Flight testing of the tri-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter continued to accelerate in June, accomplishing more tasks than in any previous month. June marked the eighteenth consecutive month in which flight testing of the plane was ahead of schedule. A total of 595 flight tests were conducted during the first half of the year, compared with a plan of 445.
The three variants of the F-35 have now flown 2,355 times since the flight-test program began in December of 2006. The Air Force version, which constitutes two-thirds of the domestic production run and nearly all of the foreign orders, has flown over 900 times. Flight tests are designed to verify that all of the promised performance features of the F-35 have been achieved, from aerial-refueling capability to night-time operations to weapons carriage. Each of the three variants has unique performance features to support the service that will be using it.
The F-35, now formally known as the Lightning II, has been a controversial effort owing mainly to the fact that it is the most costly weapons program the Department of Defense is currently developing. However, studies show that the cost of building and operating the plane will be a fraction of what it would cost to keep the current joint fleet of tactical aircraft operational through mid-century. F-35 is the only “fifth-generation” fighter currently under development anywhere, meaning that it integrates the most advanced technologies available into an airframe that cannot be targeted by enemy defenders while providing U.S. pilots with unprecedented situational awareness.
Over a dozen U.S. allies are likely to buy the plane, making it one of the nation’s biggest technology exports for the next two decades. Using the same aircraft in U.S. and allied fleets makes it easier to coordinate multinational military campaigns due to the interoperability of the planes that each country brings to the fight.
Find Archived Articles: