US F-35 Fighter Jet Completes First In-Flight Missile Test
The US Air Force has for the first time fired a missile from an F-35 fighter jet, edging the aircraft that is being developed for the US military and a dozen other countries closer to combat readiness, a spokeswoman for the project said Monday.
“The launch shows we are making forward progress and moving toward the capability to make targeted missile launches,” Lockheed Martin’s Laura Siebert, a spokeswoman for the F-35 program, told RIA Novosti.
The F-35A, developed for the US Air Force, fired a Raytheon-built AIM-120 C5 AAVI missile last week from an internal weapons bay over the sea test range at Point Mugu in California, which is part of Edwards Air Force base, Siebert said.
Charlie Wagner, the weapons director for the F-35, said in a statement that the in-flight missile launch is “a turning point in F-35 capabilities” and a “small, but critical increment toward proving combat capability.”
Three distinct versions of the F-35 are being developed for the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The Air Force expects to take delivery of its F-35s, and have pilots and ground crew trained to pilot them and provide backup for missions by December 2016 – one year after the Marine Corps and around three years before the Navy.
The estimated cost of the F-35 is $75 million per plane in 2012 dollars, Siebert said. Inflation will push that to $85 million per jet when the aircraft are delivered and operational with the different branches of the US military, she said.
Several US F-35 partner countries – including Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey – are producing components for the different models of the F-35.
Many partner countries have ordered their first aircraft, and Britain has already received its first F-35, Lockheed Martin said in a statement.
Source: WASHINGTON, RIA Novosti News - 10 June 2013
Photo: The U.S. Air Force First Lockheed Martin F-35A fires a missile in-flight for the first time. (Photo by © Courtesy Lockheed Martin/Matthew Short)