A team of Defence Science and Technology scientists and engineers have played a pivotal role in supporting the research and development conducted by the US Air Force SEEK EAGLE Office (AFSEO) at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to enhance the lethality of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
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Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) engineer Regina Blyth has led the development of a computational aerodynamics modelling capability for the external and internal carriage and release of weapons from the F-35A fighter jet.
Blyth has worked with DSTG colleagues and US counterparts to take this capability from zero to fully validated and operational within that time frame.
Blyth explained the importance of the research and development and collaborative program with the US Air Force, stating, “Especially within the context of limited availability of flight test aircraft, and with experimental data from Australian and US wind-tunnel facilities as yet unavailable, computational aerodynamics modelling tools have bridged the capability gap and resulted in a highly-valued Defence outcome.”
This outstanding contribution has resulted in significant impact on Defence outcomes – supporting the missions of both the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Air Force by providing valuable aircraft-weapons integration tools for certification of current and future weapons carried and deployed from this fifth-generation fighter jet.
The tools allow a greater range of weapons can be integrated onto Australia’s F-35A combat aircraft. This has provided the Australian Defence Force with greater options to more effectively deter and respond to threats against Australia and its interests.
Blyth is the first DSTG engineer to be embedded with the Computational Aeromechanics Team at AFSEO – as part of this, Blyth has taken the initiative to identify and facilitate opportunities for data and tool exchange, reaping benefits for DSTG and the ADF; a high benchmark has been set for those following in her tracks to continue fostering this important partnership.
The work conducted by Blyth and her colleagues is a critical component, contributing to an effective air combat capability for both Australian and US air forces, while also minimising risk to aircrew and aircraft.
The research also aims at reducing the need for expensive physical testing. Development of accurate, fit-for-purpose computational aerodynamics models will result in reduced time and cost of weapons clearance certification and increased operational envelopes over the life of the F-35A aircraft for both nations.
Adding to her commitment to STEM outreach, Blyth plans to resume volunteering her time through the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program. Blyth is one of six female DSTG scientists and engineers who have applied to be part of the 2021-22 Superstars of STEM (#SuperstarsofSTEM) program.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the RAAF and the wider Australian Defence Force.
For the RAAF, the F-35A's combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.