All the Bells and Whistles

BF-4, the first F-35 strike fighter test aircraft carrying all of the sensors that combat-ready F-35s will host, made its maiden flight on Wednesday, Lockheed Martin announced. Eric Branyan, Lockheed’s F-35 deputy program manager, said the 55-minute flight from the company’s F-35 assembly facility in Fort Worth, Tex., initiated “a level of avionics capability that no fighter has ever achieved.” During the flight, F-35 Test Pilot David Nelson checked the operation of these systems, which include an active electronically scanned array radar, electro-optical targeting system, EO distributed aperture system, electronic warfare system, helmet-mounted display system, and integrated communication, navigation, and identification suite. BF-4, which is scheduled to fly to NAS Patuxent River, Md., for more expansive flight testing with the sensors, is a Marine Corps’s F-35B short-takeoff variant. The Air Force’s F-35A version will have these same sensors as will the Navy’s F-35C.