Successful flight and weapons testing for the F-35
What a week for the F-35 with two completed important tests, both in flight and weapons testing. This will place the F-35 in good position for operational debuts and increase sales internationally. First, a new flying test was completed as an F-35A Lightning II (CTOL) aircraft rapidly expanded its high angle of attack test envelope to its 50 degree limit in only four flights during recent flight testing here. F-35A test aircraft are limited to AOAs of 20 degrees until their controllability is proven at a higher AOA limit of 50 degrees. The ability to rapidly progress to the maximum AOA indicates a sound aerodynamic and flight control system design. High AOA testing will continue on the F-35A for several months testing the capabilities of all design loadings and the flight control system. Then in October, the aircraft began the integration phase of weapons testing, when the F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing aircraft successfully completed the first in-flight test with an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. It was the first time a weapon communicated with the aircraft during flight using a data link. The program’s milestone rounded out a successful month of flight test for the program, which also included inert weapons separation tests of both the AMRAAM and Joint Direct Attack Munition. Successful integration testing, along with the safe separation releases in October, means that the F-35 Integrated Test Force can continue progressing towards the weapon delivery accuracy test phase and live fire testing scheduled to begin in early 2013. Starting in February and continuing through the end of April, the team is anticipating releasing roughly two weapons per week. The F-35A is designed to carry a payload of up to 18,000 pounds using 10 weapon stations. The F-35A features four internal weapon stations located in two weapon bays to maximum stealth capability. The CTOL aircraft can also utilize an additional three weapon stations per wing if required.