First RAAF F-35 weapons release after software upgrade

An Australian F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (A35-002) at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona (USA) with its weapons bay open during the loading of the 500lb Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb, the GBU-12, prior to the aircraft's first ever weapons release. The weapons release took place over the Barry M Goldwater Range just west of Luke Air Force Base, Arizona on (insert date) with Australian pilot Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson flying the sortie. A35-002 is one of two Australian F-35A aircraft operating out of the F-35 International Pilot Centre at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The Weapons Release marks another significant progress milestone in the Australian F-35A Program.
A35-002 at Luke Air Force Base prior to the weapons release. (Lockheed Martin via Defence)

A Royal Australian Air Force F-35A has dropped a weapon for the first time after the aircraft was upgraded with its initial combat-capable software load.

Images dated December 13 and released on the Department of Defence’s website show F-35A A35-002 carrying a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb in its starboard side internal weapons bay.

“The 500lb Paveway II laser-guided bomb, the GBU-12, was the first weapon certified for release on Australian F-35A aircraft, following the recent upgrade of the aircraft with initial warfighting capability software,” caption information for the photos read, suggesting the aircraft has now been upgraded with the final Block 3i software load.

Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, Australia’s first qualified F-35A pilot, flew the sortie which saw the laser-guided bomb released over the Barry M Goldwater range in southwest Arizona.

A35-002 is one of the first two RAAF F-35As that are currently based at Luke Air Force Base, west of Phoenix. The aircraft were built with an earlier Block 3i software load which restricted them to an interim training and warfighting capability.

“Block 2B and 3i Final software development was completed in May 2016 with all fielded aircraft, including Australia’s two aircraft with 3i software, planned to be upgraded by the end this year,” F-35 Program Deputy Director Air Force Transition Office, Wing Commander Scott Woodland, said in May when the Block 3i Final software load was finalised.

“We are now one significant step closer to seeing our aircraft arrive in Australia with the next increment of software, the Block 3F capability,” WGCDR Woodland said in the May 16 statement.

An Australian F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (A35-002) at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona (USA) with its weapons bay open during the loading of the 500lb Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb, the GBU-12, prior to the aircraft's first ever weapons release. The weapons release took place over the Barry M Goldwater Range just west of Luke Air Force Base, Arizona on (insert date) with Australian pilot Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson flying the sortie. A35-002 is one of two Australian F-35A aircraft operating out of the F-35 International Pilot Centre at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The Weapons Release marks another significant progress milestone in the Australian F-35A Program.
A35-002 at Luke Air Force Base prior to the weapons release. (Lockheed Martin via Defence)




  1. says

    The problem i got with this plane is the same reason’s the Israelis refused to accept it without gaining access to the software , we just signed up for a thing where we will be dependent literally on a daily basis of downloading ” keeping up patches” with critical upgrades or the damn thing wont fly , and when i say “wont fly” i mean it decides it wont fly no maintenance officer has the option of sending it up with little degraded tags .

  2. That Ron guy says

    Something about the first half of the first sentence up there that almost makes it sound like we’re praising a kindergarten kid for spelling his name right for the first time or something….

  3. John says

    Amazed how many people whinge and moan about this plane but the people who fly it say its a game changer. Then again all pilots from all nations involved with the JSF who put their hand up to fight for their country are apparent liars (according to the internet trolls out there). I believe the pilots every time.

  4. Dan says

    The Software schema that you talk about is the same as with the C-17, same with the FA-18F, same with the EA-18G. There are numerous advantages to keeping the software standardised across the international fleet, especially when it comes to networking.

    As for newer loads, its not like these things wont be tested before they’re rolled out to the fleet – with the same base standard hardware and software across the fleets, it’s not like you’ll get a Windows Update failure…

  5. Mark says

    The plane’s operating system is liken to an IPhone’s. To write an app you don’t need that kind of access. You simply write the app and install it. Also once an app is written any F-35 can use it. This will give good apps preferential treatment in the operating community. The F-35 can operate without the updates. If you don’t or can’t use Alis you simply go back to the old method of acquiring parts, paperwork and maybe a phone call, just like General Bogden has previously stated. The plane will keep flying. When a pilot starts up the F-35 while sitting their doing his pre-flight check list data from other F-35 and other ISR equipment automatically shows up on the displays. So even before taxiing for takeoff the F-35 pilot already has more situational information than all other 4th and 5th generation aircraft. This has been stated by actual F-35 pilots.

  6. Danny says

    So let’s review. The RAAF commits to the F-35 in 2001. The F-35A is declared combat ready in August 2016 and it’s only now in December 2016 that we get hot and bothered that an RAAF F-35A get’s a software update so it can drop a bomb. I hate to say this but by any reasonable project management/engineering project metric this is a complete disgrace.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch this is what the Pentagon’s weapons tester had to say about the USAF’s declaration of IOC for the F-35A,

  7. Beepa says

    Danny….Raptor, 20 years, Typhoon 20 years, Rafale 20 years….Grippen…still waiting…….so your point is????
    You alone can design/produce modern fast jets better than anyone else???

  8. G4george says

    Dr Michael Gilmore was a former employee at Mcdonnell Douglas before being appointed in this position by the Senate. He rose to a very prominent position at Mcdonnell Douglas, they were angry at missing out on the funding to develop the next fighter… don’t think this is clouding his opinion regarding the JSF?

  9. says

    Beeps,I probably know more fast jet pilots than you.None of them fly the F-35 though.I also don’t own an Xbox or PS4.I never made the comment of them listening to me,Why would they!Why would u say the 35 is combat ready,when it hasn’t gone through the usual process.Thanks there Danny,I don’t know why these people are married to the jet without the proper evaluation process.Like I said guys,I’m not kicking the jet,but a lot of things don’t add up.

  10. says

    Lance,I’m sure he thinks it’s great,do u think he’s going to say it’s crap?The government is paying his wages,just remember that.All u pro and anti trolls know nothing.

  11. says

    I have worked alongside fast jet pilots and an ex AVM.Even he doesn’t know how good it is!!!!!!!.So all you pro F-35 people,go back to your day jobs.At least Danny has is with me on this.

  12. Lance says

    Paul. If the plane was crap, you wouldn’t hear much from any of the pilots. You know the saying “If you have nothing nice to say….”

    Hanche is not getting a bonus for speaking out in favour of the plane. He get’s paid the same regardless.

    Moreover, he serves on the pointy end so it’s his backside on the line if the plane doesn’t work.

    The idea that every fighter pilot flying the F-35 (and there are a lot of them) is an LM “paid shill” is just nonsense.

  13. Ian Morris says

    Beepa, you might want to check your information… The JAS39 Gripen first flew December 1988 and entered service in November 1997 – so not exactly still waiting. The sad fact about the F-35 program is that it is massively over budget, it will probably not attain full operational capability for which it was designed until the mid-2020’s and it will still be a less potent weapon than the F-22 Raptor. The fact that it has taken 10 years of flying to get an Australian F-35 to get to drop one bomb is hardly a massive statement of capability of the entire project, no matter what the apologists say.

  14. the road runner says

    And still they don’t get it…. So the JSF is a Bomber a fighter a ISR asset an EW/EA asset a sensor .. all rolled up into one. It comes in 3 models, CTOL,STOVL and CATOBAR. It launches off ships and runways.Its electronics are embedded into the actual air frame.It tells you when its sick and how to fix it. It pre orders its own parts and is a major force multiplier ,it will have a number of weapons designed for it such as CUDA SDD NSM,Brimstone and the like and yet some of you guys want to compare it to a 4th gen project such as a Gripen ,Eurofighter ,F-18. Sukoi or Mig,

    Lets compare a F-1 race car to a Hyundai Excel next

  15. Beepa says

    Ian, isn’t the grippen pushing 8000 pounds with a f414…still under testing….still…still under powered….

  16. Samual says

    Like or lump it … there is simply no other 5th generation fighter aircraft available.

    It is obvious that we need the F-35 to counter the 5th generation fighters being developed in Russia and China.

  17. Corey says

    I just don’t get why no one has developed drop tanks for the F-35. I thought the RAAF would have been very keen to have then due to the large ferry distances and lack of secure and well-maintained airfields because between Hawaii and NZ (stop overs) there is no place to land as Fiji is banned, Vanuatu runway is in need of an urgent repair/rebuild. The Cost of tanks from the USAF, RAAF and contractors are too expensive as well when it come to the cost of drop tanks which could hold enough fuel to extend the range by more than half of the current ferry range of >1,200nm to be closer to the 2,00nm+ ferry range.

  18. the road runner says

    Never mentioned your name in my comment Paul !

    It is a big deal that one of Australia’s first 2 JSF has shown that it can drop a LGB bomb.
    It shows the program has matured and will continue to mature.

    Dam what a beat up that article you posted was Danny.
    Dan Grazier and Mandy Smithburg . I recall an article they wrote on the F 35 C harping on about the arresting hook ,and how the JSF could not land on a carrier and never will be able to… At the time i thought …”its a bent bit of metal, LM will fix it..” and sure enough they did

    So the JSF has a small cannon load out they recon of 181 rounds?
    That’s 30 more rounds than a SU 35 ,but as its the JSF it fails in this regard? Good one Danno n Mandy !
    So now the gun can not be used it seems ,what a load of crap!

    They also state the General Bogdan has made contradicting statements regarding the JSF to Capitol Hill ?
    Yeh he is going to risk going to jail to protect the JSF even tho he works for the US government and his job is trouble shooting any issues that have arose from the JSF. And there have been a number of issues he has resolved and he will continue to resolve. He has done a good job i recon and called LM out on numerous times.

    So now the 3F version is late it seems and the whole project will crumble due to this? Give it a rest it sound like a broke record.The JSF software has evolved from Block 1A – initial training, Block 1B – advanced training 1 Block 2A – advanced training 2, Block 2B initial combat capability, Block 3i initial full capability and coming soon to a JSF near you Block 3F full combat capability. And threw out this software evolution at every block the presstitutes has said the JSF is falling …. Blahhh

    The JSF has dropped LGBs ,fired Aim 9x, fired AMRAAM,dropped SDBs fired its cannon and the program is still evolving.I could continue to shoot holes in that article but alas its a New year and after last nigh and waking up today to read that article my brain hurts !

    The JSF will evolve like any other Aircraft ,it will take time just like the F-16 evolved from the Lightweight Fighter program into the F-16A/B version with block 1 then 5 then 10 then 20 versions then onto the F-16C/D with block 25 then 30/32 then 40/42 then 50/52 then onto the F16E/F versions with block 60 versions plus all the specialist versions for International Air forces such as the I , IQ and even going to block 70 versions. The first YF-16 rolled out in 1973 and the plane was first thought up back in the early 1960s. Any aircraft developed takes time and always will. They design it, they build it they evolve it and history will show it will take 20 plus years to do this.

    Lockheed Martin is doing the same thing with the JSF the plane will continue to evolve over the life of type of the program, Also JSF tech is going into F-22 as an evolution of the F-22 program

    Anyone who harps on about how long the JSF program has taken clearly has no understanding of the history of how long planes take to become mature.

    Don’t get me wrong,im not a JSF fan boy, LM could have handled the program a lot better ,and i have been a critic of the JSF program like anyone else But i have also praised it when it has over come issues .. the first Block 1A JSF has evolved !

    I look forward to much more JSF debate in 2017 and would like to wish all a Happy New Year !


  19. Harry says

    Re: the pro- vs anti-f-35. I often switch my assessments, having said that a lot of progress was made of the last 1-2 years… nevertheless, from what I still read the software coding is still a right mess. But one thing still has me worried. Its the lack of armament and the poor historical success of BVR missiles. In the past all the way up to the Iraq wars, BVR missile success ratio have been abysmal. You can find articles about it on the national interest and war on the rocks. There was one link to an american article on the washington post or NYT (I can’t remember exactly)? But it said for every BVR missile (in the past) it had less than 10% or below chance of taking down a target, with two missiles going up to 15% or something.

    There was one example where 2 x F-15 fired 6 x AMRAAMS at two unaware and unchanged flight of 2 x Iraqi Migs and the missiles completely missed. And other stats giving examples that in most BVR kills the targets were often unaware and didn’t change course, etc. But if they were aware and evading incoming missiles they often could survive by manoeuvring, etc.

    The Gulf War seems to be the exception until you actually take a closer look at the detail of those engagements. Modern US aircraft up against dilapidated early-mid Cold War-era soviet aircraft w/ pilots with not as good training, aeroplanes w/ poorer maintenance etc. And the examples are quite interesting. Most successful engagements using AMRAAMs were actually WVR!

    I know missiles have come a long way in the last decades since the GW but those were very disconcerting statistics re: BVR. While missile tech and effectiveness have undoubtedly been increased so too has countermeasures, especially the electronic kind. So thats one of my main concerns and why I have argued hard for a second platform that would act as a missillier – a missile platform-like aircraft, such as the F-15, or hell the SHornets w/ the same role.

  20. Dan says

    The F-35 will be an outstanding aircraft. True there are cost overruns and development issues,not to mention delays in rollout and software issues. The real measure will be the quantum leap in information sharing and stealth . Comparing a Super Hornet with the JSF is like comparing a BMW with a Holden. Good sales pitch by Trump to Boeing, It will drive the price down, down!

  21. says

    Road runner,I understand the evolution of aircraft programs.First of all I’m not a JSF kicker.APA make me laugh so hard with there with their fantasy land articles.I for one don’t want to see this fail,I want too see it succeed.Yes I know u guys from DT which doesn’t make anyone a defence specialist.I think gfoo2 Aust is quite good tho.Like I said we will see how it goes in a real life situation.Im not trying to pick a fight with anyone,but I think we shouldn’t sing the victory song yet.The Russian and Chinese 5th gens r 20 years behind the yanks.All this talk of the Ruskies and Chinese jets being better is laughable.Happy new year guys and will look forward to see them at Avalon