Proving the F-35's Capabilities

Extensive Ground and Air Trials

From flight sciences to mission systems testing, the critical work of the F-35 test teams clears the way for capabilities to be delivered to the training and operational F-35 fleets. With the United States Marine Corps declaring initial operational capability (IOC) in 2015, and the United States Air Force expected to declare IOC in 2016, the role of the Integrated Test Force is more important than ever.

At Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, 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.

Some of the most recent flight test achievements include:

F-35 Mission Systems

  • Completed seven Weapon Delivery Accuracy (WDA) events
  • Completed air-to-surface and air-to-air Infrared Counter Measure testing
  • Completed first Foreign Military Sales AIM-120 Live Fire
  • Completed Block 2B flight testing for 2B fleet release and USMC Initial Operational Capability
  • Performed Gen III Helmet Mounted Display testing, including night, formation, aerial refueling, and approaches

F-35A

  • Completed F-35A 3F high angle of attack and performance testing
  • Completed aerial refueling certification for the F-35 with the Australian tanker (KC-30A) and Italian tanker (KC-767) testing, including night operations
  • Performed 13 weapons separations in 2015; completed GBU-31 and GBU-39 weapons separations
  • Accomplished the first aerial gun fire

F-35B

  • Completed F-35B 3F flutter testing
  • Completed F-35B 3F External Air to Ground Loads testing
  • Accomplished eight weapon separations, including the first Paveway IV safe separation
  • Accomplished the first ski jump

F-35C

  • Completed F-35C DT-II Ship Trials aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
  • Completed wet runway testing at Edwards AFB
  • Completed F-35C 3F flutter and performance testing
  • Accomplished five weapon separations, including the first external separation from an 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.