The F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft has reached two significant milestones, with the aircraft fleet exceeding 100,000 flight hours and the Integrated Test Force teams are set to complete the remaining requirements in the program’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.
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Lockheed Martin made the announcements and also revealed when they expect to complete air vehicle full 3F and mission systems software development
"This 100K milestone marks a significant level of maturity for the program and the F-35 weapons system," said Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager Jeff Babione.
"We are well positioned to complete air vehicle full 3F and mission systems software development by the end of 2017."
The remaining development flight testing includes validating the final release of 3F software, F-35B ski jump testing, F-35B austere site operations, high-Mach Loads testing for both the F-35B and F-35C and completion of the remaining weapons delivery accuracy tests.
Major SDD fleet test milestones in recent months include:
- Completed testing for the F-35A’s final envelope involving high risk ‘edge of the envelope’ manoeuvres, stressing the aircraft to its limits in structural strength, vehicle systems performance, and aerodynamics while proving excellent handling qualities.
- Completed all UK Weapon Delivery Accuracy tests for the AIM-132 ASRAAM and Paveway IV weapons, and completed 45 of 50 SDD Weapon Delivery Accuracy tests including multiple target and multiple shot engagements as well as internal gun and centreline external pod 25mm gun accuracy tests.
- Performed multi-ship mission effectiveness tests, such as Offensive Counter-Air and Maritime Interdiction, demonstrating the performance of the F-35 system.
Three distinct variants of the F-35 Lightning II will replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II 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 11 other countries, to date.
Following the US Marine Corps' July 2015 combat-ready Initial Operational Capability (IOC) declaration, the US Air Force attained service IOC in August 2016 and the US Navy will reach IOC in 2019.
Australia has ordered 72 F-35As, with potential for a fourth Australian squadron that would bring the number to 100.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s third F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) A35-003 is currently making progress along the production line at the Lockheed Martin headquarters in the US, with the A35-003 the first of the next batch of eight Australian F-35s currently in production in Fort Worth to begin the “mate” process, where major components of the aircraft were joined together to form the aircraft structure.