USAF Makes First F-35 TR-3 Configuration Test Flight

With the Technology Refresh 3 upgrades, a fighter flew to 35,000 feet at nearly the speed of sound.

An F-35A takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, California, on January 6, 2023. [Courtesy: F-35 Joint Program Office]

Testing is underway for computational upgrades that make it possible for Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) F-35s to fly at 35,000 feet at nearly the speed of sound, according to program officials.

The Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration boosts the fighter's computational horsepower for Block 4 modernization, and includes new sensor suites, additional long-range precision weapons, increased cross-platform interoperability, and improved electronic warfare features, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO).

U.S. Air Force experimental test pilot Maj. Ryan "BOLO" Luersen flew the first F-35 flight with the TR-3 upgrades on January 6 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

During the 50-minute test flight over the Mojave Desert, Luersen verified the aircraft’s airworthiness and system stability by executing a functional check flight profile, flying at 35,000 feet and at airspeeds nearing the speed of sound, according to the JPO.

The test flight marks the beginning of what program officials say will be an extensive flight test campaign.

“This is a significant achievement for the F-35 program," Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office, said in a statement. “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.”

The testing campaign is slated to continue throughout 2023, and lessons learned will be applied across the entire Block 4 modernization program, JPO said.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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