Lockheed Martin's F-35A Joint Strike Fighter made its first Raytheon AIM-120C5 AMRAAM launch earlier this week at Edwards AFB in California. The instrumented air-to-air missile was launched from aircraft AF-1, which was flown by US Air Force Lt Col George Schwartz, over the Point Mugu sea test range.
"The AIM-120 launch is one small, but critical increment towards proving combat capability," says F-35 weapons director Charlie Wagner. "We've spent years working on the design of the aircraft, and many months ensuring that weapons could be contained within the aircraft and dropped as designed."
The significance of the AMRAAM launch is that it demonstrates a successful launch-to-eject communications sequence and firing of the weapon's rocket motor after its release. The test will help pave the way for targeted launches later this year in support of the Block 2B configuration, which will be the first software load with actual combat capability. "We're rolling into a lot of additional weapons work in the coming months to put that expanded capability on the aircraft," Schwartz says.
Both the USAF and the US Marine Corps will declare the F-35 operational with versions of the Block 2B (rehosted as Block 3i for the USAF) software in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Meanwhile, Kongsberg and Lockheed have completed a fit check of the Norwegian Joint Strike Missile inside the internal weapons bay of the F-35. The weapon has already been fit checked on external pylons in tests that took place about four weeks ago.