Six F-35 Lightning IIs are squaring off against potential adversaries’ air defense systems to test the fighter’s real-world sensing and penetrating capabilities at Edwards AFB, Calif., reported Military.com. “The surface threat is a tough problem. … If the missile is big enough it can shoot you from hundreds of miles away,” said Thomas Lawhead, F-35 integration office operational chief. Testers are specifically probing the effectiveness of F-35’s electro-optical targeting system and distributed aperture situational awareness suite against Chinese, Iranian, and Russian threat systems, according to the April 17 press report. Pitting the F-35’s sensors and systems against various surface-to-air systems allows testers to develop a database of threat profiles “so that when the aircraft sees something on radar … it can categorize what it is,” added Lawhead.
New F-35s are coming off the production line with the TR-3 upgrade and going right into storage because testing is incomplete. Next lot negotiations are continuing, but talks over a performance-based logistics contract have stalled.