Lockheed Martin has flown its first F-35A Lightning II armed with an internal 25mm cannon, and will use the platform to support a variety of weapons testing for the US Air Force.
Conventional take-off and landing aircraft AF-2 made its 1h debut from Fort Worth in Texas on 20 April, and is the seventh F-35 to fly, says Lockheed.
“The first flight of AF-2 is a significant achievement for the US Air Force and our international partners who will operate the F-35A,” says James Sandstrom, the company’s programme manager for the USAF variant.
AF-2 will be used to verify the F-35A’s internal and external weapons, including its General Dynamics GAU-22/A cannon, which can be fired at a maximum rate of 3,000 rounds per minute.
© Lockheed Martin
“Gun testing will be used to confirm predictions of gun vibration, acoustic and recoil loads with the aircraft and various weapons,” says Lockheed. “Additionally, the aircraft will be used to confirm vibro-acoustic loads with the weapons-bay doors open and closed with various weapon configurations.”
The new aircraft’s availability comes as Lockheed also prepares to return its first weight-optimised CTOL test platform to the air. AF-1 flew twice late last year before entering a period of ground test.
In addition to its future service with the USAF, the F-35A has also attracted the interest of Joint Strike Fighter partner nations Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey, plus Israel and Singapore.