First F-35A Flight with External Weapons

The Air Force F-35A variant flew for the first time with wing-mounted external weapons, slinging a pair of AIM-9X air-to-air missiles aloft from Edwards AFB, Calif., announced F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Demonstrating carriage of its six external pylons, AF-1, an F-35A test aircraft, carried an additional internal load of two 2,000-pound GBU-31 joint direct attack munitions and two AIM-120 air-to-air missiles during the Feb. 16 envelope-expansion sortie from Edwards AFB, Calif., according to the company. The F-35A is capable of carrying 18,000 pounds of ordnance on 10 stations, four of them internal. Carrying external weapons does reduce the aircraft’s low-observable aspect. AF-1 did not deploy any weapons during the flight. This is the same airframe that was the first in the test fleet to resume flight operations after a brief standdown due to a drag-chute issue earlier this year.