We’ve said more than enough about all the problems with the F-35 Lightning II, the jet that’s supposed to be the next backbone of many of the world’s air forces. Seemingly endless testing, endless fiddling, with weapons that don’t quite work properly yet. Well here’s what can go wrong without some of that.
Even something as seemingly simple as dropping a bomb or firing a missile isn’t simple at all (not to mention any moral or ethical quandaries). Are the aerodynamics wrong? What about the weight balance? When the computer receives the instruction to release the weapon, how does it do so? And once the release button is hit, what actually happens?
A lot of that could be done in a computer nowadays, but not all of it. And certainly not historically. So to make sure a weapon wouldn’t smack back into the jet it was launched from, or worse, militaries test-drop and fire things, again and again if need be.
But here’s what that looks like when it goes wrong:
Surprisingly for Youtube comments, there are actually a bunch of people claiming weapons experience down below the vid at the Youtube link. Here’s one from user Jonesy97, explaining how the systems work:
Tests like these brought on the evolution of “EJECTOR FEET” in the bottom of weapons release racks, or otherwise stores release racks. One of the most popular, was the MAU-12 bomb rack. When the pilot pressed the pickle button, a 27 volt charge hits the primers of 2 impulse carts (similar in appearance to 12 ga. shotgun shells). The gas pressure expanding from their firing not only opens the 2 hooks that grab the bombs lugs that hold it in place, but the pressure sends 2 solid stainless steel rods about 10" long to strike the top of the weapon extremely hard, so as to knock the weapon away from the aircraft, as well as open the retaining hooks. No more tail or stab strikes. I was a Weapons Systems Specialist in the USAF. Decades later, I still remember all this shit, but barely remember what happened freakin’ yesterday! Life gets pretty weird when you get old.
And another from user Hopelessand Forlorn:
Second airplane in video, F-105, had bomb bay for carrying nuke internally. Rather than using explosive cartridges to power the weapon away, as was done on wing stations, a large actuator in the top of the bomb bay was charged with nitrogen gas at 225 psi. The bomb rack was bolted to the bottom of the actuator. A gas valve tied to the bomb release circuit unlocked the actuator and allowed it to shove the bomb out with plenty of separation. It worked quite well.
And then user texn8 explains what can happen when it all goes wrong:
I was doing intercepts of bogey aircraft in the Texas Air Guard when a wsem (weapon system evaluation missle) came unglued from the rail. Evedently the weapons mechanics loaded it incorrectly or the rail lugs failed (I had done the preflight and shook the missle clone to ck it ) anyway, when it unassed itself, it nosed up and struck the rt elevon. The aircraft left controlled flight with an immediate 40 degree pitch-up resulting in a subsequent stall and spin. After 4-1/2 turn nose down spin, I and 8000' I got it back. Besides a split in the elevon and hinge assembly , there’s was no other damage except I believe the seat cushion had to be surgically removed from my ass. I bought the drinks in terms OC that night. I spent the next 4 days writing reports and signing the -1 paperwork.
Next time you see a jet program that’s chock full of testing and you don’t know why, remember this video. It could very well be part of it.