United States Marine Corps pilots recently dropped dozens of live bombs from the F-35B for the first time, bringing the aircraft a step closer to readiness.
The aircraft dropped two munitions currently used by F/A-18 Hornet and other aircraft: the 500 pound GBU-12 and the 1,000-pound GBU-32.
It is reported that the F-35B far outperformed older aircraft in its ability to deliver GBU-32 munitions in obscured conditions. The key, reportedly, is the F-35’s synthetic aperture radar, which allows it to paint a three dimensional map of the ground, offering pilots enough detail to deliver bombs even in little or no visibility.
Major Christopher Trent, VMFA-121’s pilot training officer and one of 14 pilots who flew several of the test sorties said:
“It was a confidence builder for the entire team that they can load bombs, wire and put them on the jet right, and the jet can put them where they are intended to go with the pilot’s targeting. In extreme weather conditions or dirty battlefield conditions, the F-35 still has the ability to target munitions for the guy on the ground with the same warheads legacy aircraft carry today.
“We will transition to normal operational training priorities for a normal gun squadron, training all the remaining pilots up and getting them ready for combat should the squadron be called to go.”
According to other sources reporting on this event, Trent said he would confidently take the aircraft into battle today.