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F-35 drops weapon during flight trial


The BF-3 test aircraft dropped an inert 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition over an Atlantic Ocean test range from an internal weapons bay. A US Navy photo

PATUXENT RIVER, MARYLAND (BNS): Advancing further in its flight trial programme, an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft has completed its first airborne weapons separation test by successfully releasing a weapon during flight.

The short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of F-35, designated BF-3, "executed an inert 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) separation weapon over water in an Atlantic test range while traveling at 400 knots at an altitude of 4,200 feet," the US Naval Air Command announced on Thursday.

The test was conducted on August 8.

It was the first time for an F-35 variant to conduct an airborne weapon separation, as well as the first from an internal weapons bay for a fighter aircraft, the Command said.

The milestone marks the start of validating the F-35's capability to employ precision weapons and allow pilots to engage the enemy on the ground and in the air, it said.

The F-35B STOVL variant of the fifth-generation supersonic stealth fighters have been designed for the US Marine Corps, UK and Italy. It is capable of short take-offs and vertical landings to enable air power projection from amphibious ships, ski-jump aircraft carriers and expeditionary airfields.

The aircraft is presently undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River, Md., and Edwards Air Force Base, California, prior to delivery to the fleet.

The F-35 is a fifth-generation multi-role stealth combat aircraft capable of performing close air support, tactical bombing and air defence missions. It is being designed to replace the existing fleet of fighter aircraft of nine partnering countries.

US defence major Lockheed Martin is building three variants of the new-generation fighter - F-35A conventional take off and landing (CTOL), F-35B STOVL and F-35C carrier variant - with its main industrial partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

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