The first mission systems-equipped Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter flew for the first time on Wednesday, ushering in what will be the most powerful and comprehensive sensor package ever to fly in a fighter.
During the flight, F-35 Test Pilot David Nelson climbed to 15,500 feet (4,700 meters), verified engine response at varying throttle settings, performed a series of flight-qualities maneuvers and checked the operation of the aircraft's mission systems. The flight out of Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant began at 10:04 a.m. CDT and concluded at 10:59 a.m.
"Today's flight initiates a level of avionics capability that no fighter has ever achieved," said Eric Branyan, Lockheed Martin F-35 Deputy Program Manager. "The F-35's next-generation sensor suite enables a new capability for multi role aircraft, collecting vast amounts of data and fusing the information into a single, highly comprehensible display that will enable the pilot to make faster and more effective tactical decisions."
The F-35's avionics, or mission systems, also process and apply data from a wide array of off-board sensors based on land, in the air or at sea, enabling the jet to perform command-and-control functions while providing unprecedented situational awareness to air and surface forces.
The F-35's full mission systems suite includes:
• Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar: Long-range, multiple simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting; SAR mapping
• Lockheed Martin Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS): Long-range, passive infrared search and track, air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting capabilities
• Northrop Grumman Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO-DAS): Passive, spherical, long-range threat detection; source of infrared video and night-vision projection onto pilot's helmet visor for spherical view around aircraft
• BAE Systems Electronic Warfare (EW) system: Simultaneous geo-location of multiple threats and targets
• VSI Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS): Helmet with integrated, virtual head-up display, targeting information, look-shoot capability and video/night vision projected onto the helmet visor
• Northrop Grumman Integrated Communication, Navigation & Identification (ICNI): Friend-or-foe identification; automatic acquisition of fly-to points; secure multi-wave, multiband, multimode wireless communications and data links
• Lockheed Martin Integrated Core Processor (ICP): Supports radar, EOTS and DAS sensor processing, navigation, stores management fire control and fusion of sensor and off-board information
• Honeywell Inertial Navigation System
• Raytheon Global Positioning System
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, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Two separate, interchangeable F-35 engines are under development: the Pratt & Whitney F135 and the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team F136.