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F-35 JSF programme continuing with flight test milestones

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F-35B aircraft BF-3, piloted by USMC Maj Michael Kingen, fires an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) in the first live fire test from NAS Patuxent River, Md., Aug. 14. Photo: Lockheed Martin - from video by Dane Wiedmann.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS (BNS): The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme continued a steady path of flight test milestones in August, including weapons separation, software compatibility and flight hours, all demonstrating program maturity.

"The test milestones are a direct result of the detailed planning, coordination and execution between various government teams and the integrated test force," J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin's Vice President for F-35 Test & Verification, was quoted as saying in the company news release.

F-35A aircraft AF-1 accomplished its 400th flight during a successful GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) aircraft separation test on Aug. 13 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

This was the first GBU-31 Mark-84 (2,000-pound guided munition) separation demonstration from the F-35. Previous GBU-31 separations were with the BLU-109 (Bomb Live Unit) bomb body.

F-35B aircraft BF-1 and BF-4 completed "Mode 4" formation testing on Aug 9th, as required for Block 2B software capability.

Flight testing validated the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant's ability to operate well in this configuration during formation flight which supports operations around the ship; a key milestone for the F-35B path to IOC, the release added.

F-35B aircraft BF-3 completed the 2B software fleet release weapon separation requirements for the F-35B with two successful AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Air Vehicle Instrumented (AAVI) separation flights on consecutive days, Aug. 14 and 15.

F-35A test fleet surpassed its 4,000th flight hour on Aug. 14 and in total, the F-35 Fleet has surpassed 19,500 flight hours, with more than 8,000 hours in SDD (System Development and Demonstration) aircraft.

The F-35 Lightning II, a 5th generation fighter, combines advanced low observable stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.

Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II and F-16 Fighting Falcon for the US Air Force, the F/A-18 Hornet for the US Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the US Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries. Following the US Marine Corps' planned 2015 IOC, the US Air Force and Navy intend to attain IOC in 2016 and 2018, the news release concluded.

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