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F-35 Lightning II in comparison to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor  (Source: Aerospaceweb.org)
Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II takes off the for first time since May

Last week, DailyTech reported that Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II had been grounded due to problems with its electrical system and concerns over the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. After officials called off a planned flight on December 4, the F-35 Lightning II (AA-1) took to the air on December 7 at 1:30 PM CST.

The AA-1, flown by chief test pilot Jon Beesley, took off under full military-power and the engine was tested at various power levels during flight. Flight characteristics of the AA-1 were also tested at altitudes of 6,000, 17,500 and 20,000 -- a fuel-dump was also performed at 250 knots.

The 19th flight of the AA-1 lasted for just 45 minutes and concluded at 2:15 PM CST. The AA-1's return to air will mark the beginning of a new round of vigorous tests for the F-35 Lightning II program.

"For the F-35, those tests include refueling from an airborne tanker in the short term and supersonic flights next year," said Lockheed Martin executive vice president Dan Crowley. "At the same time, we are putting the finishing touches on our first short takeoff/vertical landing F-35 aircraft, which will roll out of the factory this month and initiate flight testing in the spring. By the end of 2008, we expect to have at least three F-35s in the air and numerous aircraft on the assembly line."

"The Lightning II embodies a long list of advancements that will make it better, smarter and more reliable than anything that's come before it, and those technologies are extraordinarily mature in this first-ever F-35," remarked Beesley. "When you project ahead to the F-35s that will be entering the fleet in 2010, you see fighters that benefit from the testing we're doing now -- fighters that will set new standards for combat-readiness right out of the box."

Also tested on Friday were the F-35's mission systems using the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird). CATBird uses a 737 airliner as a platform to test the F-35's mission systems before they are fully implemented into the F-35 airframe.

"Our goal is to get the system perfected on the CATBird so that it works exactly as advertised when we put it in the Lightning II fighter," said Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.

F-35's with the mission systems in place will take to the air in 2009 and the plane is expected to enter actual military service the following year to replace the AV-8B, A-10, F-16 and F/A-18 Hornet.





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