F-35 Completes First Flight with Technology Refresh 3 Upgrades
A developmental test team from the 461st Flight Test Squadron conducted the first flight of an F-35 in the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration at Edwards Air Force Base, California, according to an announcement made by the F-35 Joint Program Office last week. The 50-minute flight, which took the jet to 35,000 feet at speeds just shy of the speed of sound above the Mojave Desert, marked the start of an extensive flight test campaign that will continue in 2023.
Maj. Ryan “BOLO” Luersen, a U.S. Air Force experimental test pilot, piloted the mission in tail number AF-7, a specially instrumented flight test aircraft and the first with TR-3 upgrades installed. He executed a functional check flight (FCF) profile to verify aircraft airworthiness and system stability, according to a related announcement from Lockheed Martin.
“This is a significant achievement for the F-35 program”, said Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. “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. 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.”
TR-3 upgrades specifically include a new integrated core processor, panoramic cockpit display, and an upgrade memory unit. The upgrades provide the computational horsepower to support modernized Block 4 capabilities including new sensor suites, more long-range precision weapons, improved electronic warfare features, more powerful data fusion, and increased cross-platform interoperability.
“Technology Refresh 3 modernizes the computational core of the F-35 air vehicle. Therefore, new TR-3 hardware and software affect nearly every aircraft feature," said Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Campbell, Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.
On Dec. 30, 2022, Lockheed Martin finalized a new production lot contract with the F-35 Joint Program office for the first F-35s that will feature TR-3. The contract includes production and delivery for up to 398 F-35s for $30 billion, including U.S., international partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) aircraft in Lots 15 and 16, with the option for Lot 17.
These aircraft will add to the growing global fleet, currently at 894 aircraft after 141 deliveries last year.