Australia’s F‐35A aircraft has conducted its first ever in-flight weapons release during an exercise departing from Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona on 14 December 2016.
The GBU‐12, 500lb Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb, was employed by Australian aircraft A35‐002, during a sortie over the Barry M Goldwater Range (BMGR) just west of Luke AFB, the service announced Wednesday.
“This exercise marks a significant milestone for the Australian F‐35A Program and is indicative of the steady progress being made on the Program every day.” Australian Deputy Director of the JSF Transition Team and F‐35 Operational Requirements Manager, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Steven “Rooster” Bradley, said.
“The GBU‐12 is the first in a long line of weapons to be certified in the years leading up to Australia’s Initial Operating Capability (IOC) declaration in 2020,” he said.
The exercise was conducted only weeks after the two Australian fifth-generation fighters were upgraded with the Initial Warfighting Capability software.
“This particular upgrade enables incremental expansion of aircraft performance envelope, increased Mission Systems functionality and initial weapons capability, which includes the GBU‐12,” WGCDR Bradley said.
“The 500lb GBU‐12 is the latest variant of an extremely reliable and uncomplicated weapon that the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has employed for many years.”
“Additionally, the F‐35A will have more advanced 500lb and 2000lb GPS guided bombs, as well as the longer range, 250lb Small Diameter Bombs cleared for operations on the aircraft,” he said.
“From here, the Australian F‐35A Program will continue to certify weapons in preparation for Block 3F software release, which provides the aircraft a significant weapons capability increase in the lead up to IOC,” WGCDR Bradley said.
The Australian Government has approved the acquisition of 72 Conventional Take‐Off and Landing F‐35A aircraft to replace the ageing F/A‐18A/B Hornet fleet and has taken delivery of the first two of these jets, which have accumulated more than 800 flying hours over the last two years at the F‐35A International Pilot Training Centre (PTC) at Luke AFB, Arizona.
Australia’s next eight aircraft will be delivered in 2018, two of which will be the first to be ferried to Australia. The remaining six will be temporarily based at the PTC at Luke AFB through to 2020, for on‐going pilot training.