officials are creeping closer to a solution to problems with the tailhook design for the U.S. Navy .
The original design failed to snag the arresting wire in early testing owing to two problems: the point of the hook was not sharp enough to scoop under the wire and securely grab it, and a dampener device was not sufficient to maintain a hold on the wire. Essentially, the hook was bouncing upon landing, reducing the likelihood of a successful arrested landing.
Lockheed Martin, the F-35 prime contractor, has redesigned the hook to address those problems. An interim version, which has a sharpened point but lacks the dampener, was tested.
In three of five recent attempts, the redesigned hook did capture the wire; the failures were due to the pilot landing the aircraft too far from the wire for a successful arresting. This testing “was highly successful in demonstrating that when presented the wire . . . it will grab the wire,” says J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of test and evaluation for the F-35 program. He briefed reporters Sept. 18 during the annual Air Force Assn. conference in Washington.
These failures to grab the wire were predicted by models based on where the pilots landed the aircraft, McFarlan says. This, he notes, helps to validate the modeling work done on the redesigned hook.
The tailhook problems came to light nearly a year ago, and redesign work has been in progress since. Company officials hope to test the final version of the new arresting hook, and its dampener, next summer.
Shipboard trials are set for 2014.