According to a BAE press release, a British test team including personnel from BAE Systems have successfully completed initial aircraft handling trials for ASRAAM and Paveway IV weapons on the F-35B at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, United States. The successful tests are a step towards full interoperability between the current and future fast jets that will be used by the RAF and the Royal Navy from 2018.

A British F-35B in flight in the US
A British F-35B in flight in the US

The United Kingdom is heavily involved in the programme, primarily through BAE Systems which is responsible for the production of each and every rear fuselage and tails set. Along with manufacturing aircrafts sets for each of the three variants, the UK business also produces carrier wing tips for the Carrier variant and Nozzle Bay Doors for the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing Variant. In addition the Company plays a key role in vehicle and mission systems, life support system and prognostics health management integration. BAE Systems Inc. in the US adds further key capabilities to the F-35 portfolio in the areas of electronic warfare, advance apertures, advanced counter-measure systems, vehicle management and active inceptor systems.

The trial weapon rounds, which are identical to the operational weapons minus the explosives, were tested on the F-35B for the first time during a series of flights from the US facility at Patuxent River. The initial tests are an important step in integrating weapons onto the F-35B, allowing test pilots to understand how they affect the way the aircraft performs and handles.

Two F-35B, flown by Billie Flynn, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 test pilot and Squadron Leader Andy Edgell from the RAF, completed 9 flights with MBDA’s ASRAAM missiles and Raytheon’s Paveway IV laser guided bombs. The flights involved different configurations of both weapons types on the aircraft.

The successful tests will be followed by the next stage of weapons testing due to take place in early 2015. These tests will involve weapon separation and then guided releases of both ASRAAM and Paveway IV from the aircraft.

BAE Systems lead test pilot for F-35, Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, said:

“The team at Patuxent River has got over two thousand hours of flying under their belts for the F-35B variant and the handling and performance of the aircraft has shone through throughout. These latest trials were no exception and help us to move confidently into the next phase of weapons testing.”

J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for F-35 Test & Verification from the Joint Strike Fighter programme added:

“These trials show the truly international nature of the F-35 enterprise – being led out of a US Navy facility, involving a joint UK Ministry of Defence and industry team, working alongside the US Department of Defence and Lockheed Martin. And the test results for one partner will benefit all, further demonstrating the versatility and capability of the F-35 as a multi-role platform.”

*This article is heavily based on the BAE press release.

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