In another milesone for the much-criticized F-35 programme, the U.S. Air Force 33rd Fighter Wing launched the first live air-to-air missiles from operational F-35A strike fighters during a weapons system evaluation at Tyndall AFB, Florida, on 31st January.
AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles were loaded onto four strike fighters, but after the first three missiles were shot successfully, crews determined the remaining missile did not need to be fired, according to a release.
The test comes a few weeks after Air Education and Training Command dropped the first live bombs from an F-35A over a range at Eglin AFB, Florida. GBU-12s were loaded onto six F-35s, and two bombs were dropped over the Eglin range.
The F-35 can carry a combined payload of 2,300 pounds of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions internally, with an extended capacity of munitions on each wing.
Last summer, the F-35 Integrated Test Force completed 25 missions comprised of 12 weapons delivery accuracy and 13 weapon separation tests over a one-month period as part of a weapons firing test “surge” at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. A total of 30 weapons were dropped or fired during the tests.