F-35 program completes design and development phase

The final SDD test flight was completed on April 11. (Lockheed Martin)

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has completed the nearly 12-year System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the program.

The final SDD test flight was conducted on April 11 at Naval Air Station Patuxent (PAX) River by F-35C development jet CF-2 which completed a loads data mission while carrying external 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles.

“Completing F-35 SDD flight test is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team,” F-35 Program Executive Officer Vice Admiral Mat Winter said in a statement.

Since the first production representative F-35 AA-1 flew in 2006, the program has conducted 9,200 flights over more than 17,000 flight hours, and has completed more than 65,000 test points. The test fleet comprised all three variants from the US, UK and The Netherlands, and these were based at Edwards AFB in California, and at Pax River  near Washington DC.

The completion of SDD sees the Block 3F operational flight program software load released for operational test and evaluation (OT&E), and should clear the way for the approval of full rate production.

“The F-35 flight test program represents the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program.

“The joint government and industry team demonstrated exceptional collaboration and expertise, and the results have given the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in its transformational capability.”

(L-R) F-35C, F-35B and F-35A test aircraft pose at Edwards AFB. (JSF Program Office)

The JSF program has suffered from its share of development issues throughout the SDD process which has seen service entry for US and partner nations delayed by up to five years, but to-date no aircraft has been lost during development.

Program critics have often pointed to the concurrent process of SDD being ongoing while low-rate production was underway as contributing to the delays. This concurrency has also resulted in more than a hundred early production aircraft requiring structural fixes and other upgrades, including Australia’s first two F-35As which were produced in low rate initial production (LRIP) lot 6 and recently completed their rework at Hill AFB in Utah.

Flight testing of the F-35 will continue throughout the type’s expected 40+ year service life as new software loads, hardware refreshes, weapons and other enhancements and capabilities are added to the aircraft.

Australia’s first two F-35s. (Defence)


  1. Tomcat Terry says

    Ok now that’s all complete, next the DEW’s, hypersonic missiles and remote mini swarming drone deployment pods.
    That’ll make this aircraft perfect for the RAAF 🙂

  2. says

    Starting to track very well. It’s an exciting time now for the RAAF and they have deserved it. LM should be proud of themselves. Lookout Russia and Cina👍

  3. Scott Morris says

    Roger, Stealth is for first one to two days of war. after that if you dont have air dominance with this beast then youve just wasted a whole lot of tax payer money.

  4. Mick C says

    There is one nation only that could maintain Air and Sea superiority over the Continent of Australia and that is the USA, no one else has the Logistical capability to maintain a force thousands of Miles from home.

    The F35 is only a ground support Aircraft, what a load of Codswallop. It has the full capability of both Air to Air and LR Strike using both LR AAM and stand off weapons

  5. Richard James says

    Is there anything the F-35 can do well ?

    So far we an aircraft, that is a Failure at almost every thing is was designed to do, except maybe a Christmas
    Tree decoration.

    Or can it do well in order things we are not actually being told about ?

    What are the actual pluses for the F-35 ? can any one tell me please ?

  6. John says

    Mick C

    With a range of only 2,000 klms where would the F35 use its air to air missiles ?

    The real “codswallop” is the F-35s ability to carry a substantial load of weapons before it loses it stealth capability.

    $17 billion (and counting) flushed down the toilet.

  7. Harry says

    Just so its understood: the ‘development and demonstration’ phase, after 11 years, has been announced as finished. Now it “will now move into operational test and evaluation conducted by the Pentagon’s independent testing office” – the DOT&E. Thats were they, the DOT&E, test the plane to combat conditions. This is the organisation that has been scathing of the F-35 development over the years and recently highlighted 200+ significant issues with the F-35. The F-35 cannot enter FRP until the DOT&E gives it the OK. What I am trying to say? This is just this end of the beginning, here is to the F-35 – may all our dreams come true – no, seriously, I hope it works

  8. jasonp says

    Yeah, because what the hell would the experts in the air forces and navies of the US and 11 other countries know? Certainly not more than the know-alls on this page, surely!

  9. John Cox says

    To all the armchair experts this old man remembers the same negative comments on the F111 and boy did it prove them wrong.

  10. Raymond says

    Paul, John Cox’s point is that the *concept* is the same. Or that history is repeating itself. Of course the aircraft themeselves are different! Surely that makes sense?

  11. says

    Raymond, I know what point he is getting at but I am sick and tired of people comparing the 111 to the 35! If you have studied PROPERLY the 2 projects, they are really quite different. The JSF has gone through the most rigorous testing of any jet in history, the pig didn’t!!!!!!!! Do you get what I mean now!

  12. TwinTiger says

    I certainly like the look of Lightning II in ‘dirty’ format complete with wing pylons and missiles – it makes the aircraft considerably meaner (even though it appears to be the F-35C).

    Following an initial wave of ‘clean’ Lightning IIs on day 1 and 2 gaining air superiority, these network linked and loaded lads following up thereafter would make a strong statement. Perhaps the Rhino’s future will indeed be seriously under a cloud during the early 2020’s when the RAAF are to review their fast jet fleet.

  13. Raymond says

    Paul, if you have PROPERLY studied the F-35 then you would realise that John Cox’s statement is correct.

  14. says

    Raymond, how many hours of flying and testing and everything else they have done. Can you please provide the photos, hrs of flying and testing on ALL points of the program please? Then we will compare it with the 35s rigorous testing. I bet you every dollar I have and you will see the difference, because I’ve already gone through it. Take your time to get back to me. Cheers!

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