31 Januari 2015
RAAF F-35 AU-1 aircraft (photo : F35)
AUSTRALIA'S new Lightning combat aircraft will be able to shoot back at enemy aircraft.
AIRCRAFT maker Lockheed Martin says there is no technical problem with aircraft's 25mm gun, although its computer software isn't yet complete and it hasn't been fully tested on the aircraft.
By the time these advanced aircraft enter operational service with the RAAF in 2020, the gun will be fully functional.
But the US Marine Corps, which plans to field their first operational Lightnings later this year, won't start out with a working gun.
Lockheed Martin Australia director of international business development, Graham Bentley, said despite media reports from the US earlier this month, there was no technical problem with the gun and no software glitches.
There was an extensive test program and the US Marines, Air Force and Navy had decided what weapons should take priority for software integration, testing and certification.
When fully developed, the aircraft will be able to field a gun and 10 different types of bombs and missiles.
But US Marine Corps aircraft will initially be able only to fire AIM-120 missiles and drop laser and GPS guided bombs.
"That testing of the gun will get into full steam mid-year our time," Mr Bentley told reporters.
The Lockheed Martin Lightning joint strike fighter is an advanced combat aircraft with the RAAF looking to acquire as many as 100. The program has experienced technical problems, rising costs and delays.
Because of aircraft's complexity and the protracted test program, computer software will be be delivered in various blocks, each providing additional capability.
US Marine Corps aircraft will be deemed combat ready with what's termed software block 2B, which provides a limited war-fighting capability.
Mr Bentley said the full gun capability would come with the final block 3F software, scheduled for delivery in 2019, a year before the RAAF plans to field its first operational Lightning aircraft.