Tuesday, November 27, 2012

F-35: Weapons integration testing begins in earnest

A little noted, but important event occurred recently that you shouldn't expect to see touted among the critics of the F-35 program.  The last AIM-120 AMRAAM deployed by the CTOL version of the F-35 during weapons testing was full up with electronics found in such a missile (although lacking a rocket motor) and it and the F-35 "talked" during it's deployment:
Prior to Oct. 26, mass models with no internal electronics were used during all F-35A weapons testing. The AIM-120 AMRAAM used during the integration test contained the same electronics as a full-up missile, but without the rocket motor.

“In October, we were able to begin weapons separation testing with the JDAM and AMRAAM. We proved we can carry them safely and that the shapes, which matched the exact mass properties of the real weapons, could separate from the aircraft safely. Now, with the integration testing, we’ve initially proved the aircraft can talk to the weapon and that the weapon can talk to the aircraft,” said Col. Roderick L. Cregier, 412th Test Wing, F-35 program manager.
Of course, that's obviously a critical task and just as obviously, the F-35's systems were up to the task.

Cregier had more to say on that:
“This was a very important milestone to get us over that hump, to move on to the next phase of the program, which is going to start very soon. This success was critical, now what we’re doing is putting the teeth into the F-35. It’s important that the jet can meet all the corners of its envelope, but what we’re really designing it to do is employ weapons,” said Cregier.

“Starting in February and continuing through the end of April, we are anticipating releasing roughly two weapons per week. This is going to be just the beginning of what I would characterize as the most ambitious weapons integration program in the history of tactical aircraft.”
So the "flying piano" is doing quite well, according to all the test results we've seen to date.   And it is developing teeth at a fairly rapid rate. 

However, there's been very little coverage of this and other important milestones (like the F-35 progressing to 50 degree AOA in four, count them, four flights) in the program ... not that it comes as a particular surprise given the reputations on the line of those who have chosen to call the program a failure right out of the box. 


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