F-35 fleet sur­passes 15,000 fly­ing hours

SP's MAI - - AEROSPACE -

The Lock­heed Martin F-35 Light­ning II fleet re­cently sur­passed 15,000 flight hours, mark­ing a ma­jor mile­stone for the pro­gramme. “Fly­ing 15,000 hours it­self demon­strates that the pro­gramme is ma­tur­ing, but what I think is even more im­pres­sive is the fact that op­er­a­tional F-35s ac­counted for more than half of those flight hours,” said J.D. McFar­lan, Lock­heed Martin’s Vice Pres­i­dent for F-35 Test & Ver­i­fi­ca­tion. “While the fleet continues to train, we are ac­tively flight test­ing the soft­ware and mis­sion sys­tems that will en­able the Ma­rine Corps to de­clare Ini­tial Op­er­a­tional Ca­pa­bil­ity (IOC) next year as planned.”

As of April 7, op­er­a­tional F-35s had flown 8,050 hours while Sys­tem De­vel­op­ment and Demon­stra­tion air­craft had ac­cu­mu­lated 7,123 flight hours. In 2014, F-35A test air­craft have flown 328 hours; F-35B test air­craft have ac­cu­mu­lated 191 hours; and F-35C test air­craft have flown 91 hours. In com­par­i­son, op­er­a­tional F-35As have flown 963 hours, while their F-35B and F-35C coun­ter­parts have ac­cu­mu­lated 1,012 and 98 hours re­spec­tively for the year.

“Fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful AIM-120 AMRAAM Weapons De­liv­ery Ac­cu­racy (WDA) tests in Fe­bru­ary and March, we’re look­ing for­ward to ex­e­cut­ing additional WDAs in the sec­ond quar­ter,” said McFar­lan. “In an­other clear sign of pro­gramme mat­u­ra­tion, re­li­a­bil­ity met­rics are trend­ing up­ward as the op­er­a­tions tempo picks up – re­cently 60 F-35 sor­ties were flown in one day.”

The US Ma­rine Corps plans to de­clare IOC in 2015, while the US Air Force and Navy in­tend to de­clare IOC in 2016 and 2018, re­spec­tively.

The F-35 Light­ning II, a fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter, com­bines ad­vanced low ob­serv­able stealth tech­nol­ogy with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sen­sor in­for­ma­tion, net­work-en­abled op­er­a­tions and ad­vanced sus­tain­ment. Three dis­tinct vari­ants of the F-35 will re­place the A-10 and F-16 for the US Air Force, the F/A-18 for the US Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Har­rier for the US Ma­rine Corps, and a va­ri­ety of fighters for at least 10 other coun­tries.

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