The F-35 stealth fighter program on Aug. 13 completed the first in-flight refueling of an F-35B test aircraft that uses the probe-and-drogue refueling system common to Marine Corps and Navy aircraft and those of many international air forces, announced F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin. This F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing test aircraft—designated BF-2— received fuel from a company-owned KC-130J tanker at 10,000 ft., 15,000 ft., and 20,000 ft., flying at speeds ranging from 200 to 250 knots. The flights originated from the company’s test facility in Fort Worth, Tex. Once this series of refueling trials has concluded, F-35B test aircraft will be cleared for extended-range flights, particularly to their primary test site at NAS Patuxent River, Md., Lockheed said. The first F-35A test aircraft that carries the boom receptacle used on Air Force aircraft completed its inaugural in-flight refueling tests in March 2008.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.