US Air Force Begins Flight-Tests of F-35 Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) Upgrade
US Air Force Begins Flight-Tests of F-35 Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) Upgrade

US Air Force Begins Flight-Tests of F-35 Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) Upgrade

A developmental test team from the U.S. Air Force 461st Flight Test Squadron conducted the first flight of an F-35 Lightning II in the Technology Refresh 3, or TR-3, configuration Jan. 6 at Edwards Air Force Base. Maj. Ryan Luersen, a U.S. Air Force experimental test pilot, piloted the mission in tail number AF-7, a specially instrumented flight test aircraft and the first with TR-3 upgrades installed. He executed a functional check flight profile to verify aircraft airworthiness and system stability. The 50-minute flight, which took the jet to 35,000 feet at speeds just shy of the speed of sound above the Mojave Desert, marked the start of an extensive flight test campaign. The TR-3 program has overcome technical complexity challenges with hardware and software and is now on-track to deliver capability to the U.S. and its allies starting in 2023.

“Today’s first flight is an important step in enabling future capabilities to ensure F-35 remains unrivaled around the globe. We look forward to continued collaboration with the JPO and industry partners to deliver TR-3,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager, F-35 Program.

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

“The F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards AFB is proud to have executed yet another first-flight within the F-35 program. Therefore, new TR-3 hardware and software affect nearly every aircraft feature,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Campbell, 461st FTS commander and F-35 Integrated Test Force director.

A F-35A takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, California, on January 6, 2023. A developmental test team from the 461st Flight Test Squadron conducted the first flight of an F-35 in the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration at the base.
A F-35A takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, California, on January 6, 2023. A developmental test team from the 461st Flight Test Squadron conducted the first flight of an F-35 in the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration at the base. (Photo by F-35 Joint Program Office)

Developmental and operational test flights will continue through 2023 to ensure safety and prove warfighting capabilities. TR-3 provides the computational horsepower to support modernized Block 4 capabilities for the F-35 including: new sensor suites, more long-range precision weapons, improved electronic warfare features, more powerful data fusion, and increased cross-platform interoperability. These capabilities provide the warfighter a combat-edge to identify, track, engage, and survive against advanced air, ground, and cyber threats. TR-3 significantly updates core processing power and memory capacity, which will allow the F-35 to run advanced software packed with state-of-the-art warfighting capabilities.

The government and industry team continue to find innovative ways to ensure delivery of critical capabilities to defeat future threats. Lessons learned in the execution of the TR-3 program will be applied across the entire Block 4 modernization program. The F-35 is the premier multi-mission, fifth-generation weapon system. Its ability to collect, analyze, and share data is a force multiplier that enhances all assets in the battle space: with stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity, and range. The F-35, which has been operational since July 2015, is the most lethal, survivable, and interoperable fighter aircraft ever built. The F-35 will serve as the backbone of the U.S. fighter fleet as well as 16 other nations for decades to come.

US Air Force Begins Flight-Tests of F-35 Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) Upgrade
A F-35A Lightning II flies above the Mojave Desert in California during a test flight, Jan. 6, 2023. The 50-minute flight, which took the jet to 35,000 feet at speeds just shy of the speed of sound above the desert, marked the start of an extensive flight test campaign. (Photo by F-35 Joint Program Office)

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