Giddy Up

By Marcus Weisgerber / November 14, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II blasted through the sound barrier for the first time yesterday, according to a company official.

On its 69th test flight, Air Force Joint Strike Fighter test jet AA-1 flew above Mach 1 four separate times, logging about eight minutes at speeds around Mach 1.05, Lockheed's F-35 program General Manager Dan Crowley said during a telephone interview this morning. The jet carried two inert 1,000 pound bombs and two air-to-air missiles during the flight.

“These aircraft rely heavily on advanced flight controls to maintain their stability,” he said. “As you transition from sub-sonic to super sonic flight, the airflows around the aircraft change dynamically."

The supersonic flight test “allows us to validate the flight control laws, the air data, . . . the propulsion system ((and)) the computers that are continuously recalculating the aircraft's flight performance,” Crowley said.

The next test milestone will likely come before the end of November, when officials plan to open the weapons bay doors in flight, according to Crowley

The first short take-off vertical landing aircraft is slated to begin hover-pit tests in February 2009 and short take-off flight tests in May. The “official” vertical landing tests will take place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, Crowley noted.

The flight test came one day after the Defense Acquisition Board -- chaired by Pentagon acquisition executive John Young -- met to receive a briefing on the third installment of F-35 low-rate initial production, as reported today.