F-35 Lightning II News

F-35 flight testing gains momentum

May 12, 2011 (by Bjørnar Bolsøy) - The F-35 shows continued progress in flight testing according to a released statement by Lockheed Martin.

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On March 8th, 2011 the F-35 System Development and Demonstration flight test program reached 1,000 cumulative flight hours. The total was surpassed during a formation flight with AF-1 and AF-4 at Edwards AFB, California. [Photo by David Drais]

As of Tuesday May 10 the program had completed a total of 878 flights. So far in 2011 331 sorties have been flown with 125 since March 31, an average of about 8.5 flights per plane for the past month. If all goes according to plan this year will see 872 flights, more than double of last year's figure of 410 flights.

14 jets are now flying including the recent additions by AF-8 and CF-2. The fleet will eventually grow to 18 aircraft - six were added as part of the program restructuring in January 2011.

Lockheed notes the following key milestones achieved in flight testing since March 31:
  • The F-35 program flew the most flights ever recorded on one day (May 6) when a combined total of eight test flights were completed at all three of its flight test locations. (Edwards AFB, Calif.; Fort Worth, Texas, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.)
  • The U.S. Air Force accepted into its fleet the first of a planned 1,763 production-model F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters when AF-7 was delivered to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on May 6. It is the first aircraft from Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lot one delivered.
  • The first F-35A production aircraft that will be delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., accomplished its first flight on May 6. Known as AF-8, the aircraft will be delivered to Eglin for pilot and maintainer training later this year. This jet is the first aircraft to fly from Low Rate Initial Production lot two.
  • The second F-35C carrier variant (CV), known as CF-2 completed its first flight April 29. Later this month it is scheduled to be delivered to the F-35 test fleet at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., (PAX).
  • The program recorded the 300th System Development and Demonstration flight of 2011 on May 6.
  • At Edwards, F-35s passed the 250 flight mark of the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant on May 5. The first test jets, AF-1 and AF-2, arrived there on May 17, 2010.
  • Two more F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jets, BF-3 and BF-4 performed their first vertical landings. BF-4 flew its mission on April 27 and BF-3 on April 29. STOVL jets have conducted 94 vertical landings to date in 2011.

The following totals and highlights capture the overall flight test activity since March 31, and cumulative totals for 2011:

  • F-35A (CTOL) aircraft conducted 57 flights. In 2011, CTOL jets have flown 146 times.
  • F-35B (STOVL) aircraft conducted 43 flights. In 2011, STOVL aircraft have completed 144 flights and 84 vertical landings.
  • F-35C (CV) aircraft accomplished 25 flights. In 2011, CV jets have flown 41 times.
  • From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through Tuesday, F-35s flew 878 times.