First production F-35 Lightning II makes first flight

Lockheed Martin's first production version of the F-35 Lightning II fighter flew for the first time on Feb. 25, ahead of delivery to the U.S. Air Force in spring 2011.

Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, Texas, USA) announced on Feb. 25 that the first production model of the F-35 Lightning II made its inaugural flight in preparation for delivery to the U.S. Air Force this spring. The jet will head to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to support developmental testing shortly after the Air Force takes delivery.

“The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight,” said Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti. “The Air Force is getting a great jet that represents a huge leap in capability, and we’re looking forward to getting it into the hands of the service pilots in just a few more weeks.”

During the flight, the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A variant, known as AF-6, underwent basic flight maneuvering and engine tests. Gigliotti took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base at 3:05 p.m. CST and landed at 4:05 p.m. The jet will continue flight tests in Fort Worth for about a month before it is accepted by the Air Force.

The F-35A CTOL variant — designed to meet U.S. Air Force requirements — is also the primary export version of the Lightning II. The air forces of Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Israel will employ the F-35A.

Deliveries of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant to the U.S. Marine Corps also begin this year, while deliveries of the F-35C carrier variant to the U.S. Navy start in 2012. Seventeen F-35s have entered testing since December 2006, and have logged more than 650 flights and numerous ground tests.