LOCKHEED MARTIN’S F-35 Lightning II recently completed 25 missions, comprising of 12 weapons delivery accuracy (WDA) and 13 weapon separation tests, as part of a month-long weapon’s firing test surge. The F-35 Joint Program Office announced the record achievement by the F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on August 22.
Normally, WDAs only take place once a month, given the myriad of co-ordination required. The highest number previously accomplished in a month was three in November of 2014 during Block 2B software testing. The latest trials used the type’s newest Block 3F software.
Five of the test events featured dropping multiple weapons. The F-35 weapons test team was given exclusive use of the Sea Test Range, an instrumented Pacific Ocean test area off the central US coast near Point Mugu Naval Air Station, California. Tests were also conducted at the US Navy’s China Lake Weapons Range, California and the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
During this surge period, a total of 30 weapons were dropped or fired, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, GPS-guided 250lb (114kg) Small Diameter Bomb, AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air heat-seeking missile and GPS/laser-guided munition.
Lt Gen Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer, said: “The WDAs rely on the full capability of the F-35 — multiple sensors, navigation, weapons envelope, mission planning, data links and inter-agency range scheduling — all working in sequence to put steel on target. This was a tremendous effort by the F-35 test team. They surged and worked seven days a week for more than a month to expend 30 ordnance and advance weapons in testing. This testing has moved us that much closer to delivering the full F-35 capability to warfighters within the next two years.”