Air Platforms

F-35 completes developmental flight testing

12 April 2018
The final SDD-phase test flight, pictured, involved a US Navy F-35C collecting loads data. SDD will continue through to a full-rate production decision. Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin and the Joint Program Office (JPO) have completed developmental flight testing of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), it was announced on 12 April.

The milestone, which was slightly delayed from the end of 2017, was achieved about 17 years and approximately USD60 billion after the System Design and Development (SDD) phase of the international JSF programme was launched in 2001, and more than 11 years after flight testing began in late 2006.

As noted by Lockheed Martin, since aircraft AA-1 took to the skies for the first time in December 2006 the F-35 flight test programme has conducted more than 9,200 sorties spanning over 17,000 hours. During this time, it has executed more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability, and performance for all three F-35 variants. The test team has conducted six at-sea detachments and performed more than 1,500 vertical landing tests on the F-35B variant. In total, the developmental flight test team completed 183 weapon separation tests; 46 weapons delivery accuracy tests; and 33 mission effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.

The final SDD flight occurred on 11 April at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. During the flight, US Navy F-35C test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2,000 lb GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

With conclusion of the flight test, SDD-proper is to be concluded following an operational test and evaluation (OPEVAL) and a Milestone C full-rate production decision. Flight trials will continue in support of phased capability improvements and modernisation efforts being undertaken by the JPO’s Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) framework to rollout the Block 4 and later software packages.

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