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F-35 Avionics Testing Progresses: The Lockheed Martin-led industry team developing the F-35 stealth fighter has begun in-flight integration and verification of the fighter’s mission systems suite aboard the cooperative avionics test bed, or “CATBird,” aircraft, the company announced Dec. 8. These activities commenced with CATBird’s 40th flight, which took place on Nov. 25. The CATBird is a modified 737 airliner that is being used to validate the performance of the F-35’s avionics before they actually fly in the fighter. This is a valuable means of reducing risk to the F-35 program, Lockheed officials have said. This avionics suite will be tested for several months aboard the CATBird before it transitions to an F-35 test aircraft next year. This F-35, designated BF-4, is a short-takeoff F-35B model for the Marines Corps. It is scheduled to fly with a full avionics package starting in mid-2009, according to Lockheed. Meanwhile, AA-1, the first F-35 test aircraft overall, and the first in the Air Force’s conventional takeoff configuration, continues to undergo flight trials.