A Lockheed Martin-built [LMT] F-35 Lightning II shot down a drone target with a Raytheon [RTN] AIM-9X Sidewinder missile during a recent test off the California coast, achieving the new fighter jet’s first air-to-air kill, the U.S. Defense Department-led program office announced Aug. 1.

Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, a test pilot, fired the short-range missile July 28 from an F-35A’s wing after the plane’s mission systems sensors identified and targeted the drone. The missile achieved a “direct hit,” according to the program office.

An F-35 firing an AMRAAM. Photo: Raytheon.
An F-35 firing an AMRAAM. Photo: Raytheon.

“It’s been said you don’t really have a fighter until you can actually hit a target, and we crossed that threshold with the first air-to-air weapon delivery of an AIM-9X,” LeClair said. “This successful test demonstrates the combat capability the F-35 will bring to the U.S. military and our allies.”

The test is part of a “weapons delivery accuracy surge” that the program is conducting at Edwards AFB, Calif.; Point Mugu Sea Test Range, Calif., White Sands Missile Range, N.M.; and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif. Other weapons being tested include the Small Diameter Bomb, the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). During previous firings of the AIM-9X, a self-destruct signal was sent to the missile before it hit its target.

The announcement came as the Air Force prepares to declare that the F-35A is ready for combat. Such a declaration could occur as early as this week. The Marine Corps achieved that status last year with the F-35B variant, and the Navy hopes to follow with the F-35C in 2018.