The Navy variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in September performed the first external weapons release from the wings of an F-35, announced the aircraft’s joint program office. The F-35C successfully released four 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided inert bombs from the wings’ pylons on a Navy test range in Maryland during consecutive test runs on Sept. 23. The tests “confirmed the accuracy of the predicted release trajectory,” according to the release. The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Task Force completed the flight, one of 500 it has performed so far this year. The Navy is preparing for the second set of sea trials for the F-35C, on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower off the coast of Virginia. The Navy last November successfully landed F-35Cs on an aircraft carrier, off the coast of San Diego, Calif. The service expects to declare initial operational capability in 2018.
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.