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F-35 Lightning II News

First F-35 flight scheduled for next week

December 6, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is set to make its maiden test flight next week at Lockheed Martins Fort Worth, Texas, test site according to BGen David R. Heinz, deputy program executive officer of the F-35 Lightning II Program.

The X-35A speeds down a runway during taxi testing at Lockheeds Palmdale, California, plant. Over the weekend [LMTAS photo]

The initial schedule, as stated on the forum, was as follows:
  • Dec 05 - Low Speed Taxi Tests (30 knots)
  • Dec 07 - Medium Speed Taxi Tests
  • Dec 09 - High Speed Taxi Tests
  • Dec 11 - First Flight of the CTOL variant (60-minutes)
  • Dec 13 - Second Flight

Bad weather however delayed things a bit though and the low speed taxi tests won't be held before Dec 07.

The aircraft's development has been co-financed by eight international partners -- Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

Despite heavy cost overruns, Brig Gen Heinz said he expected all the contributing partners to place orders for the jet, taking combined purchases for the F-35 to 3,100 aircraft including the 2,400+ planned for the United States and 138 scheduled for Britain.

As early as 2010, the Pentagon expects to define an F-35 configuration for sale to even more countries through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, Heinz said at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington.

Spain, which would be looking at the F-35B short take-off vertical-landing (STOVL) variant to replace the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II Plus aircraft that it is currently operating is certain to be one country would certainly be one of the other first buyers, next to possibly Israel and Singapore.

"I believe there will be an additional 2,000 aircraft" sold from 2015 through 2035 to countries outside the original production consortium, Heinz said.

On November 14, the Netherlands became the first of the F-35 partner nations to extend its participation from development into a production and support phase.

Canada and Australia will follow suit on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, Heinz said, with the others expected to do so by the end of this month, with the possible exception of Norway because of questions in its legislature about its industry's share of F-35-related contracts.

Additional images:

The finalized external design of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, top, is shown over the JSF X-35A demonstrator aircraft, which successfully completed its flight-test program in 2001 [LMTAS photo]

X-35A, #301 Joint Strike Fighter prototype with an F-16B Falcon chase from the 412th Test wing at Edwards Air Force Base. [LMTAS Photo]