F-35 Lightning II Flight Test Update 8

By Sydney Carroll Posted 30 June 2012

The F-35 Flight Test Update in the Volume 27, Number 1 issue of Code One closed with Royal Air Force Sqdn. Ldr. Jim Schofield’s first flight, which, as it turned out, was also the program’s 1,500th flight. Since then, nine new F-35 pilots have qualified, bringing the total to forty-two pilots who have now flown the Lightning II. The growing pilot population has made significant progress testing external weapons on all three F-35 variants, accomplishing first flights with external stores, refueling inflight with external stores, and flying with asymmetric weapons loads. The team has also begun night aerial refueling of F-35 at Edwards AFB, California, and night flight testing of F-35B and F-35C variants at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

In the months since the last issue, the System Development and Demonstration, or SDD, test pilots have set new records for most flights in a month – 123 flights in March 2012 – and most test points in a month – 1,118 in June 2012. Through 30 June 2012, the F-35 test program had conducted 595 test flights in 2012 and accrued 4,830 test points.

1 February 2012: 1,500th SDD Flight

The F-35 System Development and Demonstration, or SDD, test fleet surpassed 1,500 total test flights with this takeoff of F-35B BF-2 from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Royal Air Force Sqdn. Ldr. Jim Schofield flew the 1.2-hour mission. The milestone does not include the ninety-one test flights of AA-1, the first F-35 test aircraft.

4 February 2012: 300th Vertical Landing

US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Fred Schenk executed the program’s 300th vertical landing during a 1.5-hour flight in F-35B BF-1. The flight ended with a vertical landing at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. It was BF-1 Flight 170.

16 February 2012: First F-35 Flight With External Stores

An F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft at Edwards AFB, California, flew the first external weapons test mission. F-35A test aircraft AF-1 carried two AIM-9X short range air-to-air missiles on the outboard wing stations and a 2,000-pound GBU-31 guided bomb and an AIM-120 AMRAAM in each of the aircraft’s two internal weapon bays. US Air Force Lt. Col. Peter Vitt flew the one-hour mission, marking AF-1 Flight 184.

22 February 2012: First F-35B Flight With External Stores

Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Levin flew an F-35B with external weapons stores for the first time over an Atlantic test range. The 2.2-hour flight measured flying qualities with external pylons carrying inert AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and a centerline 25mm gun pod. The flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, marked Flight 159 for F-35B BF-2.

28 February 2012: First Phase Of Air Start Testing Complete

US Air Force Maj. Steven Speares flew a 2.1-hour mission on F-35A AF-4 Flight 100 to complete the first phase of air start testing. The testing at Edwards AFB, California, included twenty-nine air starts for a total of forty minutes of engine out gliding time conducted during six flights.

2 March 2012: First Flight With Block 2A Software

Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson flew the first test flight with Block 2A software loaded on F-35A AF-3. Block 2A is enhanced training software that enables initial data link communication and more mature aircraft systems integration. The two-hour flight at Edwards AFB, California, marked AF-3 Flight 96.

22 March 2012: First Aerial Refueling At Night

F-35A AF-4 piloted by US Air Force Lt. Col. Peter Vitt rendezvoused with an Air Force KC-135 tanker and successfully received fuel through the F-35's receptacle for the program’s first aerial refueling at night. The 3.1-hour sortie marked Flight 103 for F-35A AF-4.

23 March 2012: Air Force Pilot Becomes Lightning 34

US Air Force test pilot Lt. Col. George Schwartz became the thirty-fourth pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from Edwards AFB, California, for a 1.2-hour mission on F-35A AF-3 Flight 103.

29 March 2012: F-35B Weapon Pit Drop Testing Complete

The F-35 Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, completed F-35B weapons pit drop testing with the ejection of a 500-pound GBU-38 bomb from F-35B test aircraft BF-3. The ground test was the final bit of data needed to compete the first phase of testing nine different weapon combinations in the F-35’s internal weapons bays.

31 March 2012: Most Flights In A Month

The F-35 test team set several new monthly program records in March, including the most test flights (123), most test flight hours (224.1), most F-35C carrier variant flights (thirty-one), and the most flight hours on a single aircraft (35.5 on F-35A AF-2).

3 April 2012: X-35 Pilot Becomes Lightning 35

US Marine Corps Col. Arthur Tomassetti became the thirty-fifth pilot to fly the F-35 during a 1.2-hour F-35B BF-4 mission at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. It was his first Joint Strike Fighter flight since 30 July 2001 when he flew a test flight in the X-35B concept demonstrator. Today, Tomassetti is the vice commander of the 33d Fighter Wing Air Education and Training Command at Eglin AFB, Florida. The mission marked BF-4 Flight 105.

