F-35 in the Air… Again

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F-35 in the Air… Again (Lockheed Martin)The F-35 resumed flying after several months of being grounded due to electrical redesign work following malfunctions uncovered during the 19th test flight May 3rd, 2007. The 20th test flight took place seven months later, on December 7th, 2007 lasting 55 minutes, testing engine performance and aircraft handling qualities at up to 20,000 feet. (More...)

CATBIRD takes off on a test flight. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager commented on the rescheduled program for the upcoming weeks. “For the F-35, those tests include refueling from an airborne tanker in the short term and supersonic flights next year. At the same time, we are putting the finishing touches on our first short takeoff/vertical landing F-35 aircraft, which will roll out of the factory this month and initiate flight testing in the spring."

"By the end of 2008, we expect to have at least three F-35s in the air and numerous aircraft on the assembly line.” said Crowley. Shortly after the JSF landed, the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed – “CATBird” – took off on a two-hour functional check flight, one of its final sorties before aerial F-35 mission-systems testing begins. CATBird is a highly modified 737 airliner designed to test, integrate and validate the full F-35 mission systems suite in a dynamic, airborne environment before the system ever flies in an F-35 aircraft.

The F-35 mission systems suite is already operating in ground-based laboratories, and individual components like the AESA radar, EOTS and EO-DAS already are undergoing preliminary airborne testing in aircraft other than the CATBird. After test flying the F-35's Communication-Navigation-Identification system on the CATBIRD, the system will be flown and evaluated within the F-35's avionics package. The first mission-systems equipped F-35 will fly in 2009.

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