High above the Mojave Desert, the military’s next-generation fighter jet dropped a 2,000-pound bomb for the first time in its latest test flight.
It’s a key milestone for the stealthy, supersonic F-35, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., which has been undergoing tests since its first flight in late 2006.
The F-35, piloted by Air Force Maj. Eric “Doc” Schultz, jettisoned the smart bomb Wednesday from the belly of the aircraft over the Naval Air Weapons Station test range at China Lake.
Take a look at Lockheed Martin-produced video above for the weapon release or here. (There is no explosion, but there is plenty of rock music.)
The F-35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, will be used by the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Three versions of the F-35 are being built -- one that can operate off aircraft carriers, one capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, and a conventional fighter jet.
The Air Force’s F-35 is designed to carry a payload of up to 18,000 pounds using 10 weapon stations.
All three F-35 variants will be built on the same production line at Lockheed’s plant in Fort Worth. The center fuselage sections will be made by Northrop Grumman Corp. in Palmdale.
Lockheed has said the F-35 program will pump an estimated $6 billion into the state’s economy and create 27,000 jobs.
At a time when federal spending is under a microscope, the F-35 program is the Pentagon’s costliest program going. The Defense Department has plans to buy 2,443 of the aircraft at a cost of $382 billion, which is hundreds of billions of dollars over budget.