F-35 Gun Pod Testing To Begin This Summer

Le Bourget, France The gun pod for the F-35B and C-model will begin testing this summer, but the F-35B will have close air support weapons capabilities when initial operational capability is declared, Lockheed Martin officials said at the Paris Air Show last week. Marine leaders have said they would be comfortable taking the F-35B to war once IOC is declared, emphasizing their confidence in the aircraft’s abilities in that mission, Lockheed’s F-35 Executive Vice President Lorraine Martin said at the Paris Air Show. When it deploys, it will be capable of fielding CAS weapons at IOC, she added, such as the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb and the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The F-35B, however, will not declare IOC with the GAU-22 external gun pod, something that “was planned that way when the program was re-baselined,” she said. Martin said she expected testing on the gun to begin this summer, with planned operational capability by 2017. Martin also noted CAS tactics are being examined by war gaming events at Nellis AFB, Nev., as well as at exercises such as Green Flag. Both the Air Force and Marine Corps are working to collaborate on building F-35 tactics for a variety of missions, CAS included. Earlier this year, USAF and the services agreed to stand up a joint CAS tactics center at Nellis, following a March meeting on future close air support needs.