A BAE Systems-led test team has welcomed the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version of the F-35 Lightning II to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for flight testing.
Also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, the first F-35B aircraft arrived at Patuxent River Nov. 15. The Integrated Test Force team will now commence a program of flights to work toward steeper and slower descents before achieving the first true vertical landing by the aircraft.
“BAE Systems brings key capabilities to the F-35 program, ” BAE Systems F-35 Managing Director Mick Ord said. “These include a unique heritage in short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft gained through the design and development of the Harrier aircraft in the 1960s and early 1970s, which makes us ideally placed to lead these trials. Derivatives of the original Harrier are now flown by the U.K., India, Spain, Italy and the U.S. Marine Corps. The Joint Strike Fighter continues to build on the short takeoff/vertical landing experience, and it’s great to be able to apply our expertise on this tremendous aircraft.”
Previous hover pit trials, which demonstrated the STOVL capability of the aircraft, were conducted at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant. During these trials, BF-1 was anchored on top of a BAE Systems-designed metal grid about 15 feet off the floor of the pit enabling the aircraft to simulate free-air flight.
While at Patuxent River, the F-35B will also replicate operations aboard “ski jump” aircraft carriers, such as those operated by the Royal Navy using a specially designed ramp.
In March 2009, the U.K. Ministry of Defence announced its intention to order three instrumented STOVL F-35 Lightning II test aircraft and associated support equipment for operational test and evaluation purposes.