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F-35 achieves flight test goal

December 14, 2010 (by Bjørnar Bolsøy) - The F-35 program has achieved its goal of 394 test flights for 2010.

AF-03 receives fuel during its ferry flight to Edwards AFB on December 11th, 2010. Pilot was Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill 'Gigs' Gigliotti. [Lockheed Martin photo by Liz Kaszynski]

As the third F-35A test jet joins the test fleet at Edwards AFB, the F-35 program has logged its 400th test flight this year - still with two weeks to go before year's end. The program had planned for 394 flights, a goal acheived on December 9.

The eight test jets have flown some 300 flights since June. This is despite a fleet wide grounding in October due to a software issue with the fuel boost pumps as well as challenges with the F-35B STOVL jet, which has slowed the type's flight test progress. Overall the program has logged 531 flights to date.

As of December 12 3698 test points had been completed of a planned 3772 by the end of the year. The CTOL and CV remains ahead of plan while the STOVL trails behind. A break down for each jet: CV; 462 against 270 planned, CTOL; 1343 against 1064 planned, and STOVL; 1893 against 2438 planned.

AF-3 arrived at Edwards AFB on December 11 after a 1,200-mile ferry flight from Lockheed's Fort Worth plant in Texas. The flight was piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill "Gigs" Gigliotti and included a tanker rendezvous to refuel. The jet is the first fully low-observable compliant F-35 and will mainly test the F-35's advanced technologies and mission systems. A wide range of systems will be tested, such as the APG-81 AESA radar and AN/ASQ-239 "Barracuda" electronic warfare system, as well as other sensors and avionics as flight testing progresses.

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