F-35s fly with external stores pylons

Both the F-35A and F-35B variants have flown with external hardpoints fitted to the wings in recent days.

February 24: On February 16, the first external weapons test mission was flown by F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) AF-01 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The weapons load for this mission involved carrying two air-to-air AIM-9X missiles on the outboard wing stations, four external pylons that can carry 2,000lb air-to-ground weapons, two internal 2,000lb guided bombs (GBU-31) and two advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AIM-120) inside the two internal weapon bays. The F-35A is designed to carry up to 18,000lbs on ten weapon stations – four weapon stations inside two internal bays for maximum stealth capability, with an additional three on each wing.

On February 22 F-35B test aircraft BF-02 flew with external weapons pylons for the first time. The test measured flying qualities with external pylons, inert AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and a centreline 25mm gun pod. Significant weapons testing for the F-35B and F-35C variants is scheduled for 2012, including fit checks, captive carriage, pit drop and aerial drop tests.