And now, we have a working F-35. Defensetech reports: "A new chapter in the history of U.S. Air Force fighters began yesterday when the service’s fist production model F-35 Joint Strike Fighter took to the skies at Lockheed’s Fort Worth, TX., facility for the very first time. Yes, the program’s had its troubles and the Marines’ B-model is nowhere near ready for production but this marks the beginning of the program becoming an operational reality. This flight paves the way for Air Force instructor pilots to start flying the jets at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida starting this May. This means, believe or not, we’re finally going to see operational F-35s. Still, it’s gonna be a while. The IOC date for the Air Force remains 2016." Luckily, it can now be deployed tomorrow... if need be.
And the official Lockheed Press Release:
The first production model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II made its inaugural flight today in preparation for delivery to the U.S. Air Force this spring. The jet will head to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to support developmental testing shortly after the Air Force takes delivery.
“The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight,” said Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Bill Gigliotti. “The Air Force is getting a great jet that represents a huge leap in capability, and we’re looking forward to getting it into the hands of the service pilots in just a few more weeks.”
During the flight, the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A variant, known as AF-6, underwent basic flight maneuvering and engine tests. Test Pilot Gigliotti took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base at 3:05 p.m. CST and landed at 4:05 p.m. The jet will continue flight tests in Fort Worth for about a month before it is accepted by the Air Force.
The F-35A CTOL variant – designed to meet U.S. Air Force requirements – is also the primary export version of the Lightning II. The air forces of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Israel will employ the F-35A.
Deliveries of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant to the U.S. Marine Corps also begin this year, while deliveries of the F-35C carrier variant to the U.S. Navy start in 2012. Seventeen F-35s have entered testing since December 2006, and have logged more than 650 flights and numerous ground tests.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 132,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s 2010 sales from continuing operations were $45.8 billion.