May 20, 2010 (by Stephen K. Robinson) - Two F-35A Lightning II stealth Joint Strike Fighters left their final-assembly site in Fort Worth, Texas and flew nonstop to Edwards Air Force Base, May 17.
AF-1 (rear) and AF-2 complete a test flight on May 11th, 2010 from the Lockheed plant in Fort Worth, Texas, in preparation for the nonstop flight on May 17th to Edwards AFB to begin extended flight test operations. Air Force test pilot Lt. Col. Hank Griffiths and Lockheed Martin chief test pilot Jon Beesley flew the jets nonstop in the first multi-ship, long-range F-35 flight.
The arrival is the first in a series, which will eventually increase the Edwards F-35 test fleet to at least eight aircraft.
Air Force test pilot Lt. Col. Hank "Hog" Griffiths, 461st Flight Test Squadron commander, and Lockheed Martin F-35 Chief test pilot Jon Beesley, flew the jets, known as AF-01 and AF-02, non-stop in the first multi-ship, long-range F-35 flight.
"The ferry flight went very smoothly and reflects how the Air Force and Lockheed Martin will work cooperatively as we enter long-term F-35 testing at Edwards," Mr. Beesley said.
The F-35s will undergo ground and flight-test activities to test propulsion, aerial refuelling, logistical support, weapons integration and flight-envelope expansion at Edwards.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of F-35 test and verification said, "Through rigorous flight testing we are developing dominant and lethal 5th generation fighter capability for America and her allies. This historic moment at Edwards begins the planned expansion of F-35 flight test to a third permanent operating location. F-35A flight testing is a highly integrated partnership with the United States Air Force." Mr. Pearson is a former Air Force Flight Test Center commander.
Three F-35s are currently undergoing flight trials at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., the primary test site for the F-35B short take-off/vertical landing variant and the F-35C aircraft carrier variant. F-35s have conducted more than 200 test flights, with six additional test aircraft scheduled to begin flying and deploying to the two test sites this year.
The F-35A conventional take-off and landing variant -- designed to meet U.S. Air Force requirements -- is also the primary export version of the Lightning II. The air forces of Italy
, the Netherlands
, Canada, Australia, Denmark
will employ the F-35A.
F-35 test aircraft are supported by the F-35 Autonomic Logistics Information System and managed by the F-35 Sustainment Operations Center in Fort Worth. ALIS
is the worldwide support system reporting and recording the prognostics and health of all F-35s around the globe to ensure mission readiness.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs. The F-35 is being developed by Lockheed Martin with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE
While final assembly of the F-35 will take place at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Northrop Grumman Corporation in Palmdale and El Segundo, Calif., will manufacture the center fuselage. The aft fuselage and tails will be manufactured by BAE Systems in Samlesbury, England. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth will manufacture the forward fuselage and wings.
The F-35 program came about following a four-year competition between defense contractors to develop and provide the next generation joint-service aircraft. On Oct. 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense named the Lockheed Martin led Joint Strike Fighter team as the winner of the contract to develop the F-35 JSF
The vision of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program is to deliver and sustain the most advanced, affordable strike fighter aircraft to protect future generations worldwide.
The JSF is tasked with fulfilling the stated Defense needs: the Navy's First-Day-of-War requirements, lead survivable strike fighter aircraft to complement F/A-18E/F; Air Force Multi-role aircraft (primary-air-to-ground) to replace the F-16 and A-10 and complement the F/A-22; Marine Corps STOVL
aircraft to replace the AV-8B and F/A-18 as their only strike fighter; United Kingdom Royal Navy & Royal Air Force STOVL aircraft to replace Sea Harriers & GR.7s as a supersonic strike fighter; and other countries potential JSF customers include current operators of F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8B.
Nine nations are partnering in the F-35's System Development and Demonstration phase: The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia. Partnership in SDD
entitles those countries to bid for work on a best-value basis, and participate in the aircraft's development. Additionally, Israel
have agreed to join the program as security cooperation participants.
The Joint Strike Fighter Program, formerly the Joint Advanced Strike Technology Program, is the Department of Defense's focal point for defining affordable next-generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and allies of the United States. The focus of the program is affordability -- reducing the development cost, production cost and cost of ownership of the JSF family of aircraft.
What is commonly known as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program had its origination in several programs from the 1980s and early 1990s.
Over the years, several tactical aircraft acquisition programs have attempted to deliver new warfighting capabilities to the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allies.
The Departments of the Air Force and Navy support the F-35 program with their own civilian and military members. Program workers are assigned from each branch, some work in the program office in Arlington, Virginia, but most are employed at their home bases across the United States. The field sites most heavily involved with the F-35 program are: NAS
Patuxent River, Md.; Naval Air Warfare Center, Calif.; Edwards AFB
, Calif.; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Flight-testing will be conducted at Fort Worth, Edwards AFB and NAS Patuxent River. Additionally, the STOVL and CV
variants will undergo sea trials aboard American, British and Italian aircraft carriers.