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.