[Updated] New image of F-35B with an AIM-120C5 missile in the weapon bay

Update Mar. 29, 2012 20.30 GMT

Mar. 22, 2012 not only marked the first night air-to-air refueling: although not widely advertised, on the same day, the F-35B BF-4, during its 100th flight, piloted by RAF Sqdn. Ldr. Jim Schofield, flew with the open weapon bay door for an environmental testing with an (inert) AIM-120C5.

After showing some images of air-to-ground weapons inside the weapon bay, this is the second time a photograph shows an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) carried by the 5th generation JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) in the Short Take Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant.

The F-35 will be able to carry one AIM-120D (AIM-120C8), an improved version of the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missile, and a 1,000-lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or LGB in each weapon bay or two AIM-120Ds for each weapon bay (using a trapeze plus ejector to lower the inner missile into the airstream before launch).

Image credit: Andy Wolfe via Lockheed Martin

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. David,

    One thing I’ve noticed since the AIM-120 entered service is that often on fighters (F-16s mostly), the 120 is mounted on wingtip hard points, rather than AIM-9s, which seams more logical given their smaller size.

    Any reason that you know of for this configuration?

    • There may be various reasons. I think:
      1) because the higher mass on the wingtips increases the roll rate
      2) because the mass on the wingtips increases the aerodinamic efficiency of the wing surface, increasing lift and reducing the drag index caused by wingtip vortexes.
      3) because the BVR missiles are the first to be used in tactical engagements nearing the center of gravity to the plane’s longitudinal axis when launched

      Maybe there are more specific reasons. Let’s wait until some reader gives us further options.

      • David – first post here, though I’ve read your blog before (great blog, btw).
        The reason Slammers go on the tips and heaters inboard is that the heavier missile is more effective in dampening flutter. AIM-9s on Sta 1/9 (wingtips) and AIM-120s on Sta 2/8 is not an approved F-16 loadout.

  2. Answer on AIM-120 vs. AIM-9 on wingtip can be found in reducing wing-flutter in certain speed and load regimes due a change in the resonance frequency of the wings when adding a higher mass on the wingtips.

    J.K Nilsson

Comments are closed.