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F-35 JSF Flight Test Update

by John Reed on November 4, 2011

So, Lockheed Martin just released the latest numbers for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter flight testing.

Here’s the quick and dirty from Lockheed:

October was the busiest month for flying in the history of the F-35 flight test program, with F-35 aircraft executing 122 flights. The F-35B aircraft known as BF-2 accomplished 22 flights, the most ever for an F-35 in one month.

  • F-35Bs completed their 500th flight on Sept. 30. In October, F-35Bs executed the most vertical landings (73) for a single month in the history of the flight test program, including the 200th vertical landing for the program Oct. 4.
  • AF-12 and AF-13 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft were delivered to the 33d Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Oct. 19 and 26, respectively. This marked the fifth and sixth delivery of CTOL jets to Eglin and the 12th overall delivery of an F-35 to the Department of Defense in 2011.
  • As of Nov. 3, F-35C carrier variant (CV) jets had executed 59 successful catapult launches and three arrestments.
  • F-35C aircraft achieved 200 flight hours on Sept. 22.
  • The F-35A known as AF-1 achieved the F-35’s maximum design limit speed of Mach 1.6 for the first time on Oct. 25.

Cumulative flight test activity totals for 2011 are provided below:

  • F-35A CTOL jets have flown 407 times.
  • F-35B STOVL aircraft have completed 296 flights.
  • F-35C CV jets have flown 134 times.

From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through Nov. 3, F-35s flew 1,432 times, including the production-model flights and AA-1, the original flight test aircraft.


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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

mhmm... November 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Have we ever bought planes before flight testing before?


Mark November 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Yes, all the time.


SMSgt Mac November 4, 2011 at 11:55 pm

If you mean production aircraft rolling off the line before flight testng was complete, then the answer is: That has been the norm at least since the end of WW2 and probably since before WW2. If there is a post WW2 exception (US fighter or bomber), I can't think of one of the top of my head – but 'opening day' is in about 10 hours and I have other things on my mind. [;-). G'night!


corey November 10, 2011 at 2:56 am

Yes lots in the 50s many in production like F-100s with tails that were to short, F-105s also they would start building and fix things as discovered in testing this made for lots of crashes and lots of planes in different setups that later would go thru commonality fixes so the planes where all brought up to date in standards


Yep November 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm



VTGunner November 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Only in the last 20 years or so. Back in the early days fair competitions were held when the companies paid for most of the development rather than the taxpayer. Now thanks to the stranglehold these companies have over politicians we somehow find it economical to pay for all the development and continuing cost increases.


elportonative77 November 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Well if you just cut taxes, abolish the EPA, open up government further to the carnivorous and fiery evil that is lobbying, think of corporations as people and money as speech then I'm sure somehow the stranglehold will disappear and our political system and nation will return to prosperity and grandeur we once held……before.

Umm….In god we trust! Sic semper tyrannis! Don't tread on me! Liberty! Free market!

By the way I fully agree with all that you are saying I just needed to vent my current bout of cynicism and lack of hope. On the flipside I'm sure that the American people will eventually notice that our political system (and by extension all things that it controls example Defense acquisition) is broken and certain individuals/organizations hold too much power over it. When that happens and the situation is subsequently rectified I'm sure we will go back to old ways of fair competitions and all that they entail. So, in shorter words keep the faith.


BigRick November 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

sadly there are too few of "us" that actually are aware and give a damn, this country is on a downhill slide and the people have been "conditioned" to think that everything (corruption and incompetence) is "normal."


Chris November 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm

"think of… money as speech"

What a great point to separate money from the idea of free speech. This means that Congress can prohibit the New York Times or CNN from expending money to criticize incumbents, right? They can't buy newsprint or ink or pay reporters or pay utility bills to put out any material that criticizes incumbents or Democrats. And this doesn't restrict their free speech because money isn't speech.

What great reasoning. You are a genius.


elportonative77 November 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Well, I suppose I am a genius Chris. Thank you! I've never thought of myself in that way. You sir are quite the charmer.


GunnyJames November 8, 2011 at 12:27 am

Finding enough companies that are able or willing to expend $2 billion or so of their own money on something with moving/changing "requirements" seems to be the biggest barrier to old-style competition and procurement. Of course we have to fund the effort. There does need to be some fundemental changes, such as opening the programs to all comers, not deciding beforehand "your company just couldn't handle the volume/technology. etc" We never would have had the jeep if Willlies had to compete with that kind of selection process. Or the Corsair, and many others.


blight November 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm

It happens in big pharma, but it leads to severe churn when a project fails and takes the company down with it. That and it leads to gold plated pills that have to pay back years of investments on a ticking clock before your patent protection runs out.


