A DIY Functional F-35 Is No Simple Task

The advent of affordable gear for radio-controlled aircraft has made the hobby extremely accessible, but also made it possible to build some very complex flying machines on a budget, especially when combined with 3D printing. [Joel Vlashof] really likes VTOL fighter aircraft and is in the process of building a fully functional radio-controlled F-35B.

The F-35 series of aircraft is one of the most expensive defence project to date. The VTOL capable “B” variant is a complex machine, with total of 19 doors on the outside of the aircraft for weapons, landing gear and thrusters. The thruster on the tail can pivot 90° down for VTOL operations, using an interesting 3-bearing swivel mechanism.

[Joel] wants his model to be as close as possible to the real thing, and has integrated all these features into his build. Thrust is provided by two EDF motors, the pivoting nozzle is 3D printed and actuated by three set of small DC motors, and all 5 doors for VTOL are actuated by a single servo in the nose via a series of linkages. For tilt control, air from the main fan is channeled to the wing-tips and controlled by servo-actuated valves. A flight controller intended for use on a multi-rotor is used to help keep the plane stable while hovering. One iteration of this plane bit the dust during development, but [Joel] has done successful test flights for both hover and conventional horizontal flight.  The really tricky part will be transitioning between flight modes, and [Joel] hopes to achieve that in the near future.

The real Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II project is controversial because of repeated budget overruns and time delays, but the engineering challenges solved in the project are themselves fascinating. The logistics of keeping these complex machines in the air are daunting, and a while back we saw Marine ground crew 3D print components that they were having trouble procuring through normal channels.

19 thoughts on “A DIY Functional F-35 Is No Simple Task

        1. obligatory Space Cowboys quote regarding landing the space shuttle manually:
          “It’s not an aircraft, Colonel. It’s a flying brick, and you’ve GOT to use the computer’s protocols.”

  1. is it an accurate model?

    does it need rebooting every 24hrs?

    does it reboot when it crosses the international date line?

    did it cost 35 billion to develop? – scaled of course

    does it have problems landing/taking off from carriers?

    it actually looks to be quite accurate, as just like the real F35, it’s not combat suitable.

    1. Must be a Lockheed Martin insider… lol

      For the model – EDF is poor man’s jet turbine.
      Should’ve used a real turbine – ie. for that size, probably a Jetcat P-200.
      Nothing beats the sound of a turbine spooling up !

    1. Things wouldn’t work much better. It’s shitty management that’s the problem. No matter how brilliant the engineer or researcher, all his work lives or dies according to a manager that can barely write his own name. That’s how things work. I’ve been there… and decided to just go to private sector where no government is involved. Best decision of my life.

  2. As one of the configuration development design engineers who worked on the F35 proposal efforts and has a special place in my heart for the F35, all I can say is “Bravo”. Well done.

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