The US Air Force (USAF) has carried out the maiden flight test of an F-35 fighter aircraft in the latest Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration.

Conducted on 6 January, the test was executed by a developmental test team assigned under the 461st Flight Test Squadron from Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California, US.

A USAF’s experimental test pilot was deployed to perform the test in a specially instrumented test aircraft with tail number AF-7, which is also the first aircraft to be equipped with the new TR-3 upgrades.

During the test flight, which lasted for 50 minutes, the pilot-operated F-35 jet at a high speed, close to the speed of sound, above the Mojave Desert at a height of 35,000ft.

Before flying the aircraft, the deployed test pilot also conducted a functional check flight to determine its system stability and airworthiness.

The new flight test marks the beginning of a series of developmental and operational flight tests that will be performed throughout the year. The test campaign will assess the safety and warfighting capabilities of the new aircraft configuration.

USAF F-35 Joint Programme Office programme executive officer lieutenant general Mike Schmidt said: “TR-3 is the F-35’s critical computer processing electronics upgrade that will continue to provide all our pilots with the capability they need to be successful against any adversary.”

The latest TR-3 upgrade is designed to provide computational horsepower to support a wide range of F-35’s Block-4 capabilities, including improved electronic warfare, long-range precision weapons, sensor suites, enhanced data fusion and increased cross-platform interoperability.

All the features will allow combat pilots to identify, track, engage, and counter emerging air, ground, and cyber adversaries.