A UK test team has successfully completed initial aircraft handling trials for advanced short-range air-to-air missiles (ASRAAM) and Paveway IV weapons on the F-35B Lightning II short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft.
Trials were undertaken at the US Navy’s test facility at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland.
They saw two F-35B fighters conducting nine flights with dummy ASRAAM and Paveway IV laser-guided bombs that were identical in fit and form to the operational weapons.
The flights involved different configurations of both weapon types on the aircraft. This represented a significant step in integrating weapons onto the F-35B, enabling test pilots to understand how they affect aircraft’s performance and handling.
Lockheed Martin F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn and UK Royal Air Force squadron leader Andy Edgell flew the aircraft during trials.
The tests were supported by a joint UK Ministry of Defence and industry team, as well as the US Department of Defense.
BAE Systems F-35 lead test pilot Pete Wilson said: "The team at Patuxent River has got over 2,000 hours of flying under their belts for the F-35B variant and the handling and performance of the aircraft has shone through throughout.
"These latest trials were no exception and help us to move confidently into the next phase of weapons testing."
Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter programme F-35 test and verification vice-president JD McFarlan said: "The test results for one partner will benefit all, further demonstrating the versatility and capability of the F-35 as a multi-role platform."
The tests also marked a step towards full interoperability between the current and future fast jets that will be used by the RAF and the UK’s Royal Navy from 2018.
The next stage of weapons testing involving weapon separation and guided releases of both ASRAAM and Paveway IV from the aircraft, is scheduled for early 2015.
ASRAAM and Paveway IV are built by MBDA and Raytheon. They are already being used by the RAF on existing combat air fleet.
Image: F-35B aircraft trialled ASRAAM missiles and Paveway IV bombs at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in US. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.