Proving the F-35's Capabilities

Extensive Ground and Air Trials

From flight sciences to mission systems testing, the critical work of the F-35 test teams clears the way for capabilities to be delivered to the training and operational F-35 fleets. The United States Marine Corps declared initial operational capability (IOC) in 2015, and the United States Air Force declared IOC in 2016, making the role of the Integrated Test Force more important than ever.

See more F-35 Photos on Flickr.

At Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, the Integrated Test Force teams are testing all three F-35 variants and their mission systems. Flight sciences aircraft testing continues to expand the edges of the F-35's flight envelope and enhance maneuverability within the boundaries.

Some of the most recent flight test achievements include:

F-35 Mission Systems

  • Completed a 12 Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) and 13 Weapon Separation Tests during a month-long weapons firing test surge. These tests were completed with the latest Block 3F software. Learn more about this record-setting month and watch the surge video.
  • Completed air-to-surface and air-to-air Infrared Counter Measure testing
  • Completed first Foreign Military Sales AIM-120 Live Fire
  • Performed Gen III Helmet Mounted Display testing, including night, formation, aerial refueling, and approaches


  • Completed F-35A 3F high angle of attack and performance testing
  • Completed aerial refueling certification for the F-35 with the Australian tanker (KC-30A) and Italian tanker (KC-767) testing, including night operations
  • Performed 13 weapon separations in 2015; completed GBU-31 and GBU-39 weapons separations
  • Completed 28 weapon separation, including AIM-120, AIM-9X, GBU-12, and GBU-39, from January to November 2016.
  • Accomplished the first aerial gun fire
  • SDD Test aircraft, AF-4, completed its last SDD flight on 18 July and began Chemical/Biological Ground Testing.


  • Completed Development Test III, the third and final at-sea developmental test deployment for the F-35B.
  • Completed F-35B 3F flutter testing
  • Completed F-35B 3F External Air to Ground Loads testing
  • Completed KC-10 and UK Voyager (KC-30) Aerial Refueling Testing
  • Completed six Paveway IV weapons separations from January to November 2016
  • Accomplished eight weapon separations in 2015, including the first Paveway IV safe separation
  • Accomplished the first ski jump


  • In August 2016, Completed F-35C DT-III Ship Trials aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73), Watch DT-III Video and Interview Wrap-Up.
  • Accomplished F-18 Aerial Refueling System and KC-10 Aerial Refueling testing
  • Completed F-35C DT-II Ship Trials aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
  • Completed wet runway testing at Edwards AFB
  • Completed F-35C 3F flutter, performance and buffet testing
  • Accomplished five weapon separations, including the first external separation from an F-35C

Ground and Lab Tests

Six static airframes, dozens of integrated ground test labs and several specialized test facilities are dedicated to the System Development and Demonstration phase of the F-35 program. The static aircraft undergo exhaustive structural testing to prove the strength of the airframe design. The labs test all software updates before they are flight tested, an important step for the millions of lines of complex code required to control F-35 flight systems, integrate missions systems and support the Autonomic Logistics Information System.