F-35A com­pletes first in-flight mis­sile launch


An F-35A con­ven­tional take-off and land­ing air­craft com­pleted the first in-flight mis­sile launch of an AIM-120 over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range on June 5. It was the first launch where the F-35 and AIM-120 demon­strated a suc­cess­ful launch-to-eject com­mu­ni­ca­tions se­quence and fired the rocket mo­tor af­ter launch – paving the way for tar­geted launches in sup­port of the Block 2B fleet re­lease ca­pa­bil­ity later this year.

The Air Force F-35A vari­ant has seen sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in train­ing and op­er­a­tions re­cently in­clud­ing the be­gin­ning of pilot train­ing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the de­liv­ery of the first op­er­a­tional test air­craft to Edwards and Nel­lis Air Force Base, Ne­vada, the first op­er­a­tional aerial re­fu­elling and the com­ple­tion of high an­gle of at­tack test­ing.

“It’s a tes­ta­ment to the en­tire mil­i­tary-in­dus­try test team,” said Lt Colonel Ge­orge “Boxer” Schwartz, F-35 In­te­grated Test Force Di­rec­tor, who also pi­loted the flight. “They’ve worked thou­sands and thou­sands of hours to get to the point where we are to­day. It’s fan­tas­tic to see that it’s all paid off. We’re rolling into a lot of ad­di­tional weapons work in the com­ing months to put that ex­panded ca­pa­bil­ity on the air­craft.”

The F-35A fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter is de­signed to carry a pay­load of up to 18,000 pounds us­ing 10 weapon sta­tions. The F-35A fea­tures four in­ter­nal weapon sta­tions lo­cated in two weapon bays to max­imise stealth ca­pa­bil­ity. The CTOL air­craft can also utilise an ad­di­tional three ex­ter­nal weapon sta­tions per wing if re­quired.

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