The Marine Corps' F-35 just proved it's ready to take enemy airspace

JPO_Marine Corps F-35B fires missile_tcw0916

A US Marine Corps F-35B fires a AIM-120 missile during testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. | Courtesy of the Joint Program Office

During tests that concluded on September 1, US Marine Corps F-35Bs proved their ability to multitask in the exact kind of way they would need to while breaching an enemy air-defense zone.

The Marines at Edwards Air Base, California, completed multiple tests of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles in complicated air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios, but the highlight of the test involved a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.

An F-35B successfully dropped the 500 pounder and supported it with onboard sensors to hit a ground target while simultaneously shooting down an unmanned F-16 drone with the AIM-120.

“This was a phenomenally successful deployment that was made possible by the close coordination between the JSF Operational Test Team, US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and industry,” Lt. Col. Rusnok, the officer in charge of the testing said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

This test exemplifies the “multi-role” aspect of the F-35, functioning as a fighter jet and a bomber in the same moment. This test also likely means that the Navy, Air Force, and any other partner nations flying the F-35 variants will have this capability too.

Furthermore, it’s much like what future F-35 pilots could expect when breaching enemy airspace, in that they’d have to deal with multiple threats at once.

Should an F-35 be detected, which would be difficult, air defenses as well as fighter planes would immediately scramble to address the threat. So for an F-35, multitasking is a must and now, a proven reality.

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