A UK test team has completed an initial series of handling flights of a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II carrying trial rounds of the Raytheon Systems Paveway IV precision-guided bomb and MBDA ASRAAM air-to-air missile.
An undisclosed number of flights were conducted with the weapons from the US Navy’s Patuxent River test centre in Maryland, the Ministry of Defence says. “These initial tests are an important step in integrating weapons on to the F-35B, allowing test pilots to understand how they affect the way the aircraft performs and handles,” it adds.
The MoD on 24 November confirmed it has ordered its first four production examples of the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B, with the aircraft to be part of the US programme’s eighth lot of low-rate initial production. Lockheed on 21 November announced it had completed negotiations with the US Department of Defense for the 43-aircraft deal, which is worth $4.7 billion without the type’s Pratt & Whitney F135 engines included. The US armed services will take 29 of the aircraft, with the remainder to go to the UK, Israel, Italy, Japan and Norway.
“The contract for the F-35B aircraft forms part of the MoD’s investment in Lightning II over the next five years to procure an initial 14 of these multirole, fifth-generation aircraft, as well as putting in place the necessary support arrangements and infrastructure,” the UK says. “Further contracts will cover the procurement of a range of equipment, such as engines.”
Once delivered, the UK’s F-35s will be based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Three B-model aircraft are already being used in the USA in support of initial operational test and evaluation of the JSF, with a fourth to be delivered during 2015.