The Joint Strike Fighter program took another step forward July 1 with a successful weapons test following last month’s announcement that the U.S. would bump up production of the much maligned fifth generation fighter to 44 aircraft in 2015.
A F-35A Joint Strike Fighter flying just under the speed of sound dropped a 2,000-pound GBU-31 guided bomb from an altitude of 10,000 feet on July 1 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The test was flown to prove if the weapon would separate from the aircraft flying in a tactical environment, said John Haire, a spokesman at Edwards.
The recent test was among the latest in a series of current assessments of the F-35 designed to inform the developmental process and move the platform forward toward full-rate production, said Joseph DellaVedova, a JSF program spokesman.
The Pentagon plans to ramp up Low-Rate-Initial-Production of the JSF for the FY 2015 budget year, JSF program officials said. The move would bump up production numbers planned for LRIP 9 in 2015 to 44 planes for the U.S.
“LRIP is when you iron out your supply chain and manufacturing issues,” said DellaVedova.
The jump to 44 LRIP planes would constitute a sizeable jump from preceding LRIP lots such as LRIP 6, 7 and 8, which call for 31, 29 and 29 aircraft respectively, DellaVedova explained.
Speaking to reporters following a JSF CEO summitt meeting last month, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top buyer mentioned the acceleration plan.
“At this point, I can say that I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to raise production as planned. So at this point in time, unless there’s a significant surprise, I think we will be able to raise production and have an increased rate in the FY15 budget, which we’ll be preparing and submitting after the first of the year,” said Kendall, the assistant secretary of defense, Acquisition Technology and Logistics.
A formal decision on the ramp up is expected later this fall following a Defense Acquisition Board meeting, Dellavedova explained. The U.S. plans to acquire as many as 2,443 JSF planes.
There is ongoing JSF weapons testing at Edwards AFB and Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md. The JSF program is currently ramping up for what’s called Developmental Test 2 of its Short-Take-Off-and-Vertical-Landing, or STOVL, the Marine Corps variant of the JSF.
The test, slated for the middle of August, will push the envelope of take-off and landing capability for the F-35B STOVL on aboard the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship, the USS Wasp.
“At sea, the F-35B can operate from both aircraft carriers and amphibious shipping,” Gen. John Paxton Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, said in written remarks to lawmakers last month.