First production F-35As Take Off

    2030
    F-35A (AF6) on its first flight, with Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti in the cockpit. The aircraft took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base February 25, 2011 on at 3:05 p.m. CST for a test flight lasting one hour. Photo: David Drais, Lockheed Martin via Aviation Week

    The first production model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II made its inaugural flight February 25, 2011, in preparation for delivery to the U.S. Air Force this spring. The F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant – designed to meet U.S. Air Force requirements – is also the primary export version of the Lightning II. The air forces of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Israel will employ the F-35A.

    The second production F-35A, (AF-7) takes off on its maiden flight March 4, 2011 from Ft. Worth. The two aircraft form the first low-rate initial production lot (LRIP-1) of the Lightning II JSF. Photo: Lockheed Martin

    The aircraft known as ‘AF-6’ is one of two production aircraft included in the Low-Rate Initial Production 1 (LRIP 1) batch. It is scheduled to go through flight tests in Fort Worth for about a month before it is accepted by the Air Force, heading to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., along with the second LRIP-1 AF-7, which flew its maiden flight a week later, on March 4th, to support developmental testing shortly after the Air Force takes delivery.

    Deliveries of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant to the U.S. Marine Corps also begin this year, while deliveries of the F-35C carrier variant to the U.S. Navy start in 2012.

    As for the flight testing, 17 F-35 are now operating within the F-35 test fleet have logged more than 683 test flights, including 78 flights in 2011. The F-35B has completed 32 vertical landings, including 22 in 2011. The F-35C is scheduled to begin land-based catapult launches and arrested recoveries later this year, with ship-board test flights beginning in 2013. The F-35B will begin test operations from U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault ships this fall.

    F-35A (AF6) on its first flight, with Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti in the cockpit. The aircraft (serial # 07-0744) took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base February 25, 2011 on at 3:05 p.m. CST for a test flight lasting one hour. Photo: David Drais, Lockheed Martin via Aviation Week