The US Marine Corps' (USMC) F-35B Lightning II aircraft has successfully completed the first power module and engine swap at sea aboard the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA 6).

The new milestone was achieved during the aircraft’s third and final developmental test phase (DT-III).

Seven F-35B Lightning II aircraft are scheduled to undergo testing aboard USS America with two F-35Bs to conduct the third shipboard phase of developmental tests (DT-III), as well as five for operational testing.

"Taking a week to test an engine swap is how we find obstacles and how we fix them."

F-35 Pax (Patuxent) River Integrated Test Force (ITF) maintenance and logistics department head Mark Schroeder attributed the success of the initial at-sea power module and engine swap to the embarked marines of the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1, who developed the new engine removal and replacement (R&R) process.

VMX-1 F-35B detachment officer-in-charge lieutenant colonel Richard Rusnok said: "Testing the ability to swap entire engines or engine components at sea is vital, as this is the last opportunity for the Marine Corps to perform these shipboard maintenance actions in a sterile test environment before they deploy with the F-35B in 2018.

"During this short-term deployment, the team not only proved the engine maintenance construct, but also gained critical hands-on experience dealing with the confined space and deck motion aboard ship something that cannot be replicated ashore.”

During the engine swap, the VMX-1 maintenance team spent a week on the initial swap to monitor and track each step of the process by entering each maintenance step into the autonomic logistic information system (ALIS).

ALIS enables the F-35 team to plan ahead, maintain, and sustain aircraft subsystems over the life of the aircraft.

Marine staff sergeant Mark Veliz said: "Taking a week to test an engine swap is how we find obstacles and how we fix them."

Image: F-35B Lightning II aircraft undergoes operational testing on-board USS America. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/Released.