WASHINGTON Oct 31 Lockheed Martin Corp's
F-35 fighter jet conducted its first live-fire launch of
an air-to-air missile over a military test range, the new
warplane's second big weapons milestone this week, the Pentagon
said on Thursday.
The test of the F-35's ability to fire an AIM-120 advanced
medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) took place on Wednesday
off the California coast, near Edwards Air Force Base, the
Pentagon's F-35 program office said.
In the test, an F-35A, the Air Force model of the plane,
identified and tracked a target drone before firing a
radar-guided AIM-120 missile from the F-35's internal weapons
Moments before the missile was about to destroy the target,
a self-destruct signal was sent to the AIM-120 in order to
preserve the aerial drone for use in future tests, the Pentagon
"This successful missile launch marks the first live-fire
weapons test and is an initial demonstration of the air-to-air
combat capability the F-35 will bring to the U.S. military and
our international partners," Charlie Wagner, who leads the F-35
program's weapons team, said in a statement.
He said many more weapons tests were planned to ensure that
F-35 pilots got the combat capability they needed to carry out
their missions and return home safely.
The F-35A air-to-air missile test occurred the day after an
F-35B variant, which can land like a helicopter, carried out the
F-35's first air-to-ground weapons test.
After more than a decade of development, the $392 billion
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is making strides in testing,
production and operations. The Marine Corps plans to start
operating the planes in mid-2015.
Separately, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed an additional $422
million contract for continued operating and maintenance support
of the F-35 fighter jets that have already been built. It said
the contract would run through October 2014.