“Because I Was… Inverted!” Everything You Need To Know About The Photo Of An F-35C Firing An AIM-9X During Inverted Flight

Aug 18 2017 - 77 Comments
By Tom Demerly

Check Out These Cool Photos of the F-35C That Would Make Maverick and Goose and Jealous.

How many chances will the U.S. Navy’s F-35C have to launch a close-range, advanced air-to-air dogfighting missile like Raytheon’s AIM-9X in combat while flying upside down? The answer is *probably* none.

But in the unlikely event a U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II does go into a dogfighting “furball” and it turns into a real-world remake of “Top Gun” without Tom Cruise, Lockheed Martin needed to be sure the F-35C could perform.

This missile launch test at the Patuxent River Naval Base in Maryland on the east coast of the U.S. demonstrated this rather unlikely capability was possible.

Flight test aircraft CF-2 performed the capability demonstration on June 8, 2017 and was photographed by Lockheed Martin photographer Dane Wiedmann using a Nikon D4 camera with a 24-70mm zoom lens while flying high right (or is it left when inverted?) formation in a chase aircraft.

Wiedmann shot the impressive photos at 1/1600 shutter speed to freeze the fast accelerating missile leaving the rails and f-stop 5.0 using ISO 400 setting. Wiedmann took the images early in the day, before 9:00 AM local time, accounting for the nice lighting.

Major Eric Northam of USMC flight test and evaluation unit VX-23 Launches an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile while flying inverted. (Photo: Dane Widdeman for Lockheed Martin)

The missile launch demonstration was flown by U.S. Marine Corps test pilot Major Eric Northam of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three, VX-23, based at Patuxent. Major Northam is a highly experienced tactical aircraft test pilot with extensive experience in the F/A-18 Hornet in addition to the F-35C.

It is noteworthy that the flight test was flown by Major Northam, a USMC test pilot, on an F-35C, the U.S. Navy variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The U.S. Marines fly the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B.

USMC Test Pilot Major Eric Northam of USMC flight test and evaluation unit VX-23 (Photo: Eric Northam via Facebook)

As a side note, an AIM-9X, the world’s most advanced infraredtracking, shortrange air-to-air and surface-to-air missile, fired by a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet at a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 that had dropped munitions near U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, surprisingly missed its target. According to CNN, the VFA-87’s Super Hornet locked onto the Su-22 Fitter at a range of 1.5 miles and fired an AIM-9X: the Syrian pilot released flares to successfully lure the infrared guided missile away from his tail. The Syrian jet was eventually downed by the same Super Hornet with an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile).

With the frequent popular media criticism of the F-35 program and a lingering narrative of program limitations that, according to some analysts really don’t exist, these tests for flight and weapons performance at the outer edges of the mission envelope seem to send a promising signal that the F-35 is capable across its entire mission requirement set, including unusual outlying mission requirements like inverted missile launches.

The capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program continue to be demonstrated across all types and services. Between Aug. 4 and Aug. 11, 2017, the U.S. Air Force conducted the first ever delivery of GBU-31 2,000-pound precision guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or “JDAM’s” at the Utah Test and Training Range near Hill AFB.

Pilots and Airmen of the 419th and 388th Fighter Wings operated the USAF’s F-35A Lightning II during the evaluations, named “Combat Hammer”. This was the first Air Force conducted operational evaluation of air-to-ground munitions for the F-35A following Lockheed Martin verification of capability tests. Official U.S. Air Force media sources quoted the performance of the tests to have, “above average mission and sortie rates”.

USAF Colonel Tim Smith, Commander of the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron detachment located at Hill AFB told media, “Overall, everything went as planned and all participating units performed very well, including the 34th Fighter Squadron F-35As.”

A USAF F-35A drops a GBU-31 2,000-pound JDAM over the Utah Test and Training Range on August 10, 2017. (Photo: Scott Wolff via USAF)



  • El Kabong


    Clearly you aren’t comprehending the “stand-off” part of “Stand-off missile.

    If you aren’t flying near any IADS, what would you need to be stealthy for?

