The F-35 program has completed the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase out of, according to Lockheed Martin with the project moving into operational test & evaluation.

“Completing F-35 SDD flight test is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team,” said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer.

“Since the first flight of AA-1 in 2006, the developmental flight test program has operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, and executing more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants. Congratulations to our F-35 Test Team and the broader F-35 Enterprise for delivering this new powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter.”

The final SDD flight occurred April 11, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, when Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missles.

From flight sciences to mission systems testing, the critical work completed by F-35 test teams cleared the way for the Block 3F capability to be delivered. More than a thousand SDD flight test engineers, maintainers, pilots and support personnel took the three variants of the F-35 to their full flight envelope to test aircraft performance and flying qualities. The test team conducted 6 at-sea detachments and performed more than 1,500 vertical landing tests on the F-35B variant. The developmental flight test team completed 183 Weapon Separation Tests; 46 Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests; 33 Mission Effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.

“The F-35 flight test program represents the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program.

“The joint government and industry team demonstrated exceptional collaboration and expertise, and the results have given the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in its transformational capability.”

Developmental flight test is a key component of the F-35 program’s SDD phase, which will formally be completed following an Operational Test and Evaluation and a Department of Defense decision to go into full-rate aircraft production.

While SDD required flight test is now complete, F-35 flight testing continues in support of phased capability improvements and modernisation of the F-35 air system.

24 COMMENTS

  1. With the prospect of military action looking more likely in Syria by the day and the potential for confrontation with Russia, would it not be sensible to bring forward the integration of the F35 B variant onto the QE Carriers as soon as possible?

    • I think there’s a fair bit left to do for QE and her complement of aircraft/ pilots to be ready. I don’t think they’ve fitted the CIWS yet for one and they need to reach a critical mass of trained pilots as well as air frames. Some can be sped up no doubt but some simply can’t ie pilot training. PoW is further behind and will definitely take a while.

    • I would like to think that that is what the MOD is thinking as well
      But all our jets are over in the States
      Unless she sails asap to the states to get the USMC jets on
      Also bear in mind that she has not done any or passed flight trials for the F35 yet
      But things can be done fast when theres a threat so what you are saying may yet come true

    • I don’t think that is realistic. We have to go with what we have. It would be good if the Akrotiri Tornadoes were fitted with Bright Cloud.

    • Unfortunately this would not be possible and its unwise to put assets into theatre before they’re operational – as PoW/Bismark encounter can attest.

      The UK doesn’t need aircraft carriers for this engagement in any case due to the proximity of the Cyprus air base.

    • Not a chance. She’s a long way from ready as are her supporting assets.

      Does highlight exactly how thin everything else is though, especially the submarines.

  2. Let’s all hope that scenario never happens the UK armed forces are not in a fit state to participate in a major war currently. Too little critical mass, no reserve or adequate spare parts/ advanced munitions available in adequate numbers.

    • Which is, presumably, why its happening now.
      Russia doesn’t want to wait anymore, with each passing day NATO is getting stronger.
      From their point of view, if they are going to act, they should act now.

  3. Look how quickly Illustrious was pressed into service in the Falklands War! She missed the fighting but was there with Invincible and Hermes at the end and would have been available had we lost one carrier or if the conflict was extended. i know weaponry is much more complex nowadays but design to in service periods are unbelievably long in modern times. The QE class for e.g.-not even including the delay in ordering is 11 years down the line and still not fully operational. The class was first mooted in 1998-20 years ago!!

  4. Getting the QEC ready is not relevant.

    We are not at war with Russia or anyone save ISIS.

    Mobilising assets now does what exactly for our image with the Russians? It shows them we are readying and ups the ante still further!

    We need to be disengaging not looking even more provocative!!!

    If the west insist on this attack on Syria the back channels need to be working correctly and the Russians informed of target locations to de conflict.

    • We are at war with the Syrian government and it’s supporters !We have been helping the “moderate rebels” for years. So with the our proxies are all but defeated we needed a pretext to to take direct action ourselves, a redline had to be crossed and suprise suprise, just as the last few “moderate” head choppers were negotiating their withdrawal from Dhouma, the Syrian government inexplicably decides to gas “women and children”. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

      • I meant open conflict, mainly with Russia Steven but I take your point. Yes we have been against Syria for years and mounting a Proxy war arming rebels that are often little more than terrorists themselves. I get that.

        I also get that having done the same in Libya that went north as well.

