F-35 Lightning completes system development and demonstration phase

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The F-35 program has accomplished the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the program.

CAPTIONCF-02 Flt 596 piloted by Peter Wilson flies the final System Development and Demonstration (SDD) test flight for the F-35 program. Photo by Lockheed Martin.

The final SDD flight occurred Wednesday April 11 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, when Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

F-35 Program Executive Officer US Navy Vice Admiral Mat Winter said completing F-35 SDD flight test was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team.

“Since the first flight of AA-1 in 2006, the developmental flight test program has operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, and executing more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants,” Vice Admiral Winter said.

“Congratulations to our F-35 test team and the broader F-35 enterprise for delivering this new, powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter.

“From flight sciences to mission-systems testing, the critical work completed by F-35 test teams cleared the way for the Block 3F capability to be delivered to the operational warfighter” – three of which Australia received last week.

More than a thousand SDD flight test engineers, maintainers, pilots and support personnel took the three variants of the F-35 to their full flight envelope to test aircraft performance and flying qualities.

The test team conducted six at-sea detachments and performed more than 1500 vertical landing tests on the F-35B variant.

The developmental flight-test team completed 183 weapon-separation tests; 46 weapons-delivery-accuracy tests; 33 mission-effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-craft missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.

Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program Greg Ulmer said the F-35 flight-test program represented the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight-test program in aviation history.

“The joint government and industry team demonstrated exceptional collaboration and expertise, and the results have given the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in its transformational capability,” Mr Ulmer said.

“Developmental flight test is a key component of the F-35 program’s SDD phase, which will formally be completed following an Operational Test and Evaluation plus a US Department of Defense decision to go into full-rate aircraft production.

“While SDD-required flight testing is now complete, F-35 flight testing continues in support of phased capability improvements and modernisation of the F-35 air system.

“This effort is part of the Joint Program Office’s Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) framework, which will provide timely, affordable incremental warfighting capability improvements to maintain joint air dominance against evolving threats to the United States and its allies.

“With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built.

“F-35’s ability to collect, analyse and share data is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enables men and women in uniform to execute their mission and return home safe.”

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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