of simulator events were conducted using the specially designed BAE Systems simulator at Warton. This simulator incorporated the flight control laws used on the F-35B, a high-fidelity model of HMS Queen Elizabeth and a computational fluid dynamic airflow model created by Liverpool University. The TP team then exercised the simulator to calculate the areas of least concern and the areas of most concern; to provide data to derive a comprehensive Test Execution Plan (TEP) to use during live trial flying. Although the ITF had previously conducted six ship trials (three F-35B and three F-35C) this was the first to make such extensive use of simulation as a planning and risk mitigation aide. It also allowed the TP to look at the UK unique Ski-Jump short take-off (Ski-STO) and the experimental Ship Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) technique, designed to allow greater bring-back capability for the jet in a controlled environment up to the maximum capabilities of the ship/jet combination. The extensive use of simulation for trail preparation is a first for such ship integration trails and the data was used during the trail to match reality to expectation as the envelope was steadily expanded. This meant during the envelope expansion the ITF and the ship were able to achieve 100% of DT1 and DT2, and approximately 40% of DT3, during the DT1/DT2 period.
The FoCFT TPs were perfectly suited to the task and proved to be a talented and eclectic element to the overall test team. Throughout the period they were dedicated to efficiently providing as large a clearance envelope as possible. They regularly worked outside their normal routine to ensure success and thier conduct was to the highest standard. The four TPs demonstrated excellent technical understanding, superior flying skills, ability to link simulation to reality and a diverse experience against which to base their analysis and recommendations. They are part of a very small group of people in the aviation industry who have demonstrably excelled in flight test disciplines and regularly exceed expectations. Without such a talented and cohesive group of TPs working on the Simulator mitigation, the success seen on the FoCFT may not have been realised.
During the live flying trial, the same team laid a solid foundation for the operating envelope for the F-35B on Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers for the future. This in turn has allowed for the successful return of maritime fixed wing aviation to the UK MoD’s operational capability. The Program Executive Officer for F-35, Vice Admiral Matt Winter USN, celebrated the trial as "Your [ITF] collective efforts have verified, confirmed and discovered F-35 and Queen Elizabeth Class performance boundaries and capabilities that will shape the warfighters’ path for many decades to come."
The F-35 Integrated Test Force test pilots are accordingly collectively awarded the Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown Memorial Trophy.
2018 Roger "Dodge" Bailey
2019 Test Pilots of the F-35 Integrated Test Force, Nathan J Gray, Lieutenant Commander Peter Wilson, Squadron Leader Andrew Edgell, Major Michael Lippert USMC