The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, built by Lockheed Martin and conducted by the Joint Programme Office (JPO), flew its final development flight test on Wednesday.
The final software design and development (SDD) test took place at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, where US Navy F-35C test aircraft CF-2 completed its task to collect data while carrying external 2,000 lb GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
Following the test, the F-35 is now being moved into operational test and evaluation conducted by the Pentagon’s independent testing office.
After its move, the systems development and demonstration (SDD) portion of the programme will be finalised and the F-35 will enter full-rate production.
At the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Conference, F-35 programme executive officer, Vice Admiral Mat Winter, said that he “expected to finish the final SDD flight test this week and potentially even today… this is a significant milestone for this programme”.
He also announced that, over the entire test programme, JPO conducted more than 9,200 stories which accumulated more than 17,000 flight hours, while executing over 65,000 test points to “verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all F-35 variants”.
Rolling out its later software packages, the flight trials will continue to support capability improvements and modernisation efforts by JPO’s continuous capability development and delivery (C2C2) framework.
Furthermore, Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 programme, called it the “most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test programme in aviation history.”
The programme also succeeded 1,500 vertical landing tests and conducted six periods of at-sea testing using the F-35B and F-35C carrier variant, as well as 183 weapon separation tests and 46 weapons delivery accuracy tests.
Written by Leah Alger