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Navy League 2023: DoD explores accelerated F-35 weapons integration

An F-35C Lightning II test aircraft conducts the first separation of an AGM-154C variant Joint Standoff Weapon from an F-35. (US Navy)

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) in conjunction with prime contractor Lockheed Martin is exploring methods to accelerate the process of certifying and integrating new weapons and systems into the advanced jet fighter.

JPO officials are weighing alternatives, from modernising current weapon test plans to issuing rapidly integrated clearances or interim clearances for weapon systems, to dramatically ramp up weapons integration into F-35. The effort is “a huge focus area” for the programme officials, said F-35 Program Executive Officer US Air Force Lieutenant General Michael Schmidt.

“When I look at what are some of the limiting factors to weapons integration for all the Block 4 [variant] capabilities, you quickly run into limited numbers of flight sciences airplanes, which are really old,” Lt Gen Schmidt said during a 3 April briefing at the annual Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2023 conference held in National Harbor, Maryland.

“I am challenging the team [by asking] ‘why can't I… take advantage of the fact I flew on that airplane – whether it is an [F-35A], B, or C – and ask the engineers to take advantage of what we learnt there and kind of bring it across all the other airplane [variants]',” Lt Gen Schmidt said.

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