      • Steven – forgive me being blunt but you are incorrect,we are currently not at war with the Syrian Government,we have never been at war with them.The only mandated military action from the UK has been against ISIS and ISIS only (they being opponents of the Govt of Syria) In the mess that has been the Syrian civil war I think there is no such thing as a moderate rebel force,they are all pretty brutal whatever their makeup.Im pretty sure the only group that would receive official UK Govt help would be the Kurds.

  5. All we seem to hear about are, cuts and not quite ready yet.
    What a mess!

    “The Tornado, which saw distinguished service in the first Gulf war, will be withdrawn from the frontline after more than 40 years in the air.

    In Afghanistan, Tornados operated from their base in Kandahar, delivering close air support to British and NATO troops fighting the Taliban.

    A senior source said: “The Tornado should be retained until the F-35 is fully operational and we have at least 36 to replace the number of Tornados being axed.

    “This is a move the Government will regret, they have put all their eggs in one basket. “Until the F-35 is ready we will rely on the Typhoon. That is all we have got. The Russians must be laughing their heads off.”

    • (Chris H) Nigel Collins – Given the Typhoon is about the best multi – and switch – role aircraft in NATO and the F-35 will never match its capabilities in weapon delivery I think you dismissed the best and advanced the less worthy aircraft.

      We do not need to wait until the F-35 ‘arrives’ as the Typhoon will fully (and more) replace what the Tonka has been doing in 2019 as planned. It will actually be delivering upgrades of current weapons and a range of new weapons as well. The F-35 is no bomb truck while the Typhoon specifically is. The F-35 has a distinct role to play and will work with the Typhoon extremely well. But its no Tornado replacement by ANY stretch of the imagination.

      • It was a quote from an article Chris.

        I’m referring to the lack of numbers once we retire the Tornado fleet.
        The Typhoon is an amazing aircraft and we should invest heavily in them as a replacement.

        Personally, I would scrap anymore than the required number of F35’s to furbish the carriers and invest in a new 6th generation fighter/bomber instead and flesh out with Typhoon.

        We are already concerned about the advances in Russian missile technology from what I can see?

        • Quote.

          But the S-400 is the real game changer. The reason is the multiple intercept missiles the S-400 system can fire. The S-400 supports four different missiles – the very long range 40N6E-series (400 km), the long range 48N6 (250 km), the 9M96e2 (120 km) and the short range 9m96e (40 km). By comparison the US Patriot system supports only one interceptor missile with a range of 96 km.

          But there is more. The 9M96E2 is one of the jewels of the S-400 system. It flies at Mach 15 (around 5,000 meters per second or 18,500 kph), it can engage targets as low as 5 meters off the ground, and it can maneuver pulling up to 20 Gs (a human can withstand no more than 9 Gs with special pressure suits and helmets and for only a few seconds). It is designed to knock out penetrating aircraft and missiles flying “off the deck” or just above ground and neutralize cruise missiles.

          Dr. Carlo Kopp, one of the world’s top aerospace experts, says the S-400 has optional acquisition radars designed to defeat modern stealth aircraft such as the F-22 and the F-35. They work by operating in multiple frequency bands including both VHF and L bands that can “see” stealth-protected fighters.

          “Stealth designs have been built on low-detection by X-band radars, the most common military and civilian radars (others such as C-band – now known as the G/H band – are less prevalent). The F-35 has stealth protection mainly in the front of the aircraft, meaning that when it turns away from its target it is vulnerable. In time, the entire air defense system of the US and its allies, all based primarily on X band, will become obsolete as China and Russia move toward stealth aircraft and missiles”

          • As we are being drip fed with our quota of F35’s we could find that the advantages they currently offer us will be outdated by Russia’s technological advances.

            Typhoon on the other hand has potential near term modifications like, a more powerful Eurojet engine, conformal fuel tanks, thrust vectoring (available since 2010) and of course a bigger platform to deliver munitions over the F35.

            Smart thinking would be to replace the Tranche 1 aircraft with Tranche 3, install the above mentioned upgrades double quick time along with the new Captor E-Scan radar, and speed up the development of longer range (standoff) weapons to keep these aircraft safe.

            I’m pleased but at the same time surprised that we are not developing a far more powerful land based version of Dragonfire to protect our coastlines and cities.

            This in theory could be the best and quickest method to keep Britain protected from our adversaries short term until a 6th generation aircraft comes into service.

            Through a continuous lack of investment in our armed services over many years, we find ourselves out of step and potentially investing large sums of money in something that is already compromised if the information on the S400’s is correct?

            Just a thought for the weekend!

  6. SDD is ongoing, F-35 has to complete IOT&E starting in September 2018 as has to wait for Lockheed to produce enough aircraft at production standard. If trials successful Milestone C completed and full production can be authorized

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