Proving the F-35's Capabilities

Extensive Ground and Air Trials

Joint military and contractor teams extensively test all three variants of the F-35. From flight testing to mission systems, the critical work of the flight test teams clears the way for capability to be delivered to the training and operational F-35 fleets as they move closer to Initial Operational Capability.

The F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) fleet has flown more than 5,400 flights for more than 9,600 flight hours of testing. Mission systems test aircraft are being modified with Block 3i and Block 3F software, which manages the F-35's datalink, various sensors and weapon capabilities.

Flight Test

At Edwards Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the Integrated Test Force teams are testing all three F-35 variants and their mission systems. Flight sciences aircraft testing continues to expand the edges of the F-35's flight envelope and enhance maneuverability within the boundaries. The F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) fleet has flown more than 5,400 flights for more than 9,600 flight hours of testing.  Mission systems test aircraft are being modified with Block 3i and Block 3F software, which manages the F-35's datalink, various sensors and weapon capabilities.

Key flight test accomplishments to-date in the program include:

F-35 Mission Systems

  • AF-3, configured with TR-2 hardware and the Gen III HMD aircraft modifications, flew the first flight of 3iR5 software with the pilot wearing a Gen III HMD
  • Weapon Delivery Accuracy tests: GBU-31, GBU-32, GBU-12, AIM-120  (GBU-31 was flown 18 Nov 14)
  • Night Instrument Meteorological Conditions
  • Link-16 Communication for tactical data exchange between the F-35 and supporting forces with Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and multiple support aircraft 
  • Countermeasures Separations
  • Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) Combat Laser Testing 
  • Distributed Aperture System (DAS) and Night Vision Camera testing, including operation during F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing mode night missions

F-35A

  • Completed clean wing flutter testing reaching speeds of 1.6 Mach and 700 knots with weapon bay doors open and closed
  • Night flight and night aerial refueling
  • Completed high angle of attack testing with external stores
  • Completed intentional departure testing with symmetric external air-to-air stores
  • Accomplished first high alpha tail slides
  • Clean Wing Testing Completed
  • Inert weapon releases: GBU-31, GBU-12, GBU-39, AIM-120

F-35B

F-35C

Ground and Lab Tests

Six static airframes, dozens of integrated ground test labs and several specialized test facilities are dedicated to the System Development and Demonstration phase of the F-35 program. The static aircraft undergo exhaustive structural testing to prove the strength of the airframe design. The labs test all software updates before they are flight tested, an important step for the millions of lines of complex code required to control F-35 flight systems, integrate missions systems and support the Autonomic Logistics Information System.