Further F-35A nuclear capability testing
Recently, Nellis's 442nd and 59th Test and Evaluation Squadrons led Air Combat Command’s portion of a nuclear design certification test with the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.
While flying out of Nellis AFB (NV), two Lightning II aircraft recently released B61-12 Joint Test Assemblies (JTAs) during the F-35A’s first full weapon system. Strikingly, one of the tests with a refurbished Pantex B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb was carried out by using an operational HL coded 388th Fighter Wing F-35A (serial 18-5452).
It was stated that once airborne, the test pilots flew to the Tonopah Test Range (NV) and released two B61-12 JTAs from operationally realistic flight envelopes. This event was the first release of the most representative B61-12 test asset from an operational F-35A (the HL coded F-35A). Earlier tests involved F-35As with older software from Edwards.
The nuclear certification is broken into two phases: nuclear design certification and nuclear operational certification. This latest test is considered the graduation flight test exercise for the F-35A nuclear design certification and concludes on-aircraft testing for the initial nuclear certification effort. The test data received from the latest event is currently under analysis and review by the Department of Defense and Department of Energy to ensure the F-35A and B61-12 JTAs performed correctly throughout all phases of the operation.
According to plans, and if all goes well, the F-35A will be the first 5th Generation fighter to be certified as a conventional/nuclear Dual-Capable Aircraft (DCA) in the near future.
Photos by USAF