F-35 JSF Flight Test Update

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.


  • mhmm…

    Have we ever bought planes before flight testing before?

    • Mark

      Yes, all the time.

    • SMSgt Mac

      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

      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


  • VTGunner

    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

      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

        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

        “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

          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

        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

          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.

    “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

      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.


    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

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

    • Hobo42

      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

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

    • Stormcharger

      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

        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

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

    • tiger

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

    • Jason

      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

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

    • William C.

      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

      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

      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

    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

    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

      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

        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

      Faster than Mig 31? I dont think so…

  • Top Bomb

    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

      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

    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

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

  • AFCC

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

  • Nick

    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

    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

    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.