F-35 BLOCK 3F SOFTWARE JUST ONE STEP AWAY FROM IOC

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F-35 Block 3F IOC just one WDA event away
An F-35 piloted by Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton prepares for a dual AIM-120 missile launch over the Pacific Ocean range near NAWS Point Mugu.

There is a single WDA event remaining for F-35 Block 3F, which marks the completion for all three variants and will pave the way to the declaration of initial operating capability (IOC) for all F-35s

The Block 3F software version of the F-35A and F-35C is one step closer to initial operating capability (IOC) with the last weapons delivery accuracy (WDA) surge completed in early August.

As told by Torrey Given, a weapons integration engineer with the 461st Flight Test Squadron, to Christopher Ball, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, for his article F-35 developmental testers surge toward IOC, the term surge is used because the F-35 weapons testing required a great deal of assets and personnel dedicated for a short period of time.

“This allowed us to accomplish multiple events over the course of a handful of days,” Given said.

Given, who has been with the F-35 project since the beginning, from flight science all the way through the WDA testing, said this round of testing could be called a mini surge, as there were only a handful of events that needed to be completed.

“This was kind of a cleanup, or a closeout, of SDD (System Development and Demonstration). It’s the closeout of JSF developmental test for Block 3F, which is a big deal because it’s for Air Force IOC, and Navy IOC,” he said.

An F-35 fires an AIM-120 near NAWS Point Mugu during a recent WDA testing surge
An F-35 fires an AIM-120 missile over the Pacific Ocean range near NAWS Point Mugu during a recent Weapons Delivery Accuracy testing surge.

“We were able to accomplish some complex air-to-air demonstrations with the AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) in order to show the full capability of the aircraft,” Given said.

The AMRAAM missiles were equipped with live motors and guidance systems, but the warheads were exchanged for telemetry units, and the tests were done over the open water range at Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) Point Mugu in Ventura County, California.

“I like to think of these as the last for Developmental Test,” he said. “This is like our graduation exercise before we hand the aircraft off to the operational test organizations so they can go prove it’s ready for combat. That’s very significant for us.”

He said the critical piece is the wrap-up of SDD, which has been a long time coming.

“For some of us, this has been roughly eight years working on F-35 to get to where it is operationally viable,” Given said.

There is a single WDA event remaining for 3F, which marks the completion for all three variants and will pave the way to the declaration of IOC for all F-35s.

F-35s during a recent Weapons Delivery Accuracy testing surge
A pair of F-35s soar over the Pacific Ocean range near NAWS Point Mugu during a recent Weapons Delivery Accuracy testing surge.

Photo credit: Darin Russell and Chad Bellay / Lockheed Martin