Military

F-35 Test Flights Finished, Ready For Ramp-Up

By Nick Zazulia | May 8, 2018

An F-35B. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program has completed the final developmental test flight of the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of the program.

“Completing F-35 SDD flight test is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team,” said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 program executive officer.  “Since the first flight of AA-1 in 2006, the developmental flight test program has operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours.”

The final SDD flight occurred April 11 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, when U.S. Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2,000-pound GBU-31 joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

The test team conducted six at-sea detachments and performed more than 1,500 vertical-landing tests on the F-35B variant. The developmental flight test team completed 183 weapon separation tests, 46 weapons delivery accuracy tests and 33 mission effectiveness tests, including numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.

The program's SDD phase will be formally completed following an operational test and evaluation and a U.S. Defense Department decision to go into full-rate production. In the meantime, F-35 flight testing will continue as part of the continuous capability development and delivery framework under which the joint program office operates.

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