Mitch S. November 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm

"As of Nov. 3, F-35C carrier variant (CV) jets had executed 59 successful catapult launches and three arrestments."
59 out, 3 back…hope those numbers are much closer when they're out at sea!

Do see the B has over twice the flights of the C. Wonder if L-M and the DOD are shifting focus to the B to save it from cancellation.


Charley A November 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

There are more F-35B's built to date than -C's, and it is the first variant planned to become operational. Certainly the Marines and LM are working hard to stave off cancellation. Whether the whole of DoD is solidly behind it is an open question.


OMEGATALON November 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm

From these test results, Lockheed's F-35 is demonstrating that all of the hard work to get the fighter jet to this point is paying off especially the trust that Marine Corps' Commandant General James F Amos had about the performance capability of the STOVL variant of the F-35 fighter jet; now the pressure will be pushed back to the Obama Administration to whether buy the desperately needed stealth fighter jet or wait for the next Presidential Administration to make the decision.


Greg November 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

Really, does it seem like he is punting it? Step into reality please.


Hobo42 November 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I hope that either POTUS Obama or the next administration will cancel this program. NOT NEEDED; COST TOO MUCH; THE SS300 AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM WILL TRASH THIS STEALTH AIRPLANE,
BTW You do realize that stealth at X-band makes this plane look like an aircraft carrier at UHF and L band frequencies.


Sachin November 5, 2011 at 1:32 am

Is this a real picture? If so what happened to the plane?


Stormcharger November 5, 2011 at 4:43 am

Yes it's real. It is an F35B taking off from the flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). This is what STOVL means, vertical landing, short take off. The LHD's do not have a catapult, but rather have the aircraft launch with a 400 foot roll out made possible by an aircraft with vectored thrust like the AV8B or F35B.

For the question of differences between the number of flights between the various models, it is simply where the testing began. First with the F35A, then the B model, and finally the C variant. Obviously, the one being tested first has more flights and the one tested later has less. The catapult testing is all being done on a land base, not a carrier at sea. Now that they know it can be reliably launched via catapult, they have moved on to include arrested landings.


Charley A November 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

There is also a problem with the arresting hook that needs a redesign – that could account for the disparity in arrested landings vs. cat shots….


tiger November 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

This is the B model Vstol type. The C model is for Carriers.


tiger November 5, 2011 at 8:17 am

Yes. The open doors are for the vert lift fans.


Jason November 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Yes it's a real picture, its the F-35B with the STOVL capability like the AV-8B Harrier, it's just taking off in hover mode. :)


tiger November 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

Max speed of the F-35A is Mach 1.6? Seems kinda slow vs. past aircraft.


William C. November 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I think Mach 1.67 is the "operational max speed/design speed" beyond that it isn't certified to drop munitions or do much.


Dri November 8, 2011 at 7:31 am

yes, this is true, that the 1.6 M is not a fast fly speed. stromcharger wrote, that the f-35 isn't an interceptor. This is an air-to-ground fighter, which will protect by an F-22 during flight mission.
The F-35's engine is able to a supercruise mode. It can be reach without afterburner. I think this data regard for this flight speed in supercruise mode without any needless load (missile, bomb)


wpnexp November 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

That's going to be the max reported speed. You can probably assume that the actual max speed mignt be somewhat higher. The F-22 was to have a max supercruise speed of Mach1.5 until a General let slip it actually hits above Mach 1.7 in supercruise when he probably shouldn't have.


Cascadian November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I'm not sure where you get your info, but the F-16 can hit IMN 2.0 when slick. However, as somebody noted, it runs out of gas shortly after that. Also, I would note that no aircraft is going to drop bombs, or anything off of the wings save in emergency only, about around IMN .90. Just doesn't happen.

I would say, from my experience, that super high top end speed is cool on the books, but rarely useful. Acceleration, you know, "the thrusties," is a much better quality, which the F-35 has in abundance, from all accounts.



Tony C November 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

The speed is comparable to the F-18C, which is slower than the MIG-29, MIG-31,
SU-27, and so forth. The plane may be more manuverable than the Russian designs, but it can't out run them. The F-22A on the other hand is designed to
both out perform and out manuver any Russian design. This aircraft is built like the strike fighter where speed is not paramount. The real world ACM is usually at subsonic speeds anyway.


Praetorian November 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Russia has the most manuverable aircraft on earth. The Mig-29 can out turn an F-16,
and even the F-22 only has 2 dimensional thrust vectoring. The Su-30MKI & Su-35 both have 3 dimensional thrust vectoring. While I hope the F-35 can out manuver the Mig-29,
im not going to bet on it. Our stong point is the avionics on our aircraft.


wpnexp November 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

And how effective are pilots at flying above 9 gs, where pilots normally black out.. F-16s and F-35A can easily acheive 9 gs. Seems pretty useless to have a plane that can manuever at g loads designed to cause the pilot to black out. Which I suppopse augers well for the future od UCAVs that can handle g loads above 9 gs. The Russians can have all the fighters that can pull 12 gs all they want, still pretty useless if the pilots are unconcious.


