Earlier this month, Inside Defense uncovered a Pentagon report that said the US Navy’s F-35C had hit a snag that could take years to fix fully, potentially pushing back the already delayed introduction of the revolutionary Joint Strike Fighter naval variant.
The Pentagon formed a “red team” to investigate the F-35C’s carrier takeoffs, where extreme movements in the cockpit during launch risked pilot health.
Now, new footage of the F-35Cs taking off from an aircraft carrier may document the issue.
See the pilot get bucked and hit the top of the cockpit with his helmet?
Here’s an even better example where the visor actually pops off:
— JR Vianney (@jrvianney) January 27, 2017
A Pentagon deficiency report in 2015 stated that extreme movements in the cockpit, possibly like the ones shown above, during launch risked pilot health.
One hundred and five pilots completing catapult launches rated their level of pain or discomfort on a scale of one to five. Of the 105, 74 pilots reported “moderate” pain or a 3, 18 pilots reported “severe” pain or a 4, and one pilot reported “severe pain that persists” after launching from an aircraft carrier.
“The oscillations shake the pilot’s head sufficiently to impair their ability to consistently read flight critical data, which poses a safety of flight risk,” reads the report cited by Inside Defense.
This pain, more than a mere inconvenience, threatens the ability of pilots to read flight-critical data as they perform the complicated task of launching from a moving platform at sea. Exacerbating the problem, some pilots locked down their harnesses to avoid jostling around during the launch, but this makes it more difficult for the pilot to eject, should they need to.
Watch an F-18 launch for comparison:
The F-18 has been a mainstay of carrier air wings for decades, with thousands and thousands of successful launches to their credit – and even they rock a little bit when the aircraft carrier’s catapult engages.
However, in the case of the F-18, the pilot isn’t wearing a $400,000 helmet displaying flight-critical information.
When Business Insider contacted Lockheed about this story earlier this month, they said that all their carrier launches had been successful. But as this footage shows, it’s still rough on the pilot.