All three F-35 variants delivered air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground bombs.
|An Edwards AFB F-35A Lightning II fires an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.|
Testers from the 461st Flight Test Squadron and F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) completed a major test milestone bringing the F-35 Lightning II’s full combat capabilities closer to the battlefield.
Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) flight tests began in July 2013 and testing wrapped up in early December 2017. The WDA portion of the F-35 developmental test and evaluation mission ensures the fifth-generation fighter’s weapons system can deliver lethal ordinance both air-to-air and air-to-ground using the jet’s warfighting Block 3F software.
The ITF used all three F-35 variants and delivered air-to-air missiles including AIM-120s, the AIM-9X and the United Kingdom’s Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile. The WDA tests also confirmed air-to-ground delivery of the Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, GBU-39 small diameter bomb, GBU-12, GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition and the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon.
Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, 461st FLTS commander and F-35 ITF director, said that the air-to-air accuracy tests finished in August with air-to-ground tests ending in October. The F-35 ITF then capped off WDA tests by completing testing on the F-35’s GAU-22 25mm gun at the beginning of December. The WDA gun tests included the Air Force’s A variant where the gun is internal carried and on the Marine Corps’ and Navy’s B and C variants, which employ a gun pod beneath the jet.
Each weapon test required multiple missions including software development, “dry runs” and then the actual weapon release. Not including the gun, Hamilton said the F-35 ITF delivered 55 weapons during WDA testing, which was mainly done over the military sea range off the California coast and at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.
Hamilton said the F-35 Joint Program Office analyzes the data from all the WDA tests and any upgrades to the F-35 mission systems software will be sent out to the F-35 operational fleet.
The F-35 Integrated Test Force, operating at both Edwards AFB and at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, continues to conduct developmental flight test for the Defense Department’s F-35 Joint Program Office. Ongoing testing at Edwards AFB includes mission effectiveness testing, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime interdiction, and offensive and defensive air-to-air combat testing.
Source, Image: USAF