F-35 Lightning II Flight Test Update 3

By Eric Hehs Posted 22 November 2010

The previous installment of the F-35 Flight Test Update ended with F-35A AF-1 completing its fiftieth flight on 27 August 2010. Since then, the aircraft has been flown an additional thirty flights and a total of more than 140 flight hours. AF-2, which is operating with AF-1 from Edwards AFB, California, has accumulated more than sixty flights and 100 hours.

US Marine Corps and Lockheed Martin pilots flying the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing version of the Lightning II have completed almost 300 flight hours in a total of 216 flights.

The first F-35 carrier variant, the F-35C, was flown for the first time on 6 June 2010 and took to the air again on 21 October after a period of extensive ground testing. The aircraft was subsequently ferried from Fort Worth, Texas, on 6 November to its new home with the Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The ferry flight was the twentieth mission for the first F-35C.

Overall, fifteen company and military pilots are currently qualified to fly the F-35. Eighteen total F-35 pilots have flown more than 700 hours on more than 490 flights (as of 15 November 2010) in the current System Development and Demonstration phase of the program. The F-35 flight envelope has been expanded to 39,000 feet and to Mach 1.3.

23 September 2010: Open Weapon Bay Testing Begins On F-35A

Lockheed Martin test pilot Jeff Knowles completed the first open weapon bay flight tests on F-35A in a 1.5-hour mission from Edwards AFB, California. The mission included 360-degree rolls at 20,000 and 30,000 feet.

23 September 2010: Fifty Flights For BF-2

US Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col. Matt Kelly completed the fiftieth flight for F-35 BF-2. The 1.3-hour flight, from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, involved performing accelerations and decelerations at 30,000 feet to test the air data system as well as performing flying quality test points and envelope expansion.

1 October 2010: First F-35C Gets Coated

F-35C CF-1 rolled out of the F-35 Final Finishes Facility in Fort Worth, Texas, in full color after receiving its highly accurate robot-applied coatings. The first carrier variant of the Lightning II was flown fourteen times before entering an intensive period of ground testing.

18 October 2010: BF-2 Flown To Mach 1.3

Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Steve Long took BF-2 to Mach 1.3 on the airplane’s fifty-fifth flight. The test point was accomplished during a 1.5-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The flight also involved hot pit refueling, flutter testing, flying qualities, and performing other propulsion test points in conventional mode.

21 October 2010: First F-35C Returns To Flight

F-35C CF-1 returned to flight after receiving its final finishes. Lockheed Martin test pilot Jon Beesley flew the aircraft on its fifteenth flight from NAS JRB Fort Worth.

25 October 2010: BF-3 Pulls Seven g’s

F-35B BF-3 flew through seven g’s on its fifty-eighth test flight. The flight, from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, consisted of two sorties separated by hot pit refueling.

6 November 2010: First F-35 Flight With Block 1 Software

US Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col. Matt Taylor was at the controls of F-35B BF-4 for the first flight of an F-35 with Block 1 software. The new software forms the foundation of all subsequent software blocks. It enables information fusion from the F-35’s radar, electronic warfare system, distributed aperture system, and electro-optical targeting system, as well as information fusion from other sensors. It also provides initial weapons-release capability. The first flight occurred at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

6 November 2010: First F-35C Ferried To Pax

F-35C CF-1 arrived at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The aircraft, piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson, departed NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas, and completed successful aerial refueling during the flight from a KC-130 tanker from VX-20. The tanker is based at NAS Patuxent River.

Eric Hehs is the editor of Code One.