EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - Lockheed Martin's latest entry in the multibillion-dollar competition to build the military's next fighter jet flew for the first time Saturday, making a brief hop over the Mojave Desert.
The defense giant is competing with Boeing to produce a Joint Strike Fighter, which would be used by the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Britain's Royal Air Force and Navy.
The winner of the contract, expected to be worth $200 billion, is to be chosen next year.
Lockheed Martin's X-35C, designed specifically for naval aircraft carrier operations, made a 27-minute flight from Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, where it will undergo further flight testing, said Joe Sweeney, the test pilot.
''It went very smoothly, very similar to the simulations,'' Sweeney said. But he said testing wasn't completed ''because of some give-and-take between the airplane and the control room'' as data from the flight was examined.
The X-35C was the second Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter demonstrator to fly. The company's X-35A began flying in October and completed its test program on Nov. 22.
Boeing's X-32A Joint Strike Fighter demonstrator has been flying since Sept. 18.
On the Net:
Joint Strike Fighter program office: http://www.jast.mil
Lockheed Martin: http://www.lockheedmartin.com
The Boeing Co.: http://www.boeing.com