May 30, 2014 (by Eric Schnaible) - In three separate flight tests on May 27, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft demonstrated air-to-air combat capability, completed the first flight test with the next level software load and accomplished a landing at the maximum test speed and drop rate.
USNavy F-35C (CF-03) flown by LCdr. Dyckman makes a fly-in arrestment landing at NAS Patuxent River. [Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann]
In the Point Mugu Sea Test Range airspace off the Central California coast, an F-35B demonstrated the jetâ€™s air-to-air combat capability when it sequentially engaged two aerial targets with two AIM-120
Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM
) during a Weapon Delivery Accuracy mission.
Test pilot Lt. Col. Andrew â€˜Growlerâ€™ Allen tracked two maneuvering drone targets, making the very first dual AMRAAM shot from any F-35 variant, and the first live AMRAAM shot from the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL
â€œThe 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,â€ said J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin's vice president for F-35 Test & Verification. â€œThis Weapon Delivery Accuracy test highlighted the air combat capability that will give Marine aviators a decisive combat edge in contested airspace.â€
The F-35â€™s internally-carried AIM-120 AMRAAMs are a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile capable of all-weather day-and-night operations and considered a â€œfire-and-forgetâ€ missile using active target radar guidance.
Flying from Edwards Air Force Base, an F-35A flew a 1.9 hour mission with the first-ever load of Block 3i hardware and software. Block 3i is the next level of capability and is planned to support U.S. Air Force F-35A IOC in 2016.
The F-35C, designed for aircraft carrier operations, completed a landing at its maximum sink speed to test the aircraftâ€™s landing gear, airframe and arrestment system at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. â€œFive 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,â€ McFarlan said. During the tests, the F-35C 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 has, to date, amassed more than 17,000 flight hours, with all three variant aircraft at the F-35 Integrated Training Center at Eglin AFB
, Florida, surpassing the 5,000 sorties milestone this week.