Air-Launched Weapons

F-35 tracking to SDD flight trials completion by end of year

25 July 2017
An inverted F-35C launches an AIM-9X missile during a live fire test event as part of the SDD flight trails campaign. Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) are on track to compete System Design and Development (SDD) flight testing of the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme before the end of the year, it was announced on 25 July.

The remaining development flight testing includes validating the final release of Block 3F software, F-35B ‘ski jump’ testing, F-35B austere site operations, high-Mach loads testing for both the F-35B and F-35C, and completion of the remaining weapons delivery accuracy tests.

“We are well positioned to complete air vehicle full [Block] 3F and mission systems software development by the end of 2017,” Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin's executive vice-president and general manager for the F-35, said. SDD has been running since 2001, and with flight trials expected to be completed by the end of the year the final certifications and sign-offs should take place in early 2018.

The affirmation that SDD is on track was part of a wider announcement by Lockheed Martin and the JPO that the F-35 programme had hit its 100,000 flight hours milestone. As noted in the announcement, major SDD fleet test milestones conducted in recent months have included the completion of testing for the F-35A’s final envelope involving ‘high-risk edge-of-the-envelope’ manoeuvres, stressing the aircraft to its limits in structural strength, vehicle systems performance, and aerodynamics while proving excellent handling qualities; completing all UK Weapon Delivery Accuracy tests for the AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and Paveway IV weapons, and completing 45 of 50 SDD Weapon Delivery Accuracy tests, including multiple target and multiple shot engagements as well as internal gun and centerline external pod 25 mm gun accuracy tests; as well as performing multiship mission effectiveness tests, such as offensive counter-air and maritime interdiction.

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