The F-35 program Monday wrapped up an intense weapons testing surge, which sharply advanced clearance of the 3F software. The Integrated Test Force reported completing 25 tests—12 weapons delivery accuracy and 13 separation tests—as part of a month-long push to clear weapons for use on the jet. The previous high number of weapons tests in a month was three. Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy program director for the F-35, told Air Force Magazine the surge started in July and aimed to do 15 weapons tests, with “different kinds of weapons, different scenarios, multiple weapons at the same time.” The original plan would have spaced the tests out “over a year,” but the program “made a commitment” to get the work done all this summer, and received a matching commitment from Edwards AFB, Calif., to give the F-35 priority for ranges and test assets, he said. The surge was possible because, “the weather’s good in the summertime, we’ve got the airplanes, they’re flying well,” and other agencies agreed to cooperate, he said. The testing involved “seven-days-a-week ops,” and its success is “a big risk reduction to delivering 3F.” The program office said five test events included multiple weapons, and overall tested 30 total munitions, including JDAM bombs, AIM-9X and AIM-120 AMRAAM dogfight missiles, 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, and a combination laser/GPS-guided weapon. Program director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said in a press statement that the tests require all the F-35’s systems—navigation, sensors, datalinks, and multi-agency ranges—“all working in sequence” and “has moved us that much closer to delivering the full F-35 capability to warfighters within the next two years.”
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.