FORT WORTH, Texas, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has flown its first production F-35 Lightning II Stealth Fighter in preparation for the plane's delivery to the U.S. Air Force this spring.
Lockheed said the aircraft's inaugural flight was Friday.
During the hourlong flight and test, the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A variant underwent basic flight maneuvering and engine tests. Fight tests on the aircraft will continue in Fort Worth, Texas, for about a month before the plane is accepted by the Air Force.
"The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight," said Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti. "The Air Force is getting a great jet that represents a huge leap in capability and we're looking forward to getting it into the hands of the service pilots in just a few more weeks."
The F-35A CTOL variant is the primary export version of the Lightning II. The air forces of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Israel will employ the F-35A.
Lockheed said deliveries of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant to the U.S. Marine Corps begin this year, while deliveries of the F-35C carrier variant to the U.S. Navy start in 2012.
Seventeen F-35s have entered testing since December 2006 and have logged more than 650 flights and numerous ground tests.
Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.
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