F-35 demonstrates accuracy in weapons delivery flight test
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. The U.S. Air Force 461st Flight Test Squadron and F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) completed the Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) flight test, ensuring the F-35 weapons system can deliver lethal ordnance both air-to-air and air-to-ground using the jet’s warfighting Block 3F software.
ITF used all three F-35 variants and delivered air-to-air missiles including AIM-120s, the AIM-9X and the United Kingdom’s advanced short range air-to-air missile, according to the U.S. Air Force. The WDA tests also confirmed air-to-ground delivery of the Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, GBU-39 small diameter bomb, GBU-12, GBU-31 joint direct attack munition and the AGM-154 joint standoff weapon.
“Weapons delivery accuracy tests are important, because without proof that the F-35 can actually drop these weapons where we need them to go, then the F-35 is just an information-gathering system,” Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, 461st FLTS commander and F-35 ITF director points out. “The F-35 proved it was extremely capable in delivering these weapons where we wanted it and how we wanted it delivered. These are the most complicated and intricate missions that we had and the jet did extremely well.”
Air-to-air accuracy tests finished in August with air-to-ground tests ending in October, Hamilton adds. The F-35 ITF then capped off WDA tests by completing testing on the F-35’s GAU-22 25mm gun at the beginning of December. The WDA gun tests included the Air Force’s A-variant where the gun is internally carried and on the Marine Corps’ and Navy’s B and C variants, which employ a gun pod beneath the jet. Weapons Delivery Accuracy flight tests began in July 2013 and wrapped up earlier this month.
Each weapon test required multiple missions including software development, “dry runs” and then the actual weapon release. Not including the gun, Hamilton said the F-35 ITF delivered 55 weapons during WDA testing, which was mainly done over the military sea range off the California coast and at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.
The F-35 Joint Program Office analyzes the data from all the WDA tests and any upgrades to the F-35 mission systems software will be sent out to the F-35 operational fleet, Hamilton explains. “When they get their 3F software, the one that is going to be productionized for full 3F capability, (the fleet) will be confident they can load these weapons and drop them on the target they’re selecting.”