F-35 drops GBU-12

Airmen from the 388th and 419th fighter wings dropped laser-guided bombs at the Utah Test and Training Range the week of February 25, marking the first time an F-35 Lightning II combat unit has deployed weapons from the F-35A.

Lt. Col. George Watkins, the 34th Fighter Squadron commander, drops a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb from an F-35A Lightning II at the Utah Test and Training Range February 25. The 34th FS is the Air Force's first combat unit to employ munitions from the F-35A (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Haseltine)
Lt. Col. George Watkins, the 34th Fighter Squadron commander, drops a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb from an F-35A Lightning II at the Utah Test and Training Range February 25. The 34th FS is the Air Force’s first combat unit to employ munitions from the F-35A (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Haseltine)

Lieutenant Colonel George Watkins, the 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said dropping weapons from the F-35 allows pilots to more fully engage the aircraft and confirm that everything works as planned. «This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment», Watkins said.

Air Force F-35s have dropped weapons in test environments, but this is the first time it’s been done on jets designed to deploy once the Air Force declares initial operational capability, which it plans to do between August and December. IOC will be announced when the Air Force deems the F-35 combat capable.

Lieutenant Colonel Darrin Dronoff, the director of Hill’s F-35 Program Integration Office, said that while this achievement is a significant step toward Air Force IOC, the milestone goes beyond that mark. «The pilots and weapons loaders in the 388th and 419th fighter wings are perfecting their skills not only to prove aircraft capabilities, but they’ll also be the Airmen called upon to take the F-35 to combat, whenever that call may come», he said.

Hill’s F-35 pilots will begin flying the F-35 in four-ship formations, which is the standard configuration flown in contested combat scenarios, as early as March.

MBDA delivers ASRAAM missiles for F-35 integration
MBDA delivers ASRAAM missiles for F-35 integration

 

Specifications

Length 51.4 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.4 feet/4.38 m
Wingspan 35 feet/10.7 m
Wing area 460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span 22.5 feet/6.86 m
Weight empty 29,300 lbs/13,290 kg
Internal fuel capacity 18,250 lbs/8,278 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-100
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Engine Length 220 in/5.59 m
Engine Inlet Diameter 46 in/1.17 m
Engine Maximum Diameter 51 in/1.30 m
Bypass Ratio 0.57
Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6 (~1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h)
Combat radius (internal fuel) >590 NM/679 miles/1,093 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Maximum g-rating 9.0
AF-1, of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, became the first F-35 to fire the AIM-9X missile January 12, 2016 (Lockheed Martin photo/Chad Bellay)
AF-1, of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, became the first F-35 to fire the AIM-9X missile January 12, 2016 (Lockheed Martin photo/Chad Bellay)

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