During the summer of 2016, a detachment from the F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) will operate from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Wallops Flight Facility along Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
The F-35 Pax River ITF will conduct flight test operations with two F-35B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variants and two F-35C carrier variants while Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River is implementing a runway intersection construction project. The detachment will conduct operations from mid-June to mid-July.
Three F/A-18 Hornets and one F/A-18 Super Hornet from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 based at NAS Pax River will accompany the F-35s, while two KC-130 aircraft from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 at NAS Pax River and one KC-10 refueling aircraft from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst will support F-35 operations in the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility Virginia Capes (FACSFAC VACAPES) over-water Warning Areas, extending offshore eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. Operations will take place during business hours every Monday through Friday, including one Saturday during the detachment.
The U.S. Navy has long maintained a successful partnership with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. In particular, the Wallops airfield provides support for fleet training, facilitates test and evaluation of weapons systems, and provides target launch facilities, refueling capabilities, and a communications and telemetry relay back to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Atlantic Test Ranges control room for easy data exchange and test monitoring. By partnering with NASA at Wallops, the Navy extends its range capabilities well out into the Mid-Atlantic operating areas.
The F-35 Lightning II is the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter. The F-35 combines low observable stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, and advanced sustainment capabilities.
The F-35A is a replacement for the Air Force’s F-16 Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, complementing the F-22A Raptor. The F-35B replaces the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier aircraft and delivers combat flexibility for use at short or damaged airstrips, austere expeditionary operating sites, major bases and from amphibious ships.