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.
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.
|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|
|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|