All three F-35 Lightning II variants (F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C) have completed the final test flights in their System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. The project has been dubbed the “most comprehensive, rigorous, and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history,” according to Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program.
The last SDD flight took place April 11 at Maryland’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River. To end the final phase, the CF-2 Navy test aircraft, sporting 2,000-lb GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles, finalized a mission to collect loads data.
“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 9,200 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. Congratulations to our F-35 Test Team and the broader F-35 Enterprise for delivering this new powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter,” says Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer.
The F-35 Lightning II designs are known as fifth-generation fighters that combine speed, agility, advanced logistics, network-enabled operations, and fully fused sensor information.
Advanced electronic warfare capabilities sit atop its many features—an attribute present on all three F-35 variants. Active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars employ sophisticated jamming, network attack, false targets, and algorithm-packed data streams.
To see one of the designs in action, the F-35A made its debut at the 2017 Paris Air Show. You can watch its aerial demonstration here.
With the F-35s suite of next-gen abilities, it took a team of 1,000 SDD personnel to complete the final development test flight for all three versions.
According to Lockheed Martin, “The developmental flight test team completed 183 Weapon Separation Tests; 46 Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests; and 33 Mission Effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.”
In addition, the team conducted six at-sea detachments, and more than 1,500 vertical landing trials on the F-35B.
Next, the aircraft has another set of assessments to pass known as the Operational Test and Evaluation. Once that step is complete, the U.S. Department of Defense can give the green light for full-scale production. In the meantime, the team will continue F-35 testing to improved phased capabilities and modernize aircraft air systems.
Below you can view a video summary of the final F-35 SDD flight.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense