A US F-35 fighter jet fired its weapons for the first time this week when it dropped a 500-pound bomb on a tank at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The Lockheed Martin Corp.'s newest warplane has been dogged by problems, but this week's missile test was a reason for the company to start looking up.
A press release by the Pentagon on Wednesday confirmed the F-35's successful bomb drop, reports Yahoo! News. During the test, an F-35 B-model fighter released a laser-guided Guided Bomb Unit-12 (GBU-12) Paveway II bomb from its internal weapons bay at an altitude of 25,000 feet.
The bomb successfully impacted a tank parked on the ground, according to the Pentagon's F-35 program office. The bomb took 35 seconds to hit the target. Marine Corps Major Richard Rusnok, the pilot who flew during Tuesday's inaugural weapons test, commented:
"This guided weapons delivery test of a GBU-12 marks the first time the F-35 truly became a weapon system. It represents another step forward in development of this vital program."
The F-35 fighter jet program began more than a decade ago, notes The Chicago Tribune. After delays in planning and development, the $392 billion program is finally making progress in testing, production, and operations. The Marine Corps plans to start using the new jet in 2015.
Tuesday's F-35 weapons test will be followed by a live fire test of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM), built by Raytheon Co, on Wednesday. That test will also take place at Edwards Air Force Base.
Next month, the military will test the F-35's ability to drop a 1,000-pound CBU-32. Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman for the program, explained that Tuesday's test wasn't a live fire test, because the bomb didn't contain explosives, because the real point of the test was to make sure the jet could deliver the bomb accurately.
The Navy's variant, called the F-35C, released its first weapon last week during testing at Naval Air Station Patuxtent River in southern Maryland. The Air Force's version of the new fighter jet did its first ground release pit testing of a CBU-39, as well.
All three models of the radar-evading F-35 fighter jet are under development for the US military and eight countries that helped fund its development. Britain, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands, all helped with the airplane. Israel and Japan also placed orders for the jet.