First Flight of UK F-35B


BK-1, the United Kingdom’s first F-35 Lightning II production aircraft, flew its inaugural flight mid-April 2012.  Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti took the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jet through a series of functional flight checks during a sortie that lasted 45 minutes.

The jet will complete a series of company and government checkout flights prior to its acceptance by the U.K. Ministry of Defence. The U.K. MOD will use this 5th Generation fighter for training and operational tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., beginning later this year.

“Not only is this a watershed moment for the Joint Strike Fighter program, since BK-1 is the first international F-35 to fly, but it also brings us one step closer to delivery of this essential 5th Generation capability for the U.K., ” said Group Captain Harv Smyth, the Joint Strike Fighter U.K. National Deputy.

For 2012, the baseline F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) flight test plan calls for the accumulation of 1,001 test flights and 7,873 test points. However, growth in test point requirements throughout the year is anticipated, and the plan will be adjusted as needed.

As of Feb. 20, the F-35 Lightning II 5th Generation multirole fighter had conducted 114 flight tests and achieved 773 test points. A portion of the earned test points came from work added to the flight test baseline plan. Lockheed Martin has delivered three F-35s to the Department of Defense (DOD) year to date.

Since Jan. 1, the F-35 program accomplished several flight test and production milestones:

On Jan. 9, AF-4, an F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) test aircraft, reached the highest altitude to date in an F-35; 43,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL).

Lockheed Martin ferried the first two production model F-35B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps on Jan. 11. The aircraft, known as BF-6 and BF-8, are now assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501 residing with the host 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Fla.

Demonstrating the ongoing maturation of the F-35 integrated sensor suite, AF-3, an F-35A CTOL test jet, completed the first low Distributed Aperture System (DAS) approach on Jan. 17.

On Jan. 18, the first night flight in the history of the Lockheed Martin F-35 program was completed at Edwards AFB, Calif.  Piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot Mark Ward, AF-6, an F-35A CTOL test jet, took off at 5:05 p.m. PST and landed after sunset at 6:22 p.m.

With the ferry flight of BF-7, an F-35B STOVL, Eglin AFB, Fla., became home of the largest F-35 fleet in the DOD on Jan. 19. BF-7 was the 23rd F-35 Lightning II delivered to the DOD.

On Jan. 20, citing the tremendous progress the F-35B STOVL variant made in 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded probation for the F-35B, almost a full year ahead of schedule.

The F-35 SDD fleet including AA-1, the original test aircraft, crossed the 2,500 flight hour threshold on Jan. 25.

On Feb. 16 at Edwards AFB, Calif., AF-1, an F-35A CTOL test jet, flew the first external weapons test mission in program history.

Cumulative flight test activity totals for 2012 through Feb. 20 are provided below:

·         F-35A CTOL jets have flown 46 times.

·         F-35B STOVL aircraft have completed 45 flights.

·         F-35C Carrier Variant (CV) jets have flown 23 times.

From the start of flight testing in December 2006, F-35s have flown 1,704 times, including the production-model flights and AA-1, the original flight test aircraft.

Credit: Lockheed Martin

For a discussion of the baseline F-35 see

And for Lockheed White Papers, which further develop the discussion of what is in the baseline aircraft, see the following: