Defence confirms Block 3i Final upgrade for RAAF F-35As

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 in December. (Lockheed Martin via Defence)

The Royal Australian Air Force’s first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters have been upgraded with the final iteration of the aircraft’s Block 3i interim software release, the Department of Defence has confirmed.

“The two Australian F-35A have been loaded with the final release of Block 3i (3iP6) during September 2016,” a Defence spokesperson told Australian Aviation via emailed statement on January 4. 

“Among other capabilities, the 3iP6 software enabled the aircraft to conduct its first weapons release.”

That first weapons release was conducted in December when F-35A A35-002 released a 500lb GBU-12 laser-guided bomb from its starboard side internal weapons bay 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.

The next block of software is Block 3F, and is the final release of software under the System Development and Demonstration phase, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017,” the Defence spokesperson said.


  1. Red Barron says

    Ah another F35 story. I’m getting ready to sit back and have a laugh at the haters and lovers.

  2. Raymond says

    I’m pleased to be an F-35 lover, and the sooner the haters are proved wrong (and they will be) the better. Not too much longer now. Time is fast running out and all of you naysayers will be eating your words, as the F-35 continues to enter service, receive its final upgrades under SDD, and proves itself operationally.

    It is just absurd to think that all of these respectable services that have ordered the F-35 have got it all so wrong… Now to sit back and laugh once again at the nonsense peddled by the armchair-expert haters that think they somehow know better than the real experts… wherever they got that idea from is baffling. I wonder if they will admit they were wrong when that time surely comes.

  3. Joe Blow says

    Wow! The F-35 drops a bomb!! Stop press!!
    I can see the need for an article to recount this humongous achievement.
    And bravo to all F-35 fans!

  4. says

    John N,can u please read my post on the previous article of the JSF first bomb release.Its the 27th one.Thanks mate.Happy new year to u.

  5. Bob says

    Government ought bought a real airplane !

    Wasting more Tax payer Dollars, yet again

    Technology great , find a better multirole platform.

    What does it take to find a Caribou replacement, the C-27

    Why couldn’t we apply the same to the F-18 ? there is more fish in sea than the F-35

    Why do we all ways have to buy, what the US tells us to buy ?

  6. Craig Simpson says

    The only issue I have with the F-35 is how long it has taken to get it ready. It’s raw specs suggest that it will easily be the best multi role fighter around. It has greater range then the F18 and F16 and can carry significantly more weapons then either of those planes while having a stealth advantage. The 35A is easily superior to our current F18’s and will give our pilots a capability advantage over other western and eastern fighters.

    It is cheaper then the european fighters which aren’t even as good as our current F18’s and will be capable of things that those aircraft could only dream of. Why would we ever consider buying a russian plane for when we have close military ties with America.

  7. says

    Bob,the F-35 could be a great platform but we don’t know yet.The US doesn’t tell us what to buy.Do u think we should buy inferior Russian planes?The west is years ahead of Russia and China.

  8. Mick181 says

    Bob, a better multi-role platform than the F-35? A Caribou replacement? We would all like to know what aircraft your talking about, because i can’t think of any that come even close

  9. Harry says

    Sorry Craig I have to disagree when you say that the F-35 can carry a greater amount of weapons than the F-35! It can only carry 4 missiles and two bombs internally at present in its stealth configuration (they are trying to expand that to 6 missiles I believe). Even with six it is significantly less than what an F-16 or F-18 can carry!

    The caveat: when its not in stealth it can carry about the same I would imagine, however it would no longer be a stealth plane with 4 pylons worth of weapons under its wings. Also, Yes the F-35 is planned to have a variety of weapons to fire, but at present it can only handle a couple with a couple more being added to its capability by the time it reaches FOC mid-2020s. However, those newer weapons will be far better than the F-16 or F-18 can use. So it looks promising!

    However, the lack of storage for weapons in stealth configuration is a serious concern!

    The F-35s 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. There is one link to an article that 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 saw 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 misleading. 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. F-15s can (soon) carry 16 missiles!

    Also, ALL European fighters (Typhoon, Rafael & Grippen E) are way better than the F-18. Before the F-35, Defence was contemplating replacing the F-18s with Typhoons or Rafaeles! That statement of yours was totally erroneous! Typhoons and Rafaeles – ai-superiority fighters – have way better avionics, aerodynamics, capacity, range etc than a multi-role F-18! Check your facts, please.

  10. Bruce Drummond says

    I am sure our pilots are also training on US aircraft that are already operational on all weapons systems. All the crap about better aircraft “from elsewhere”. Tin pot air forces wont compete with a joined up power projection in a high or low intensity theater. With the exception of Singapore (an Ally) we are years ahead of the regional players. Cant wait to see our new bird one day.

  11. says

    Harry,do you mean the classic or super?I agree though Harry,our system with all the new toys is very impressive.

  12. Jumbo says

    In reply to Harry above: sure the Classic Hornet is outperformed by most/all modern European fighters, however id be hesitant to downplay the capability of the Super Hornet so quickly, a quick Wikipedia search should show you why.

    I’d suggest the Super Hornet compares quite favourably, except in the AI/Air Superiority role that the Rafaele and Typhoon dominate in. Comparing a low cost Gripen to a Block 2 Super Hornet is a bit far fetched.

    Just my 2c….

  13. Hayden R says

    It would be a good idea if a two seat F-35 was built but its software does the job of the ACO or whatever it would be called with the JSF.

    A Trainer would be nice but you have simulators to do that! although you still need the physical experience

    I’d also like the F-35 to only replace the classic hornets not the supers!

  14. Adrian P says

    With such a wiz bang aircraft on the horizon why did we have to chop up the F111?

    Given the F35 hype, the new generation aircraft could easily take down an F111 being used in an in appropriate way.

  15. Michael says

    Harry, please check your data again. The F-18 classics and Super can only carry 4 missles clean (no pylons) and the F-16 2 misslies clean. Therefore Craig’s statement was correct, clean the F-35 is better armed.
    Personally I’m waiting for the F-35 to be deployed before I’ll make my judgement.

  16. Dee Thom says

    Actually the F-35 will have a rather efficient four barrel Gatling gun which has the ability to fire 3300 rounds per minute, and mounted internally for stealth, except when firing. This is still under development, but will be added armament for close air to air, and Warthog style ground attack missions.

  17. Harry says

    Sorry Michael, your right about the wing pylons but there is also the undercarriage. Nevertheless, 6 is more than 4. And, I think you haven’t seen pictures of an F-18 w/ 12 missiles on it then? Btw, when did this clean bit come out? Who flies F-16s clean!? I gotta admit though the F-35s will be way better than the F-18s

    Hey Jumbo, I am not sure I’d call the Gripen E/F cheap… (C/D sure) but E/C is more pricey than the SHornet. Although it has one engine it has greater range, AESA radar, greater payload, networked data (like the F-35), and off-boresight capabilities. It would likely have very good performance, esp w/ Instantaneous turn rates. And its also smaller w/ lower profile. But I think the SHornet might have a few things over it, like high AOA and some other features. I couldn’t say though.

  18. alloycowboy says

    I don’t get what all the wait and see is all about as the F-35 is already the most tested aircraft in the history of aviation.

    Being designed using state of the art computation fluid dynamaic it is heads and tails more capable then the F-16, F-18, and AV-8 II harrier is is replacing.

    The only reason some people in the media think the F-35 can’t turn is because people like Piere Spray and Winslow Wheeler don’t understand aerodynamic body lift. As it turns out the more lift the fuselage makes the more you can clip the wings of the fighter to reduce induced drag and mach wave drag. Also by carrying all the fuel and weapons internally the F-35 is actually quite a slippery airplane. Once the F-35 Fleet reicves the block 3F software which will unleash the full 9G evelope of the F-35A I believe you will see the F-15, F-16 and F-18 pilots start pissing there pants and treating the F-35 in the same way they treat the F-22.

  19. says

    So the F-35 has successfully dropped a 500lb LGB. Far out! Weren’t Mirages doing that back in the late seventies?

    Incidentally, the time taken to get this thing to full ‘go to war’ capability from the time of its inception is greater than the time between the first RAAF Mirage flying and its final flight. Also, why has everybody opted for the shorter endurance A instead of the larger wing longer range C?

    Sorry boys and girls, not impressed.


  20. Harry says

    I generally favour the concept of the F-35. However, I lifted this off defenseone today:

    “OTE has noted some “276 deficiencies in combat performance” as part of the most recent rollout of improvements….

    As for Block 3F, the most recent set of upgrades, the report notes “significant, well-documented deficiencies resulting in overall ineffective operational performance…hundreds of which will not be adequately addressed with fixes and corrections verified with flight testing within the system [development and demonstration phase].”

    The risk is that the program, out of a sense of urgency, may look to verify fixes in the lab rather than in actual flight tests. This is, a huge safety concern “because the labs proved to not always be representative of the actual aircraft for detecting problems or verifying fixes for stability problems.” [This is how the gun was tested]

    OT&E has consistently been damning of the JSF program. OT&E is like our ANAO, which recommending things like cancelling the Sea Sprite Helicopter, etc

  21. says

    Harry,I read the same thing too.Im sure the lovers would say oh it’s going to get fixed,and it’s not really an issue.Too much has gone wrong with this jet for too long.Yes we know they have deployed a squadron to Japan.WOW!!!!!

  22. John N says

    Jim Thorn (would that be the Jim Thorn that started AA mag back in ’77?).


    You said: “Incidentally, the time taken to get this thing to full ‘go to war’ capability from the time of its inception is greater than the time between the first RAAF Mirage flying and its final flight.”


    The Mirage III was in RAAF service for 25 years (1964-1988), 25 years back from today (2017) would be 1992, the very first F-35A to fly was in December 2006, that’s just ten years ago last month.

    But to be accurate you used the word ‘inception’, what does that actually mean?

    The Mirage firstly, it came out of French requirement around 1952-3, and the first prototype ‘Mystère-Delta’ flew in 1955, which then evolved into the Mirage III, first prototype flew in November 1956.

    Without going into further history/details of Mirage development, the first RAAF Mirage III (A3-1), flew for the first time in March 1963.

    You could ‘easily’ say that from the time of ‘inception’ to delivery of the first RAAF Mirage airframe it took ten years, true? Then you add 25 years of RAAF service on top of that.

    The JSF program grew out of the merger of the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) and Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) projects, those projects date from the late 1980’s to early 1990’s.

    The JSF program, as it is today, started around 1993, contracts for the ‘two’ competing prototypes from LM and Boeing was let in late 1996, resulting in the X-35 and the X32, the, LM won the competition (as we know) and a contract was awarded in October 2001.

    And as I said above, the very first F-35A to fly was in December 2006 (ten years ago last month).

    And let’s not forget about the F-111, contract awarded to GD in 1962, but it’s ‘inception/history’ goes back further than that too, and when did the first F-111C arrive in Australia? 1973.

    And the point is? The JSF program is not the only military aircraft in history to have a long development history, yes it has had problems, of course it has, but again, it’s not on its own in that regard.

    If it fails (which it won’t), then seriously, what is the alternative? Why are so many people hell bent on looking for it to fail? What good will that do??

    None, I suspect!


    John N

  23. says

    John N,what if it does fail? or doesn’t fully deliver on its capabilities it said in the brochure?I for one think that its way to big to fail now,and I don’t want it to fail.The alternatives would be very interesting.I think Silent Eagle,ASH or any of the 4.5gens would still beat any Chinese or Russian 5th gens,because the Chinese and Russian platforms are not true 5th gens anyway.It is not really fighter vs fighter but a system against system.Happy New Year to you mate,and if you are at Avalon would like to have a friendly chat with you.

  24. Hayden R says

    i believe all the hype around the jsf is making a lot of people impatient and forgetting that perfection takes time. there are a lot of very experienced people behind the f-35 and they all know what they are doing. as John N said many other brilliant aircraft have taken time in development to get the combat ready aircraft just right.

    humans must learn from their mistakes and this is what the team behind the f-35 is doing, every time something goes wrong they problem solve and fix it, then it wont happen again on future aircraft.

  25. the road runner says

    This has been said before…. but technology derived from the JSF is finding its way into other platforms ,even the F-22 is getting JSF technology added to it…JSF has huge spin off effects where the price was paid threw the JSF program but is filtering down to other platforms that don’t have to pay development costs to get these jsf tech

    Any fighter/bomber that is having a clean sheet design ,from the air frame and new engine has huge risk. HUGE!They developed a new engine, they developed a new airframe ,they developed new avionics and programs

    The JSF went one step further , it was designed in 3 variants. It can not be compared with any other fighter build threw out the history of flight …..

    Show me one other program ….that has 3 versions …
    One that is an Air force version !
    One that can be catapulted off an Aircraft carrier and land back on an aircraft!
    One that has short take off and vertical landing !

    Don’t any of you guys think its rather STUPID to compare the JSF to other fighter programs?
    I do..but i shall continue to watch the comments here and see someone say …. but Rafael or Eurofighter did not cost this much to develop …BLAHH!

    @ paul…. Yep it did ! And it went through the press IOC .the political IOC and even the Australian Aviation IOC! JSF has been threw the ringer ,no other program has had as much,blogging involved threw out its build cycle.

    JSF for President !

  26. says

    Hayden,there is supposedly 300 problems still with the jet that they haven’t fixed.This will take until 2019-2020 before it may be ready if not more.Lets just hope they fix this soon.

  27. says

    Road runner,that is where the flaw is!! How can you expect a jet for all three roles?something has to give!What part of that don’t you understand?!!! Obviously you fly it so I shouldn’t say anything.

  28. says

    Road runner,why has it been through 4 IOC you say?Because it promises so much but still hasn’t delivered on its promises.As I have said,I’m not pro or anti JSF.I really want this to work.So many people say I read this and I read that.Do u guys believe everything you read in the newspapers as well?

  29. the road runner says

    How is it a flaw …. ? It has gone IOC on B and C versions with A to follow. Technology in materials,engine ,avionics has caught up …. they tried to do the same thing back in the 60s with the F-111 and failed.
    They seem to be doing ok with the B and C versions and the A version is coming along !

    I never fly the JSF i get airsick ! I am more than happy to debate ,but no need to get snippy Paul


  30. says

    Road runner,How is it a flaw?1,to cram in what this jet has to do for 3 different services is a fantasy.2,it’s a very ambitious ask to please all 3 different services in one airframe.This is why they are so behind ,and have so many problems with it.I didn’t mean to get snippy mate,but all these people already saying that it’s the greatest is a bit premature.Im sorry about the rant mate but you have to look from outside the box sometimes.I would love to say it’s the best,I really would,but I’m just being cautious.If your at Avalon,I would like to catch up and have a friendly chat.Cheers mate.

  31. Hayden R says

    the F-35 fulfills robert mcnamara’s dream of “one basic aircraft design suitable for both the air force and the navy”