U.S. Air Force Begins F-35A Operational Testing

 - March 22, 2013, 1:35 PM
Executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Orlando Carvalho (left) and U.S. Air Force Warfare Center Commanding Officer Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren officially welcomed the first F-35A fighters to Nellis AFB. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Operational testing and evaluation of the F-35A has begun, with the delivery of four aircraft to Nellis AFB. They were accepted by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center in a ceremony on March 19. Eight more F-35As will join them by 2019. The Air Force has now received 24 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft. Another 34 F-35s have been delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.

Orlando Carvalho, the new executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said, “The work done by the Nellis team will forge the F-35 into the fighter of the future and test it to its limits.”

Following the brief grounding for engine investigations last month, the F-35 program has also advanced on other fronts. In mid-February the first production F-35C for the U.S. Navy took to the air. It will be delivered to Fighter Attack Squadron 101 (VFA-101) at Eglin AFB for training later this year. Nine F-35As and 13 F-35Bs are already there, training Air Force and Marine Corps pilots and maintainers. Also last month, the Marine Corps began flying its first operational F-35Bs at Yuma MCAS. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) is scheduled to receive 16 aircraft by year-end.