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Fri, Dec 15, 2006

F-35 Completes First Test Flight

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 12.15.06 1555 EST: In this age of extensive computer testing and modeling of aircraft designs, perhaps the first flights of today don't carry quite the 'edge of your seat' suspense they once did. Nevertheless, we're sure more than a few military officials, government subcontractors, and employees with Lockheed Martin were relieved to hear the words uttered about an hour ago by company spokesman Tom Jurkowsky.

"Aircraft has landed safely," Jurkowsky noted Friday afternoon, as the F-35 Lightning II completed its first 40 minute test flight.

The example that took to the skies over North Texas was the conventional version of the advanced, multirole fighter; a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant for operating off small ships and near front-line combat zones, and a carrier variant (CV) for catapult launches and arrested recoveries on board the US Navy's large aircraft carriers, will also be produced.

"The Lightning II performed beautifully," said F-35 Chief Pilot Jon Beesley following the flight. "What a great start for the flight-test program, and a testimony to the people who have worked so hard to make this happen."

The flight began at 12:44 pm CST when the jet lifted off and began a climb-out to 15,000 feet. Beesley then performed a series of maneuvers to test aircraft handling and the operation of the engine and subsystems. He returned for a landing at 1:19 pm CST. Two F-16s and an F/A-18 served as chase aircraft.

The $276.5 billion F-35 program is supported by nine nations, including the United States.

Original Report

1430 EST: Aero-News has confirmed earlier News-Spy reports that about 45 minutes ago, the first production-spec F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter took to the skies over Fort Worth, TX.

WFAA-7 reports several hundred people turned out to witness the aircraft takeoff from the Lockheed Martin facility. Accompanied by two F-16s flying trail, the F-35's first flight is expected to last about an hour.

Stay tuned to ANN for further updates.

FMI: www.jsf.mil

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