An F-35A version of the Joint Strike Fighter is seen during testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Paul Weatherman / Lockheed Martin)
The U.S. Air Force’s F-35A version of the tri-service Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has begun flight testing with external stores at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., plane-maker Lockheed Martin said Feb. 20.
The JSF test force flew a plane loaded with two AIM-9X short-range air-to-air missiles, each carried on an external pylon. Additionally, the jet carried two 2,000-pound bombs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles inside its twin internal weapon bays. A photo accompanying the Lockheed release indicates that the aircraft was also carrying four additional pylons that were not loaded.
The fifth-generation fighter is designed to carry up to 18,000 pounds on 10 weapon stations. Four of those weapon stations are inside its two weapon bays, the rest are on each wing. The wing weapon stations would only be used when stealth is not a priority as external carriage would betray the jet to enemy radars.