Nov. 9 (UPI) -- BAE Systems announced Thursday that the contractor successfully completed its full scale durability test airframe of the F-35A aircraft.
The completion is the culmination of the F-35A's third life testing at BAE Systems' testing facility in East Yorkshire in England, which is equivalent to 24,000 hours of "flying."
The airframe, known officially as the AJ-1,is designed to operate from conventional runways, and is the only F-35 variant to carry an internal cannon, according to Lockheed Martin, who also works on the F-35 Lightning II aircraft fleet.
The U.S. Air Force, as well as the majority of allied air forces and Foreign Military Sales nations, will operate the F-35A, eventually replacing their 3rd and 4th generation aircraft.
"The F-35 program requires a service life of 8,000 flight hours," Kathy Nesmith, F-35 joint program office airframe team lead, said in a press release. "This is verified through durability testing to two lifetimes or 16,000 hours. Completing third life testing on the F-35A durability article will provide us the data to enable the warfighter to maintain and sustain this aircraft beyond 2050."
The F-35B and F-35C durability test airframes already have completed 16,000 hour second life testing, with additional tests being conducted to maximize the life of the aircraft.
The good news from BAE Systems comes after years of the F-35 being dogged with controversies that range from overbudgeting to numerous delays and design flaws. In recent years, there have been growing concerns over the F-35's onboard computer systems and, according to the FBI, Chinese hackers may have stolen classified data related to the F-35 project.
"The 5th generation F-35, with advanced speed and agility, pushes the boundaries of engineering and physics," said Matt Edghill, F-35 structures development director at Lockheed Martin. "This durability testing confirms the airframe will perform in and withstand the demanding environments it will experience throughout its operational lifetime. Completion of the F-35A's third lifetime test gives our program great confidence in the aircraft's strength and durability for decades to come."