In Depth

Top 10 F-35 Moments of 2016

December 16, 2016

From making an exciting international debut, to tackling significant test milestones, to being delivered to global customers, 2016 was a banner year for the F-35 program. Read on to learn some of the most exciting milestones the Lightning II met in 2016, starting in December and tracking back through the year. 

1. Israel’s F-35 Lands in Country

On Dec. 12, the first pair of F-35 “Adir” (meaning Mighty in Hebrew) jets landed at Nevatim Air Base, Israel. The ceremony, attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, and Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson, marked a historic day in Israeli Air Force history.

“The ‘Adir’ is about to become a powerful accelerator for the entire IAF”, said Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, Commander of the Israeli Air Force. Read more.

2. F-35B Aboard USS America

After three weeks on board the USS America, an integrated team of personnel from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) completed the third and final developmental test period for the F-35B. Overall, the team accomplished 60 flights, 128 vertical landings, 126 short takeoffs, two vertical takeoffs, and expanded the F-35B’s shipboard operating envelope to full operational capability for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Also while on board, the team completed the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept.

“When you put six, eight or 12 F-35s on this ship, it instantly becomes the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the World,” said Marine Corps F-35 Test Pilot Maj. John Dirk. Watch the wrap-up video.

3. Rollout of Japan’s First F-35A

More than 400 guests, including Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) leadership and U.S. government officials, gathered at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 production facility to celebrate the rollout of the JASDF’s first F-35A Lightning II.

Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama,JASDF Chief of Air Staff, said, “The F-35A has remarkably advanced system. This highly sophisticated 5th generation fighter will bring a great development to air operations as a game changer. In integration with current JASDF assets, it surely promises to enormously contribute to not only the benefit of our national defense and but also regional stability.”

See the video from the ceremony.

4. F-35C Completes Development Test III

The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF), along with the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completed the third and final shipboard developmental test phase (DT-III) for the F-35C Lightning II aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) Aug. 25 - one week earlier than scheduled.

VX 23 showcased their trademark test efficiency and effectiveness by completing 100 percent of the required DT-III test points during 41 flights. Read more about the test period.

5. F-35A Declared Combat Ready by U.S. Air Force

Aug. 2, 2016, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command officially declared the F-35A Lightning II ready for combat operations on Aug. 2, 2016.

Carlisle lauded the aircraft’s performance, noting that the aircraft had met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability: Airmen trained, manned and equipped to conduct basic close air support, interdiction, and limited suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses in a contested environment with an operational squadron of 12-24 aircraft; the ability to deploy and conduct operational missions using program of record weapons and missions systems; and having all necessary logistics and operational elements in place.

Watch the Road to USAF F-35 IOC.

6. F-35 in the UK

June 29 the United Kingdom’s BK-3 and two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs landed for the first time on British soil, marking a significant milestone for the U.K. F-35 program. The very next day, three F-35As from Luke AFB’s Heritage flight team landed, marking the first time an F-35A variant has landed on UK soil. These landings kicked off three weeks of activity at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and Farnborough International Air Show, two of the world’s largest air shows. Read more about RIAT and Farnborough.

7. Mountain Home Deployment

In June, seven F-35As and a total of 160 pilots, maintainers and other personnel from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, ahead of the F-35A’s initial operational capability declaration.

"We cleared 88 of 88 sorties, and we were on time for 100 percent of those sorties for the large force exercises,” Maj. Brad Matherne, an F-35A pilot from the 34th Fighter Squadron, said. “We had zero losses due to any software stability issues that were previously out there.”

The deployment proved that the aircraft could successfully operate away from its home base against a variety of threats, said Col. David Lyons, commander 388th Fighter Wing and an F-35A pilot. Read more.

8. Denmark Selects F-35 as Next-Generation Fighter

The Danish government announced on June 9 that, after an extensive review process, they selected the F-35 Lightning II to replace their aging fleet of F-16 aircraft.

Jeff Babione, F-35 Program general manager, stated, “Lockheed Martin is honored by the trust and confidence the Danish government continues to show in the F-35 program with the approval to purchase the F-35 Lightning II. Read more.

9. Netherlands Debut

May 23, two F-35As touched down on Dutch soil, fulfilling a promise Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert made a year earlier to show the nation the replacement for its aging Lockheed Martin F-16s.

Known as AN-1 and AN-2, the jets spent three weeks in the Netherlands to conduct both aerial and ground environmental noise tests, perform flights over the North Sea range and then appear and fly at the Netherlands' Open Days, the largest air show held annually in the Netherlands.

Watch this video to learn more about the F-35 in the Netherlands.

10. F-35’s First Transatlantic Crossing

An Italian Air Force F-35 completed the fighter jet’s first transatlantic crossing Feb. 5, touching down after a seven-hour flight, the second flight on a two-leg journey from Italy to the United States. The jet that flew the journey was also a program first – the first F-35 built overseas, at the Final Assembly and Checkout Facility in Cameri, Italy.

The jet will be temporarily based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for pilot training purposes. Read more.