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F-35 makes flight test with external weapons at Edwards

February 20, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan
  • An F-35 in test flight at Edwards Air Force Base.
An F-35 in test flight at Edwards Air Force Base. (Lockheed Martin Corp. /…)

The F-35, the military’s next-generation fighter jet that's currently under development, has begun its first flight tests carrying external missiles at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert.

The stealthy, supersonic fighter, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., has been undergoing tests since its first flight in late 2006.

The F-35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, will be used jointly by the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Three versions of the F-35 are being  built -- one that can operate off aircraft carriers, one capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, and a conventional fighter jet.

All three F-35 variants will be built on the same production line at Lockheed's plant in Fort Worth, Texas. The center fuselage sections will be made by Northrop Grumman Corp. at Plant 42 in Palmdale.

Currently, the F-35 order is the Pentagon's costliest program going; the Defense Department has plans to buy 2,443 of the aircraft at a cost of $382 billion.

On Feb. 16, an F-35 took off carrying two air-to-air missiles off its wing, Lockheed said. In addition, the F-35 carried two internal 2,000-pound bunker-busting bombs and two advanced medium range air-to-air missiles inside the two internal weapon bays. 

No weapons were delivered during the test flight, Lockheed said.

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