In the Point Mugu Sea Test Range airspace off the Central California coast, an F-35B demonstrated the jet’s air-to-air combat capability when it sequentially engaged two aerial targets with two AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles during a Weapon Delivery Accuracy mission.
Test pilot and 461st Flight Test Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Andrew Allen, tracked two maneuvering drone targets, making the very first dual AMRAAM shot from any F-35 variant, and the first live AMRAAM shot from the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant.
“The U.S. Marine Corps, which operates F-35Bs, will be the first military service branch to attain combat-ready Initial Operational Capability in 2015,” said J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for F-35 Test & Verification. “This Weapon Delivery Accuracy test highlighted the air combat capability that will give Marine aviators a decisive combat edge in contested airspace.”
The F-35’s internally-carried AIM-120 AMRAAMs are a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile capable of all-weather day-and-night operations and considered a “fire-and-forget” missile using active target radar guidance.
Also flying out of Edwards AFB, an F-35A flew a 1.9 hour mission with the first-ever load of Block 3i hardware and software. Block 3i is the next level of capability and is planned to support U.S. Air Force F-35A Initial Operating Capability in 2016.
The two flight tests out of Edwards May 27 were part of three F-35 major milestones on the same day.
On the East Coast, the F-35C, designed for aircraft carrier operations, completed a landing at its maximum sink speed to test the aircraft’s landing gear, airframe and arrestment system at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. “Five sorties were conducted, building up the maximum sink rate test condition of 21.4 feet per second, which represents the maximum sink speed planned for this test,” McFarlan said. During the tests, the F-35C did three arrestments, several touch and goes and one bolter. The landings were to demonstrate structural readiness for arrested landings on an aircraft carrier at sea.
Fleet-wide, the F-35 has, to date, amassed more than 17,000 flight hours.