Tag Archives: F-35B STOVL

UK F-35B Performs World’s First Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing During HMS Queen Elizabeth Trials

The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) achieved a new milestone performing a Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

On Oct. 13, an F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performed the first  Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, as part of the ongoing First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing), or FOCFT (FW). BAE Systems test pilot Pete “wizzer” Wilson, achieved the F-35B’s first real SRVL touching down at about 40 knots and decelerating to a standstill in about 175 feet.

Britain’s newest aircraft carrier (able to accommodate up to 24 F-35Bs out of the planned 138 F-35 Lightning jets) and the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are conducting a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope for QEC carriers.

A composite image of the first SRVL.

Among the most important parts of the trials are the rolling vertical landings: as the acronym suggests, STOVL aircraft use the vertical landing to return to the ship. Using this kind of procedure, the approaching aircraft slowly reaches a hovering position to the port side of the ship before moving sideways over the deck and descending slowly. This technique has pretty strict weight requirements because of the thrust required to keep the aircraft airborne the time needed to put the wheels down. The rolling technique is intended to allow pilots to recover to the ship with more stores: the combination of thrust from its rotating nozzle, lift-fan and lift generated by the wing as an effect of the (slow) forward movement of the aircraft can save up to 7000lbs greater all up weight (UAW). Without the SRVL technique, the F-35B would be forced to jettison some or all of its external store when returning to the ship.

According to some sources the Soviet Yak-38 “Forger” jets could perform rolling landings on carrier decks but required the use of a safety barrier net; however, it’s not clear whether actual tests were conducted at sea.



In order to prepare to the first SRVL pilots and engineers tested the new technique using BAE Systems’ F-35/QEC Integration Simulator—a full motion, dome simulator—based in Warton, England. Some 3,000 takeoffs and landings were important to discover “where the edges of the test envelope are,” said Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, FOCFT (FW) lead test pilot at the Pax River ITF.

“SRVL tests are truly experimental,” Edgell said. “It involves landing a fast jet onto an aircraft carrier with forward relative speed but without the braking assistance typically provided by an arresting gear and hook. It’s going to be a really rewarding moment for British aviation to watch that procedure actually take place.”

Back in 2007, Qinetiq’s VAAC Harrier testbed was used by the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre using a “dummy deck” at Qinetiq’s Boscombe Down site in Wiltshire, to assess the possibility to perform SRVL approaches as a way to use thrust-vectoring to a slow speed while still gaining the benefit of wing-borne lift.

The UK is the only nation currently planning to use the SRVL technique. However, the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy (which should operate the F-35B to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II from Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier in the future) might take advantage of the rolling landing in the future, leveraging the testing conducted by the F-35 ITF aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Following the crash occurred on Sept. 28 and involving a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, the U.S. Services and international partners temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while conducting a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft. British F-35Bs involved in the flight trials from HMS Queen Elizabeth and Italian F-35 were not grounded though, as inspections did not find the faulty part.

Top image credit: Royal Navy / Crown Copyright

Here Are Some Photographs of the F-35B Lightning Jets Landing on (and Launching From) Britain’s Newest Carrier for the First Time

Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to land their F-35 Lightning stealth jets on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

In the last 24 hours we have commented two quite different F-35B Lightning II-related news: the first air strike in Afghanistan and the first crash in South Carolina. Both events involved U.S. Marine Corps STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant aircraft. However, these were not the only newsworthy events: on Tuesday Sept. 25, 2018, Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, both test pilots at the F-35 Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Md., were the first pilots to land the stealth F-35B on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The first landings and subsequent take-offs from HMS Queen Elizabeth “are the culmination of a British endeavor lasting more than a decade to bring an aircraft carrier back to the UK’s arsenal,” says an official U.S. DoD release.

Two F-35B Lightning II fighter jets successfully landed onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time this week, laying the foundations for the next 50 years of fixed wing aviation in support of the UK’s Carrier Strike Capability.
Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray made history by being the first to land on, followed by Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, both test pilots at the Integrated Test Force (ITF) based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The landings on Britain’s newest aircraft carrier (able to accommodate up to 24 F-35Bs out of the planned 138 F-35 Lightning jets) kicked off the first of two First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing) phases, held back-to-back this fall, where the ITF team plans to perform a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope for QEC carriers. According to the ITF, the tests “will evaluate jet performance on over 200 test points during different weather and sea conditions as well as the aircraft’s integration with the ship. A third FOCFT (FW) phase followed by operational testing is scheduled for 2019.”

Two F-35B Lightning II fighter jets successfully landed onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time this week, laying the foundations for the next 50 years of fixed wing aviation in support of the UK’s Carrier Strike Capability. Shortly afterwards, once a deck inspection has been conducted and the all-clear given, Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray, F-35 Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Md., became the first pilot to take off using the ship’s ski-ramp.
Courtesy photo by Royal Navy

The first landings were performed as HMS Queen Elizabeth operated off the U.S. East Coast. The aircraft carrier left Portsmouth in August, crossing the Atlantic to conduct the flying trials and joint training with the US Navy. The flight trials are scheduled to take around 11 weeks and +500 take-off and landings. The target is to be ready for a deployment from 2021.

F-35B prepares to land. (LM)

In an official Royal Navy release, the Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Captain Jerry Kyd, said: “I am quite emotional to be here in HMS Queen Elizabeth seeing the return of fixed-wing aviation, having been the captain of the aircraft carrier which launched the last Harrier at sea nearly eight years ago.

“The regeneration of big deck carriers able to operate globally, as we are proving here on this deployment, is a major step forward for the United Kingdom’s defence and our ability to match the increasing pace of our adversaries. The first touch-downs of these impressive stealth jets shows how the United Kingdom will continue to be world leaders at sea for generations to come.”

