Military Embedded Systems

Flight test milestones met by F-35


June 02, 2014

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA. Last month, in three separate flight tests the F-35 Lightning II aircraft from Lockheed Martin demonstrated an air-to-air combat capability, finished its first flight test with the next level software load and also made a landing at the maximum test speed and drop rate.

In the Point Mugu Sea Test Range airspace near the Central California coast, pilots of an F-35B demonstrated the jet’s air-to-air combat capability when they sequentially engaged two aerial targets with two AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) as part of a Weapon Delivery Accuracy mission.

Lt. Col. Andrew ‘Growler’ Allen, test pilot on the flight, tracked two maneuvering drone targets, firing the very first dual AMRAAM shot from any F-35 variant as well as the first live AMRAAM shot from the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant. The F-35’s internally-carried AIM-120 AMRAAMs have a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile capability for all-weather day-and-night operations and considered a “fire-and-forget” missile using active target radar guidance.

“The U.S. Marine Corps, which operates F-35Bs, will be the first military service branch to attain combat-ready Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2015,” says J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin's vice president for F-35 Test & Verification.

Flying from Edwards Air Force Base, F-35A pilots flew a 1.9 hour mission with the first-ever load of the Block 3i hardware and software, which is the next level of capability and is designed to support U.S. Air Force F-35A IOC in 2016.

Pilots flying the F-35C, which is designed for aircraft carrier operations, finished a landing at its maximum sink speed to test the jet's landing gear, airframe, and arrestment system at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. “Five sorties were conducted, building up the maximum sink rate test condition of 21.4 feet per second, which represents the maximum sink speed planned for this test,” McFarlan says. During the tests, the F-35C pilots completed did three arrestments, several touch and goes, and one bolter. The landings were to demonstrate structural readiness for arrested landings on an aircraft carrier at sea.

Fleet-wide, the F-35 fighter jet has, to date, amassed more than 17,000 flight hours, with all three of the variant aircraft at the F-35 Integrated Training Center at Eglin AFB, FL, surpassing the 5,000 sorties milestone this week.


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