Noisy Lightning

The first Dutch Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, seen here at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
The first Dutch Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, seen here at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Various European air forces are looking into the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II as their next fighter aircraft. The Netherlands has already decided on buying 37 aircraft despite fears of excessive noise in the densely populated areas surrounding Dutch airbases. Tests by the F-35 Joint Program Office and US Air Force Research Laboratory have now concluded the F-35 is indeed considerably noisier than current Dutch F-16s, according to a report released on Friday 31 October 2014.

During tests on the ground, the F-35 noise levels proved to be similar to late model Lockheed Martin F-16s, equipped with Pratt & Whitney F-100 PW229 engines. In military power the F-35A produces 145 decibels, while in afterburner the noise level rises to 146 decibels. The F-16 produce virtually the same sound levels while on the ground. Other modern fighter aircraft create equal noise levels while on the ground.

The difference is in airborne situations, where there’s a significant rise in noise level compared to most European F-16s, which are early models equipped with the PW220 variant of the Pratt & Whitney F-100 engine. Dutch F-16s use the same engine. During take off in military power, the F-16 generates 103 decibels while at 1000 feet over the ground. The F-35A, the model purchased by the Netherlands, produces 112 decibels in the same situation.

In the circuit before landing, F-16 noise levels are at 79 decibels while at 1,500 feet over the ground. The F-35A is louder: 91 decibels. A straight in landing with the F-35A generates 95 decibels against 79 again for the F-16 with the PW220 engine variant.

As the report states, ‘the F-35A is generally louder for all conditions when compared to
the F-16 with the earlier PW220 engine’. And that’s a message that will not sit well with local communities around Dutch airbases. Both Volkel and Leeuwarden airbase will house F-35A aircraft in the future.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest