With More Aircraft Joining the Fleet, F-35 Nears Annual Flight Testing Goal

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With more F-35s joining the flight test fleets in Edwards AFB (CA) and Patuxent River Naval Air Base (MD), Lockheed Martin said today the F-35 flight test program moves closer to achieving year-end milestones. From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through July 25, 2011, F-35s flew 1,065 times, including the production-model flights and AA-1, the original flight test aircraft.

The F-35C is undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River before eventual delivery to the fleet. Test aircraft CF-3 is seen here brought to launch position on a test catapult at Pax River, by Navy test pilot Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus. The test demonstrated proper catapult hook-up in preparation for the first launches at Lakehurst, N.J., scheduled for later this month. CF-3 is the designated carrier suitability test aircraft. The F-35C is the carrier dedicated variant of the F-35, destined for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Royal Navy. (Photo by Michael D. Jackson courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Overall, the F-35 program remains ahead of goals for test flights. As of yesterday, the program accomplished 518 flights versus a plan of 476. Since the last update issued June 13 the F-35 fleet performed 107 test flights, bringing the total number of flights for the year to 518. Two of the aircraft delivered earlier in the program have reached maturity record with AF-2 completing the 1,000th test flight for the F-35 System development Program (SDD) on July 6 and AF-3 completing the 500th SDD flight for 2011 on July 21.

According to the developers, key milestones accomplished since June 13 include the delivery of the 5th F-35B (STOVL version). Overall, 122 vertical landings have been performed to date by the five F-35B models.

F-35A over the test range at Edwards, the second F-35A performed the 1000th test flight earlier in July 2011 here at Edwards.