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Space Launch System - in numbers

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Refuel trials extend F-35 range

A short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter has become the first F-35 to complete an aerial refueling test using the Navy- and Marine Corps-style probe-and-drogue refueling system. The mission is the first in a short series of tests that will clear the STOVL F-35B variant for extended-range flights, particularly to its primary test site at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

“The F-35 program is on the cusp of a tremendous expansion in flight test as a large number of new aircraft enter the test fleet this year and early next year,” said Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager. “This milestone will help ensure that we fill the pipeline between Fort Worth and Pax River with F-35s and maintain our flight-test tempo.”

During the flight, the F-35B designated BF-2 (the second STOVL flight test aircraft), began a series of tests in which fuel is uploaded into the aircraft at 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000ft, at speeds ranging from 200 to 250 knots. The pilot on the initial F-35B aerial refueling flight was US Marine Corps Maj Joseph T. ‘O.D.’ Bachmann.

The refueling mission also marked the first time a KC-130J tanker has been used to refuel an F-35. Since deployment to Iraq in 2005 the KC-130J has offloaded more than 186 million pounds of fuel during combat operations. Previous refueling missions with the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant were accomplished with a KC-135 tanker. To date, the first F-35A has received approximately 110,000 lb of fuel during aerial refuelings.
 


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