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VT Air National Guard Participates in F-35 Acoustic, Emissions Testing in the U.K.

An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing Air, Vermont National Guard, stands static inside a protective aircraft shelter prior to the start of an acoustic and emission test at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, Englan

An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing Air, Vermont National Guard, stands static inside a protective aircraft shelter prior to the start of an acoustic and emission test at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, May 4, 2021. Prior to testing, acoustic sensors are affixed to the skin of the aircraft in structurally critical locations where acoustic pressure levels cannot be exceeded. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessi Monte)

Vermont Air National Guard --

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt., (May 18, 2021) -- In April, aircraft and personnel assigned to both the 134th Fighter Squadron and 158th Maintenance Group, Vermont Air National Guard, travelled to the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, to perform tests alongside their Airmen, personnel from the F-35 Joint Program Office and members of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Tests and evaluations were conducted to collect acoustic and bioenvironmental data in protective aircraft shelters specific to the F-35A Lightning II. Aircraft were run for two days in different shelters, while the rest of the two-week visit involved equipment set-up and test calibration.

“Given the fact that the engines, sound and thrust profile are very different between airframes, this test was necessary to determine the parameters of safe shelter operation,” said Tech. Sgt. Galen Topper, an F-35 maintainer assigned to the 158th Maintenance Group. “We set out to find out at which location in the shelter the aircraft could run without exceeding the safe limits for noise, dangerous gas and engine exhaust.”

“The shelters we tested have been in place at Lakenheath since late in the Cold War and have sheltered many aircraft, the most recent of which being the F-15,” continued Topper regarding the 48th Fighter Wing’s facilities.

Also known as the “Statue of Liberty Wing”, the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath is home to the U.S. Air Force’s first F-35A squadron to be activated in Europe: the “Valkyries” of the 495th Fighter Squadron.

Tests were completed using sensitive microphones and sensors on and around the F-35As to obtain accurate noise level measurements. Air quality sampling equipment was also positioned around the concrete shelter and in the cockpit.

According to Topper, all test data was safely collected with no incidents.

In total, seven Green Mountain Boy maintainers flew to England for this test: two from low observable, two crew chiefs, and two avionics specialists, along with one trip lead from the tactical aircraft maintenance squadron. Additionally, two F-35A pilots assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, Capt. Zachary “Kit3” Smith and Capt. Brendan “Beastie” Boyd, also participated in this evaluation.

“Each jet should have one of these hardened shelters on base. The tests were to make sure that everything was safe for the jet and us, the pilots and maintainers, and to certify those shelters before [the 48th Fighter Wing’s] jets arrive by the end of this year,” said Smith.

This testing was conducted in preparation for the Liberty Wing to base two squadrons of approximately 24 F-35As each, with the first two jets scheduled to be delivered to the U.K. toward the end of 2021.

“This was a step that was necessary to get F-35s there, which is the partnership we have with the U.K.,” said Smith. “People were very thankful at Lakenheath that we did this. The F-35 JPO and AFRL said we were a big help. It was meaningful that we did something that was helpful to the F-35 enterprise.”

Reflecting on this opportunity, Topper said that the Green Mountain Boys were able to provide a large service to the 48th Fighter Wing by completing this testing before their first aircraft arrival.