UK F-35B Achieves Key Weapons Test Milestone

BAE Systems // November 27, 2014

A UK test team including personnel from BAE Systems, has successfully completed initial aircraft handling trials for ASRAAM and Paveway IV weapons on the F-35B Lightning II aircraft at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, United States.

The trial or ‘dummy’ weapons rounds, which are identical in fit and form to the operational weapons, were tested on the Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B for the first time during a series of flights from the US Navy’s test facility at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. The initial tests are an important step in integrating weapons onto the F-35B, allowing test pilots to understand how they affect the way the aircraft performs and handles.

The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) already uses ASRAAM and Paveway IV on its existing combat air fleet. The successful tests are a step towards full interoperability between the current and future fast jets that will be used by the RAF and the UK’s Royal Navy from 2018.

Two F-35B STOVL aircraft, flown by Billie Flynn, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 test pilot and Squadron Leader Andy Edgell from the RAF, completed 9 flights with MBDA’s ASRAAM missiles and Raytheon’s Paveway IV laser guided bombs. The flights involved different configurations of both weapons types on the aircraft.

The successful tests will be followed by the next stage of weapons testing due to take place in early 2015. These tests will involve weapon separation and then guided releases of both ASRAAM and Paveway IV from the aircraft.

BAE Systems’ lead test pilot for F-35, Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, said:  “The team at Patuxent River has got over two thousand hours of flying under their belts for the F-35B variant and the handling and performance of the aircraft has shone through throughout.  These latest trials were no exception and help us to move confidently into the next phase of weapons testing.”

J.D. McFarlan, Lockheed Martin's Vice President for F-35 Test & Verification from the Joint Strike Fighter programme added: “These trials show the truly international nature of the F-35 enterprise - being led out of a US Navy facility, involving a joint UK Ministry of Defence and industry team, working alongside the US Department of Defence and Lockheed Martin.  And the test results for one partner will benefit all, further demonstrating the versatility and capability of the F-35 as a multi-role platform.”

F-35 Lightning II

The F-35 Lightning II, a 5th generation fighter, combines advanced low observable stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries. Following the U.S. Marine Corps’ planned July 2015 IOC, the U.S. Air Force and Navy intend to attain IOC in Aug. 2016 and 2018, respectively.

BAE Systems’ involvement in F-35

BAE Systems is responsible for the production of each and every rear fuselage and tails set. Along with manufacturing aircrafts sets for each of the three variants, the UK business also produces carrier wing tips for the Carrier variant and Nozzle Bay Doors for the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing Variant. In addition the Company plays a key role in vehicle and mission systems, life support system and prognostics health management integration. BAE Systems Inc. in the US adds further key capabilities to the F-35 portfolio in the areas of electronic warfare, advance apertures, advanced counter-measure systems, vehicle management and active inceptor systems.

MBDA ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile)

ASRAAM is in service with the Royal Air Force on their Typhoon and Tornado aircraft. The weapon is also in service with the Royal Australian Air Force on their F/A-18 Hornet.

ASRAAM is a Within Visual Range (WVR) Dominance weapon and is guided using a passive imaging infra-red sensor.  The missile can be cued by aircraft sensors, such as the radar or helmet mounted display but can also act as an autonomous infrared search and track system.  Its large rocket motor provides high speed to intercept and this, coupled with its accurate imaging guidance system and highly effective warhead ensure the highest kill probability against any target.

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Raytheon Paveway IV GPS / Laser Guided Bomb

The Paveway™ family of laser guided bombs has revolutionized tactical air-to-ground warfare by converting "dumb" bombs into precision guided munitions. Paveway bombs have been put to the test in every recent major conflict and proved themselves, time and again, as the weapon of choice by the end-users. Paveway weapons made up more than half the air-to-ground precision guided munitions used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Paveway IV incorporates GPS/INS guidance capabilities. This innovation combines the accuracy and flexibility of traditional laser-guided weapons with the all-weather capability of GPS guidance, resulting in a weapon that decreases the required sortie count and weapon inventory while simultaneously increasing the mission success rate.

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