The US Air Force's (USAF) F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft has successfully completed the first in-flight weapons release of an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) over the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake test range in California, US.
During the weapons separation test, the aircraft dropped the instrumented missile from its left internal weapons bay over the test range.
The test follows the first in-flight release of an instrumented 2,000lb GBU-31 BLU-109 joint direct attack munition (JDAM) by the aircraft at same location recently.
461st Flight Test Squadron commander and F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base government director lieutenant colonel George Schwartz said the test represents a significant first step towards delivering the aircraft to the US Military and international partners.
''The Edwards Integrated Test Force accomplished the first safe separation of an AMRAAM from the F-35 only three days after the first separation of a GBU-31 and demonstrates the high pace we need to maintain throughout the weapons program over the next two years,'' Schwartz added.
Integrated Test Force's Weapons Integration team members Gary Arnold and Eli Jones said in a joint statement: "This first safe separation of the AIM-120 missile from JSF represents the culmination of many years of careful planning by the combined government and contractor teams both inside and outside the ITF."
The test validated the weapon's release from the launcher and its release characteristics from the aircraft, and the resulting data is being reviewed by the Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a single-engine, fifth generation multirole fighter, currently under development by Lockheed Martin in three variants to perform ground attack, reconnaissance and air defence missions with stealth capability.
Image: An AIM-120 AMRAAM being fired from F-35A CTOL aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Matt Short, Lockheed Martin.