    Go read up on the USAF “Secret Squirrel” missions.

  • El Kabong

    Yes, Capt. Obvious.

    Try reading the comment I’m replying to.

    “External missiles would ensure the F35 can’t use its standoff capability…”

    Care to chat about the F-35’s internal AAM carriage?

  • El Kabong

    What EXACTLY do potential adversaries currently fly?

    Oh yeah, that’s right!

    ANCIENT MiG’s and Sukhois.

    Shoo troll.

    All you spew is nonsensical garbage.

  • Mali King

    Err…..3rd generation fighters could not launch missiles from weapon bays whilst inverted because i). Most 3rd generation fighters have no weapon bays! ii). 3rd generation fighters with weapon bays never launched missiles whilst inverted PERIOD

    What a pointless post!

  • WpnsLoader175

    And at some serious G’s, just can’t say how much.

  • Ilya Kurenkov

    Trial phase is almost over, the last of the prototypes just took off couple of weeks ago. T-50-11 has final configuration in terms of airframe and avionics, it means that Russians would not need no implement numerous fixes and adjustments on already built airframes, which are not even close to final configuration.
    T-50 is Su-57 from now on, by the way.

    • El Kabong


      “Trial phase is almost over…”?

      Only TWO DECADES into testing….


      ELEVEN prototypes?

      Take your time…. *snicker*

      BTW, explain the engine, avionics and radar FAILINGS.

      Why has India REJECTED it?

  • Ilya Kurenkov

    >F-35 will be cheaper once the fleet becomes larger<
    This mantra seems to be not working. After all these years and hundreds of produced airframes F-35 remains ridiculously expensive. In case of low-tech conflict all these sensors are largely unnecessary: you'll spend enormous amount at money and time just on field maintenance of F-35, which will have to destroy donkeys and Toyotas with it's high-end precision weapons.
    This is what actually happens with F-16s an F-15s in Iraq weapon/maintenance cost/target cost ratio is really poor, and this is one of the reasons why AF needs something cheaper.

    • Mali King

      I think relatively expensive would be a better term than ridiculously expensive.

      • Ilya Kurenkov

        I stand corrected.

  • Graeme Rymill

    Successful decoy or malfunction… either way in its first use in combat it failed. That is raises a big question mark surely?

    • El Kabong

      That’s it, scrap the whole inventory! /sarc

  • Mali King

    Lol!!! Thanks for the comedy. Do you know why El Kabong and Uniform223 finds you hilarious? I will give you one big answer here…..you mentioned Sprey….a guy who is wrong on everything! Let me give you 2 classic examples -> Sprey hated how the F15 had a lot of top notch and expensive avionics (for its day)/”gold plating” but boy…was Sprey massively wrong! The F15’s “gold plating”/top notch avionics contributed a great deal to the F15’s astounding kill ratio in combat……> 100:0 kill to loss ratio! Sprey also hated how the F16 was upgraded with top notch avionics and multirole capability but Sprey was massively wrong on this point too (see a pattern emerging there)! The later block F16s ain’t slouches kinematically and the F16’s multi role capability + decently sophisticated avionics made it a very successful platform used by many nations around the world. If the F16 was stuck being a unsophisticated day only fighter (Sprey’s fetish). …it would have remained a half arsed one trick pony.

    In fact there is a special song for Sprey. It goes like this:


    Now that you have enjoyed that awesome tune, forget Disney land. You are in NO land. And you are the last person that I will rely on for mathematical skills.

  • So,here’s the funny bit… I found where you got those “articles”. From comment sections that appear on two websites that link to a… thai wordpress blog.

    • Mali King

      Lol! Such flimsy sources! Pad See Ew for the win!! :P

  • Holztransistor

    It’s that embarrassing, huh?

    • Uniform223

      Yet when actually being used (in combat operations) are seemingly are more effective compared to their eastern counter parts. I bet those pilots in their Russian built aircraft weren’t thinking of the failure/miss rate of those missiles when they were shot down.

      • Mali King

        So true!!