Lockheed Martin has cleared the F-35 to accurately deliver a full slate of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons available with go-to-war, Block 3F software.
"The F-35 is combat capable and poised for even more weapons capability growth as we evolve into the future," Lockheed's F-35 executive vice-president and general manager Jeff Babione said in a newsletter to employees earlier this month.
A recent round of testing on test range at China Lake, California validated the delivery accuracy of nine Block 3F weapons, including air interceptors such as Raytheon's AIM-120C7, AIM-9X and MBDA's ASRAAM interceptor. The tests also confirmed delivery accuracy of several munitions, including the 226kg (500lb)-class Paveway IV, GBU-39 small diameter, and GBU-12, as well as the 910kg-class GBU-31 joint direct attack munition and the AGM-154 joint standoff weapon, Babione says. .
The F-35 testing evaluation master plan required Lockheed to complete 26 weapons delivery accuracy events as part of a testing effort that ensures the fighter can deploy its full set of Block 3F weapons.
A 2016 report on the F-35 programme from the Pentagon’s top weapons tester revealed several deficiencies and limitations.
The report detailed mission planning problems with the US Navy’s JSOW missile that could jeopardize the fleet’s ability to attack moving ship targets and allow flexible engagement of targets on land. The report also discovered ongoing radar and fusion deficiencies affecting air-to-air target track stability and accuracy.
Lockheed corrected the issues detailed in the DOT&E report before completing weapons delivery accuracy testing, a Lockheed spokesman tells FlightGlobal.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force awarded a $59.7 million contract last month to Raytheon for the GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II guided bomb. Integrating the GBU-49, which is able to strike a moving target, marks an interim fix for the F-35 since the fighter’s current electro-optical targeting system does not have a “lead laser guidance” capability.
Flight testing with the GBU-49 will begin this month and the USAF will receive the first 400 guidance kits by the end of January, the service says in a 1 December statement.