Wednesday, May 22, 2013

F-35B STOVL Completes First Vertical Takeoff And Landing Test

The F-35B has successfully completed its first vertical takeoff and landing test. The aircraft took off vertically without first moving, hovered at low altitude and proceeded to land.

This ability was required and the F-35B was specifically designed for it, although in practice its unlikely to be used very often. The manoeuvre puts considerable penalties on aircraft performance, including reduced payload and range.

It is intended to be used in situations where the F-35B is unable to execute a short takeoff as is normally the case. With reduced amounts of fuel, the F-35B can still takeoff unlike most other aircraft and fly a short distance.   

The F-35 Lightning II is a stealthy, fifth-generation, multi-role fighter aircraft that comes in 3 variants:
  • The F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL)
  • The F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL)
  • The F-35C Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery (CATOBAR)
Although principally developed by the United States, the F-35 program includes eight other countries that share in some of its development.

The F-35B is planned to become operational with the US Marine Corps in 2015. The F-35C may become operational aboard aircraft carriers of the US Navy in 2018 at the earliest.

The F-35A is to be operational with the US Air Force in 2016, a year ahead of schedule. This is made possible by dropping some requirements that the jet needed to fulfill as originally planned.

The F-35 has seen quite a number of problems during its development that continue to plague the program. Several other countries with plans to induct the F-35, have delayed or altered their original plans as a result of these issues.

Positive developments are therefore much needed to help quiet the critics somewhat and reassure other countries that the US is firmly behind the F-35 and fully intends to bring the project the fruition.

Both Russia and China are hard at work on their own fifth generation fighter aircraft and plan to have them ready before the end of this decade. It is not inconceivable that the F-35 may be needed to face other stealthy aircraft.

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