F-35A to begin extended flight testing

The composites-intensive F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft has been flown from Texas to California for extended testing.

Lockheed Martin (Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., USA) announced on Oct. 3 that it successfully flew the composites-intensive F-35A from Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Oct. 1 to begin expanded flight testing and initiate test activities at Edwards. Flying non-stop for more than 1,000 nautical miles, this was the aircraft's first long-range, cross-country flight.

"The ferry flight out was perfect," said F-35 test pilot Jeff Knowles. "The aircraft performed exactly as expected. Inflight refueling was flawless and we landed with no maintenance discrepancies. We couldn't have asked for a more successful first long-range flight."

During the F-35's deployment to Edwards, the flight test team will conduct ground and flight test activities for propulsion, aerial refueling and logistical support, and will hold training exercises for the test team.

"We expect to begin local Edwards flight operations next week after the test team has received the appropriate local-area orientation," said Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force. "Support from the Air Force Flight Test Center has been outstanding and I look forward to an efficient, innovative and very productive F-35 flight test program."

All 19 F-35 Developmental Test aircraft are currently in production and will be completed by the end of 2009.  Additionally, production has begun on the first four Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft.

The F-35 Lightning II is a supersonic, multi-role, 5th generation stealth fighter aircraft. The three F-35 variants are derived from a common design and use the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide to replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations.