During an Oct. 21 flight over an Atlantic test range, the F-35C’s pilot released an inert, 500-pound Paveway II laser-guided bomb from an internal weapons bay. The aircraft became the last of the three F-35 variants to complete such a “weapons separation” test.
The U.S. Navy plans to begin testing the F-35C aboard an aircraft carrier in 2014. Compared to the Air Force F-35A and the Marine Corps F-35B, the F-35C has larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear to withstand the demanding launches and landings of an aircraft-carrier environment.
The stealthy, high-tech F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is being developed to replace aging fighters in the United States and at least 10 other countries. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the U.S.-led program.
The F-35C test came as the program is grappling with U.S. defense budget constraints. At an Oct. 23 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy warned that funding cuts might force them to buy six or seven fewer F-35s than the 29 planned for fiscal year 2014.
SUBSCRIBE! To receive future articles by this writer, click “Subscribe” above. Follow him on Twitter.