The F-35 enters the Paris Air Show on a high note. Perhaps like Canada committing to buy 65 F-35As on the eve of the Farnborough show last year, Lockheed Martin served up a whopper of a press release a few days ahead of the show. Here are some highlights:
- A finally complete fleet of 13 flight test aircraft has flown more sorties through 15 June than all of last year. That's not unexpected after the test fleet population has roughly doubled since 12 months ago, but it's a major accomplishment. If trends continue, the fleet should have no trouble easily surpassing the 872-sortie goal set by the programme for this year.
- The F-35A variant's AF-1 has come within M0.07 of its top speed of M1.6, and AF-7 has remained airborne for 4.1h.
- At least 17 F-35s, including the retired AA-1 test aircraft and four early production jets, have been flown and delivered.
All of that is not to suggest the F-35 has resolved all concerns. Lockheed has not provided an update on mean time between failure rates, which were last year were a 1.8h for the F-35A and about 24 minutes for the F-35B, according to the Government Accountability Office. Thermal loads for mission systems aircraft AF-3 and BF-4 have not jet been tested in the heat of the California and Maryland summer. House appropriators, meanwhile, have proposing removing $75.7 million from next year's budget, which would have launched development of Block IV software. With Block III software already four years behind schedule, there's no need to start working on Block IV.