Two F-35B Lightning II fighter jets successfully landed onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time this week, laying the foundations for the next 50 years of fixed wing aviation in support of the UK’s Carrier Strike Capability.
Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray made history by being the first to land on, followed by Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, both test pilots at the Integrated Test Force (ITF) based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Commodore Andrew Betton, the commander of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, said: “The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have been specifically designed and built to operate the F-35, offering an immensely flexible and potent combination to deliver military effect around the world.

F-35B on the ski jump. (LM)

“Conducting these trials is a critical and exciting step on this journey and I applaud the many thousands of civilian and military personnel who have played a part in bringing the strategic ambition to reality.”

Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray in his F35B following the first deck landing aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. Gray and Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, both test pilots at the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md, landed the first two jets on the new British aircraft carrier this week.
Courtesy photo by Royal Navy

 

 

VMFA-122 Conducted First Flight With The F-35B Lightning II At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

First flight with the JSF marked the end of the first phase in the transition from a legacy F/A-18C Hornet squadron to an F-35B squadron.

On Mar. 29, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, “The Flying Leathernecks,” launched their first sorties in the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II stealth jet, at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.

“This was a critical moment for us because it got the ball rolling for us to have a fully operational squadron,” said Lt. Col. John P. Price, the commanding officer of VMFA-122 and one of the pilots who took part in the first mission, in a public release.

VMFA-122 was originally based at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina and moved to MCAS Yuma to stand up JSF operations in October 2017.

The Commanding Officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122), Lt. Col. John P. Price, conducts VMFA-122’s first flight operations in an F-35B Lightning II on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018. VMFA-122 is conducting the flight operations for the first time as an F-35 squadron. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison Lotz)

“It highlights the flexibility and agility that we have inside the Marine Corps to accomplish the mission,” said Price. “We have a lot of great Marines and Sailors here from Yuma and all over the Marine Corps. It’s truly impressive how quickly it was put together.”

“Starting over, all of our programs have to be rebuilt and reestablished here on MCAS Yuma with a whole new group of people,” said Maj. John Dirk, the executive officer of VMFA-122. “This is the culmination of that first part and going forward we get to maintain and improve them so we can make the squadron have full combat capability.”

The commencement of flight operations marked the successful transition of yet another Marine Corps squadron and another key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

The Commanding Officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122), Lt. Col. John P. Price, conducts a pre-flight check of aircraft in preperation of VMFA-122’s first flight operations in an F-35B Lightning II on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018. VMFA-122 is conducting the flight operations for the first time as an F-35 squadron. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison Lotz)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps is increasing its operational experience with the new aircraft.

Last year, on Jan. 9, 2017, VMFA-121 “Green Knights”, an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, moved from Yuma to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, a reloacation that put the F-35B not far from the Korean Peninsula, where the JSF has taken part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force”: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula. Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays. More recently, on Mar. 5, 2018, a detachment of F-35B belonging to VMFA-121 deplyed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in the Indo-Pacific. The F-35B, assigned under the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a series of qualification flights on Wasp over a multi-day period following those the F-35Bs and 2,300 Marines that make up the 31st MEU will deploy aboard ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group  for follow-on operations in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a routine patrol to strengthen regional alliances, provide rapid-response capability, and advance the Up-Gunned ESG concept, a U.S. Pacific-fleet initiated concept that aims to provide lethality and survivability to a traditional three-ship amphibious ready group by integrating multi-mission surface combatants and F-35B into amphibious operations.

 

Here Is Italy’s First F-35B Lightning II Flying In Full Italian Navy Markings For The First Time Today

The aircraft will be officially delivered to the Marina Militare next week. Today it flew for the first time in full Italian Navy markings.

On Jan. 18, the first Italian F-35B, the first short-take and vertical landing Lightning II aircraft assembled outside the US, designated BL-1, carried out a test flight in STOVL mode at Cameri airfield, home of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, in northwestern Italy, sporting full Italian Navy markings for the very first time.

Aviation photographer and friend Franco Gualdoni was there and took the photographs of the F-35B flying in the early afternoon sun.

The aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01, will be taken on charge by the Marina Militare with a ceremony scheduled at the FACO on Jan. 25, 2018. After delivery, the aircraft will be transferred to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving (most probably) to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

The aircraft, that had successfully completed its maiden flight on Oct. 24, 2017, sports a livery quite similar to the one of the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati: it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the MARINA text.

Italy plans to procure 90 F-35s: 60 F-35As for the Air Force and 30 F-35Bs for both the ItAF and Italian Navy. The Navy’s STOVL aircraft will replace the ageing Harrier jump jets at Grottaglie airbase, in southeastern Italy, and aboard the Cavour aircraft carrier.

The F-35B MM7451 during its test flight in full Marina Militare markings (Credit: Franco Gualdoni)

 

U.S. Marine Corps Planning F-35B Deployment to CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility To Get “First Taste Of Combat” In 2018

The USMC may have their “baptism of fire” with the F-35B next year.

The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.

According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […]  The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”

The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).

The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula. Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.

A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 departs Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 18, 2017. The F-35B Lightning II aircraft joined United States Air Force, Japan and Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft in a sequenced bilateral show of force over the Korean peninsula. This show-of-force mission demonstrated sequenced bilateral cooperation, which is essential to defending U.S. allies, partners and the U.S. homeland against any regional threat. Note the AIM-120 barely visible inside the weapons bay (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

Touchdown imminent during “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the USS America (LHA-6) November 19, 2016. (Todd Miller)

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity  to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command & Control (C2) capability.
If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.

Top image credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun