F-35A Gets First Live Air-to-Air Kill in Testing

An Air Force F-35A in late July got its first air-to-air kill, taking out an aerial drone with an externally mounted AIM-9X missile. The F-35A, piloted by Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, on July 28 identified and targeted the drone with mission sensors, passed the “track” information to the missile, and the pilot was able to target the drone with the high off-boresight capability of the helmet-mounted display, according to a news release from the F-35 Joint Program Office. The pilot, before targeting the drone with the AIM-9X, also fired an internal AIM-120C at a target beyond visual range, with the Sidewinder given a self-destruct signal before impact, according to the release. “It’s been said you don’t really have a fighter until you can actually hit a target and we crossed that threshold,” LeClair said in the release. The test was conducted in a military test range off the California coast. The tests focus on improving the block 3F software suit, with additional missions testing Small Diameter Bombs and Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The tests come in advance of the Air Force declaring Initial Operating Capability on the aircraft.