Brian November 9, 2011 at 10:09 am

Faster than Mig 31? I dont think so…


Top Bomb November 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm

1.6 mach is 1228 mph. (mach defined as 768 mph in dry air at 68 deg F. at sea level)

The stealth technology, maneuverability and advanced systems better be GREAT because it sure won't out run a number of current Russian and Chinese AC and their copies.


wpnexp November 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

Well, it has been reported that foreign pilots had F-22s in visual range (during Red Flag exercises), but they could not lock on the F-22 with their radar. So, it seems like stealth works. Not sure how we are doing in the IR field, but I suspect we are making significant strides there also. I think the only "kill" against an F-22 in exercises was a guns kill made when a F-22 pilot was trying a guns shot on another adversary, and he unnecassaily risked the plane by negating the planes stealth advantage by remaining at arms length from adversaries.


Spook November 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm

The F-35 is the only fighter that you can zap the guy coming up in back of you. 100% situational awareness. It is time to get them in service and in "Red Flag". No one in their rigrt mind would want to go against it.


AFCC November 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

At 35,000 ft+, Mach 1.6 is approximately 1060 MPH (speed of sound at the stratosphere is close to 665 MPH)


AFCC November 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I guess the F-35 flies at around Mach 1.1 at sea level (850 MPH)


Nick November 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

I don't get it that after so many billions spent on the F135 it doesn't have a peacetime/wartime setting. Most modern engines have it, the EJ-200, M-88, F100-PW-232, F110-GE-132.

The F135 has been tested at 50000lbs static, so there is sufficient margin to exploit something like 10% more thrust with a wartime setting.

10% more thrust would mean probably the ability to supercruise with the F-35A at least, plus 10% more thrust to weight ratio in dogfight.

The abiblity to supercruise is more important than absolute top speed because the F135 at full thrust must have a huge IR signature.


Thestealthfighterguy November 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Mach 1.6 is't bad fully loaded. Try to get an F-15, F-16 or F-18 up to mach 1.6 with a targeting pod, jamming pod, missiles and wing tanks. The F-35 has all this inside. I bet a F-16 would have a hard time getting to mach 1.2 with this load and the F-18 SHornet wouldn't even break mach. The mach 2 to 2.3-ish speeds the MIG/SU aircraft is clean not loaded. TSFG


Joe MacQueen October 21, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I find the down grading of this plane over whelming to say the least . There seems to be a fixation on speed not the overall feature's presented and the rolls that are to be filled with this aircraft maybe it will fail and then maybe not we should give those building the aircraft some respeck and be a little more positive in this project.


Vstress November 6, 2011 at 9:10 am

pushing an aircraft to higher speeds above Mach 1, the fuel use rises exponentially…. is not true

getting to Mach 1 burns the fuel. The transonic region creates the most drag. Hence supercruise works!

The SR71 was more efficient at supersonic speeds than subsonic.

Supercruise is possible due to more diverse engine operating conditions.


tiger November 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Mach 2.0 would be nice. I would like to able to outrun bad guys when the fight gets bad.


Yep November 7, 2011 at 8:55 am

Why is Mach 1.6 slower than mach 1.5 (mph)?


Dri November 8, 2011 at 7:47 am

OMG! horrible numbers :S


blight November 6, 2011 at 11:25 am

In general, afterburners are inefficient. Many of the older designs relied on afterburners to get up to speed, and changes in engine design or aircraft design to reduce afterburner usage translates into direct fuel savings.


Stormcharger November 7, 2011 at 11:17 am

Because when my mind thought to type Mach 2.0(1500mph) my fingers did not comply. They have since undergone 'enhanced retraining' and are working properly now… In any case, even at Mach 2, virtually every air to air missile in service now is still more than twice as fast, so you only really get to 'outrun' bad guys if you're already really far away in the first place.


GunnyJames November 8, 2011 at 12:33 am

Maybe it could "outrun" other aircraft in a classic guns-only dogfight, but Mach 14 missles make a speedy getaway a non-starter.


wpnexp November 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

Haven't been ona carrier yet. All cats and traps were done at Joint Base Lakehurst. It would have been much bigger news if they had landed or taken off on a carrier, just like the ops on the USS Wasp. Apperantly, traps haven't been as big a priority as catapult testing, not really sure why though.


wpnexp November 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

Mach 14 air to air missiles, really! What are they made of so they don't melt in the atmosphere at that speed? I hope you meant Mach 4.


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