US F-35 B-Model Drops First Guided Missile, Hits Ground Target

The Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 B-Model fighter jet successfully dropped a 500-pound bomb this week, hitting its target, and marking the first time the warplane has fired a weapon.

The F-35 B-model released its Guided Bomb Unit-12 (GBU-12) Paveway II bomb from its internal weapons bay from a height of 25,000 feet. The warplanes target was hit in just 35 seconds.

According to Marine Corps Major Richard Rusnok:

"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 plan is part of a 10-year, $392 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program that is moving out of testing and closer to production and operations. The planes will launch with the Marine Corps in mid-2015.

The GBU-12 weapons test will be followed by a live fire test of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile. Next month a Boeing-built 1,000-pound GBU-32, will be dropped in further US F-35 B-mobile testing.

Tuesday's test was not considered a live fire test because the bomb did not carry explosives. The plan did not use explosives because of the cost associated with that ammunition.

The F-35 uses the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), built by Lockheed. That system allows pilots to identify, track, designate and accurately deliver the bomb on target. The new targeting system is the first to combine forward-looking infrared, infrared search and track, and a laser designator.

The F-35C was also tested last week by the US Navy. That testing at the Naval Air Station Patuxtent River in southern Marylan involved the release of a GBU-39 missile with a 250-pound payload.

The new plane is being developed by Lockheed-Martin in three variations and was funded by the U.S. military and eight countries: Britain, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Israel and Japan have also placed orders for the jet but did not fund its design.

The F-35B is certainly an impressive fighter jet, watch this Lockheed created video which showcases the aircraft and its vertical take-off test: