January 13, 2014
Credit: U.S. Navy/Erik Hildebrandt
With weapons testing becoming a more regular event for the F-35 program, developers are looking ahead to a fast pace of trials this year to prepare for the first operational use of the stealthy, single-engine fighter by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2015.
Delivering weapons is often described as the “business end” of a fighter's job, and the Marines are planning to declare initial operational capability (IOC) for the F-35B using the aircraft's 2B software release as early as July 2015, and no later than December 2015, the service hopes. Though limited to use of three weapons—the 1,000-lb. GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), GBU-12 500-lb. Laser-Guided Bomb and Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (Amraam) AIM-120 series—the F-35B will surpass the current capability of the AV-8B Harrier jump jet and F/A-18C twin-engine Hornets, says Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, commandant for Marine Corps aviation.