US Completes Maiden Flight of F-35 in New Configuration

The US Air Force’s F-35 Lightning II fighter has completed its first flight in the new Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration.

The service’s 461st Flight Test Squadron demonstrated the capability with an instrument F-35 flight test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

For 50 minutes, the plane flew close to the speed of sound at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) over the Mojave Desert.

The F-35 TR-3 Configuration

The TR-3 utilizes computational power to enhance the latest Block 4 F-35 systems, such as electronic warfare, sensor suites, data fusion, long-range precision weapons, and interoperability platforms.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter
An F-35A Joint Strike Fighter during a demonstration of the aircraft at Bagotville International Air Show in Quebec, Canada, June 22, 2019. Image: Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham/US Air Force

The configuration updates the aircraft’s memory capacity and core processing to run more advanced software.

“TR-3 is the F-35’s critical computer processing electronics upgrade that will continue to provide all our pilots with the capability they need to be successful against any adversary,” F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt explained.

“There is still a lot of work to do and I am confident that our industry partners and government team will get the job done.”

Maintaining ‘Unrivaled’ Fighter

The demonstration launches a series of trials through 2030 to evaluate the new configuration’s stability, performance, and safety.

“Today’s first flight is an important step in enabling future capabilities to ensure the F-35 remains unrivaled across the globe,” Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager Bridget Lauderdale said.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with the JPO and industry partners to deliver TR-3. Our mission is to provide our US service members and allies with an aircraft that will guarantee 21st Century security so they can deter and defeat threats and come home safely.”

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