5 April 2012: First Aerial Refuel With External Stores

US Navy Lt. Christopher Tabert expanded the flight test envelope of the F-35 when he flew the first aerial refueling mission with external weapons loaded on F-35B BF-2. The 3.1-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, included a rendezvous with a Navy KC-130R to refuel the F-35. The mission marked Flight 171.

18 April 2012: First Carrier Variant Formation Flight

Two F-35C carrier variant test aircraft launched together from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and flew in formation for the first time. F-35C CF-1 and CF-2 were piloted by US Navy Cdr. Eric Buus and US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Taylor, respectively. The mission tested flying qualities of the aircraft during taking off, landing, and formation flight for more than one hour to mark CF-1 Flight 134 and CF-2 Flight 88.

21 April 2012: First F-35A Aerial Refuel With External Stores

F-35A aircraft AF-4 completed the conventional takeoff and landing variant's first inflight refueling mission at Edwards AFB, California, while configured with external weapons. US Air Force Lt. Col. George Schwartz, flying an F-35A  configured with two inert AIM-9X missiles and four external pylons, refueled from an Air Force KC-10 tanker. Internally, the jet carried two GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs. The 2.9-hour test mission marked AF-4 Flight 109.

24 April 2012: Edwards Adds A Pilot

US Air Force Maj. Matthew Phillips flew F-35A AF-3 to become the thirty-sixth pilot to fly the F-35. The 1.5-hour pilot qualification mission at Edwards AFB, California, marked AF-3 Flight 113.

3 May 2012: First Carrier Variant Approach Handling Qualities Test

The F-35 Integrated Test Force continued preparations for F-35C carrier variant ship trials with the first handling approach qualities test at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Taylor executed sixteen touch and goes, one wave off, and two full stop landings during the 1.4-hour mission. The test marked F-35C CF-3 Flight 53.

31 May 2012: 750th F-35B Flight

US Air Force Lt. Cdr. Eric Buus flew the F-35 test program’s 750th flight, a 1.2-hour flutter test from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The test marked F-35B BF-2 Flight 193.

1 June 2012: Edwards Adds Another Pilot

US Air Force Maj. Brent Reinhardt became the thirty-eighth pilot to fly the F-35 with a 1.6-hour mission at Edwards AFB, California. The check flight marked F-35A AF-6 Flight 81.

8 June 2012:  Lockheed Martin Pilot Qualifies In F-35

Lockheed Martin test pilot Billie Flynn accomplished his first flight at NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas. The 0.9-hour pilot qualification mission marked F-35B BF-5 Flight 34.

9 June 2012: Pax Adds A Navy Pilot

US Navy Lt. Cdr. Michael Burks joined the pilot roster at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, as the fortieth F-35 pilot. His 1.1-hour check ride marked F-35B BF-2 Flight 195.

13 June 2012: First CV Night Flight

US Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Matt Taylor took off in F-35C test aircraft CF-2 for the first night flight for the carrier variant. The flight lasted 1.2 hours and evaluated the aircraft’s night lighting system. The night test marked CF-2 Flight 109.

14 June 2012: First Flight With Asymmetric Weapons Load

F-35B test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. US Navy Cmdr. Eric Buus flew BF-2 with an inert AIM-9X Sidewinder missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard weapon bay. The two-hour flight included two sorties at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The test marked BF-2 Flight 197.

20 June 2012: Lockheed Martin Adds Another Pilot

Lockheed Martin test pilot Paul Hattendorf qualified with a 1.2-hour check flight as Lightning 41 – the forty-first pilot to fly the F-35. He checked out on F-35B BF-5 Flight 35 from NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas.

21 June 2012: 1,000th Test Flight Hour In 2012

The F-35 test fleet surpassed 1,000 test flight hours in 2012 with six flights at Edwards AFB, California, and at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on the same day. F-35As AF-2, AF-6 and AF-7, F-35B BF-2, and F-35C CF-2 logged the hours on 21 June to reach the milestone.

27 June 2012: First F-35C Flight With External Weapons

The F-35C carrier variant flew for the first time with external weapons with US Navy test pilot Lt. Christopher Tabert at the controls. F-35C CF-1 flew with inert AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on port and starboard pylons to measure flying qualities and aircraft vibrations. The mission was conducted from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and lasted 2.2 hours. It marked CF-1 Flight 142.

29 June 2012: Pax Adds Another Pilot

US Marine Corps Maj. Jon Ohman qualified as the most recent F-35 pilot at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The 1.8-hour check flight marked F-35C CF-2 Flight 115.

30 June 2012: Most Test Points In One Month

The Integrated Test Force closed out June with a new program record for the most test points accomplished in one month. The F-35 test fleet was airborne 114 times and completed 1,118 test points.

Sydney Carroll is a communications representative for the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin and is webmaster of F35.com.

Related Articles