F-35 Lightning II flies supersonic
Lockheed Martin says the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, as part of its ongoing flight testing, reached Mach 1.05 over North Texas on Nov. 13.
Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, Md.) announced on Nov. 14 that the composites-intensive F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) flew supersonic for the first time on Nov. 13 over Texas, achieving another milestone. The aircraft accelerated to Mach 1.05, or about 680 miles per hour. The test validated the F-35 Lightning II's capability to operate beyond the speed of sound and was accomplished with a full internal load of inert or "dummy" weapons on the one-hour flight.
"The F-35 transitioned from subsonic to supersonic just as our engineers and our computer modeling had predicted," said Jon Beesley, Lockheed Martin's chief F-35 test pilot. "I continue to be impressed with the aircraft's power and strong acceleration, and I'm pleased that its precise handling qualities are retained in supersonic flight, even with a payload of 5,400 lb [2,450 kg] in the weapons bays."
Beesley said it was also a significant achievement for a test aircraft to fly supersonic for the first time with the weight of a full internal load of weapons. The milestone was achieved on the 69th flight of F-35 aircraft AA-1. Beesley climbed to 30,000 ft/9,144m and accelerated to Mach 1.05 over a rural area in north Texas. The F-35 accomplished four transitions through the sound barrier, spending a total of eight minutes in supersonic flight. The flight was preceded by a high-subsonic mission earlier in the day. Future testing will gradually expand the flight envelope out to the aircraft's top speed of Mach 1.6, which the F-35 is designed to achieve with a full internal load of weapons.
F-35 AA-1, a conventional takeoff and landing variant (CTOL), and F-35 BF-1, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant (STOVL), together have combined for 83 test flights.
The F-35 is a supersonic, multi-role, 5th generation stealth fighter. Three F-35 variants derived from a common design, developed together and using the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Two separate, interchangeable F-35 engines are under development: the Pratt & Whitney F-135 and the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team F-136.