The Joint Strike Fighter team has started to test fly the Lockheed Martin-built jet's Block 2A software, says the company's top test pilot.

Al Norman says the new software block, which is the first set of programming that integrates the jet's sensors, is proving to be more stable than earlier, less complicated software blocks. That bodes well for the programme, as the Lockheed Martin F-22 was bedeviled by software stability issues at a similar stage in its development. The test team has already started to undertake maturity flights for that software in order to release it to the F-35 training unit at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The team has already flown over 90 Block 2A test flights.

Meanwhile, at Patuxent River, Maryland, the US Navy and Marines version are progressing rapidly. The Marines and UK F-35B aircraft flew a short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) sortie with a full load of internal weapons and fuel in early July, says BAE Systems F-35 test pilot Peter Wilson.

Meanwhile, the much troubled F-35 helmet mounted display is also doing better these days, the pilots both say. Permanent fixes are on their way.

Both developments are significant. Block 2A is needed to start training pilots for tactical missions, while the STOVL tests are needed for the Marines' drive to declare the F-35B operational in late 2014 or early 2015 with Block 2B software.

The first USMC operational squadron is scheduled to stand up later this year in Yuma, Arizona.

Source: Flight Daily News