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U.S. Navy reaches milestone with F-35B weapons load testing

By
Ryan Maass
The weapons load tests evaluate the joint strike fighter's effectiveness in a maritime environment. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg
The weapons load tests evaluate the joint strike fighter's effectiveness in a maritime environment. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Navy personnel completed a round of weapons load testing for the F-35B variant on board the USS America assault ship during recent sea trials.

The tests were part of the third developmental test phase for the Lockheed Martin-made joint strike fighter, and aimed to assess the aircraft's combat capabilities in a maritime environment. The tests began in late October, and wrapped up on Nov. 16.

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During the trials, pilots intentionally conducted flight tests under unfavorable conditions to gauge the fighter's limitations. International partners also participated.

"We can't choose the battle and the location of the battle, so sometimes we have to go into rough seas with heavy swells, heave, roll, pitch, and crosswinds," Royal Air Force squadron leader Andy Edgell explained in a press release. "So now the external weapons testing should be able to give the fleet a clearance to carry weapons with the rough seas and rough conditions. We know the jet can handle it."

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Navy officials say the weapons team tested all of the takeoff and landing worst-case scenarios. Munitions included 72 laser-guided Guide Bomb Units and 12 and 40 satellite-guided GBUs. The lightest ordnance tested weighed 500 pounds.

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"We went from building one bomb in four hours on the first day to building 16 bombs in less than three hours yesterday," Petty Officer 2nd Class Fabiola Cesar said. "There has been a bit of a learning curve for us, but we're learning and we're moving now."

The F-35B is the vertical landing variant procured by the U.S. Navy. It is designed to take off and land from longer runways than its counterparts, though the aircraft has a smaller internal weapon bay and less internal fuel capacity than the F-35A.

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