Tag Archives: Short Take-Off Vertical Landing

The F-35B in this flight test photo looks like a Transformer in the act of transforming

The following air-to-air photo shows an F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter, during a test flight.

Maybe it’s because it was taken as it was extending the landing gear with opened lift fan doors for vertical flight, but don’t you think the most costly aircraft in U.S. history looks like a Transformer in the act of transforming?

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

A glimpse into the future with the first F-35C catapult launch video

Ok, it isn’t taken on the deck of USS Nimitz. However, the following video, just released by the US Navy, gives you an idea of what US (and British) naval aviation will look like in the future. Just imagine some more green, blue, yellow, red jackets, the typical “island” of a supercarrier in the background, steam coming out of the catapults, and the sea at the end of the deck. To be honest, to add some more realism, we should add some payload (weapons and tanks) to that clean and light aircraft….

The video was taken at Lakehurst on Jul. 27, 2011 when Navy test pilot Lt. Christopher Tabert took off with the F-35C CF-3, the  designated carrier suitability testing aircraft, launched by a steam catapult during catapult and jet blast deflector testing.

Noteworthy, as the F-18, the F-35C has the rudders deflected inwards during catapult launches to help the nose raising as the aircraft leaves the ship.

The F-35C is the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, with larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for slower catapult launch and landing approach speeds and deck impacts associated with the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment than the A (Conventional) and B (STOVL) variant.

How to Fly the Harrier Jump Jet | Danger Room | Wired.com

A few days ago, I published a post to explain how the F-35 JSF flies in both conventional and STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) Harrier-like mode. The following article provides some interesting info and images about the AV-8B, a version much similar to the one flown by the Marina Militare (Italian Navy):

The Harrier made its final flight with the British RAF last week, marking one end to the jet famous for being able to take off and land vertically. The jet’s recently declassified flight manual shows just how extraordinary it is.

read the rest here: How to Fly the Harrier Jump Jet | Danger Room | Wired.com.

Aircraft carriers with no aircraft…..

The following defense news article deserves a read:

RAF: Harrier Retirement Won’t Hurt F-35C Skills
Published: 17 Dec 2010 08:55
One of Britain’s senior Royal Air Force commanders has rebutted suggestions that retiring the Harrier GR9 will damage the ability to regenerate skills to operate the new F-35C variant of the Joint Strike Fighter off a new aircraft carrier when it enters service around 2020. “Anybody who thinks that operating a Harrier today was somehow going to link you with the F-35C on the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier is . It is just not true,” said Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell.
The Harrier is a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft, while the F-35C is a conventional aircraft requiring catapults and arrestor wires to operate. The latter aircraft is destined to be used on the new 65,000-ton carriers now being built by a BAE Systems-led alliance. Britain originally intended to acquire the STOVL F-35B version of the Joint Strike Fighter, but as part of the strategic defense and security review in October opted to switch to the conventional F-35C variant. At the same time, the British government decided to immediately ax the joint RAF/Royal Navy Harrier GR9 force and decommission the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, leaving Britain without a maritime air strike capability until 2020, when the F-35C and the Queen Elizabeth-class warship are available. Britain’s joint force of 79 Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Harrier GR9’s aircraft took off into retirement Nov. 15 from their base at Cottesmore in eastern England and will now be scrapped, unless they can be sold or a new use for them is found. The Daily Telegraph newspaper said earlier this week the MoD was looking at a proposal to create a reserve squadron using the Harriers. The decision to decommission the Harrier and the Ark Royal has caused huge controversy, in part because its opponents say it will be difficult to regain the skills needed to run carrier strike operations in the future. Bagwell said he does not underestimate the challenges and risks involved in building the F-35C operation, but he thinks the RAF and the RN forces would have faced the issue regardless of whether the Harrier had stayed in service.
“The techniques and procedures to recover a conventional carrier aircraft using catapult launches and arrestor gear recoveries, or ‘cats and traps,’ are totally different from that of a STOVL aircraft,” he said. “That is just as true for the aircrew as it is for the ships crew. Whilst the Harrier would have preserved the requisite skill sets for the F35B STOVL variant of the Joint Combat Aircraft” – the name the British called their JSF program – “they are largely irrelevant to that needed to operate the F35C.
“Effectively, we need to build the skill sets for the new aircraft and carrier configuration from scratch. We all ready have plans in place to begin that build up over the next 10 years with our allies and partners.” He said it was a “tall order,” but regaining carrier skills is a problem Britain had previously faced and overcome. One senior Royal Navy commander agreed with Bagwell’s assessment and said there was a much bigger question mark over regaining deck skills than the capabilities of pilots Bagwell, who commands all of Britain’s fast jet operations, said the RAF and the RN “have 10 years to get our act in gear and understand what operating the F-35C variant means for training and other preparation. Some we will have to learn from the USA and France,” he said. The British already have a pilot exchange program with the U.S. with officers flying carrier operations with the F-18. Bagwell said he was confident British pilots would also be flying French Navy jets as well “We will be flying Rafales from French carriers within a few years. I’m sure of it,” he said.
The British are targeting the availability of a single squadron of F-35Cs by 2020 to equip a joint RAF/RN operation. Briefing reporters last week, Bagwell said that would require an initial order for about 40 aircraft. How the aircraft will be employed in the future has yet to be worked out, but said he thought the aircraft would not be tied to the aircraft carrier. “They are there to project air power. It’s irrelevant where they are launched from. The Royal Navy will hate me for this, but sometimes they will be launched from the deck of an aircraft carrier for good reason. Other times it will be in-country closer to the problem,” he said. Either way, he said the F-35C gave the British better deep penetration, ISTAR and other capabilities than the more limited STOVL F-35B.

Anything weird? Apparently, not. As Bagwell affirms, the Harrier could not contribute to generate the skills required to fly the F-35C since the conventional carrier variant has not a STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) capability. Right. Unfortunately, what must be underlined is that Britain had originally chosen the STOVL variant before the Strategic Defense and Security Review in October deciced to switch to the C variant making the Harrier GR9s APPARENTLY useless. It’s a matter of logic: the Harrier was not scrapped because of the C variant; the C variant was chosen because the Harrier was sacrificed (along with the Ark Royal aircraft carrier). With this decision, UK will not have aircraft to equip aircraft carriers until 2020. Since the development of the F-35 is taking more than expeceted in both terms of time and costs, was this the right pick? I don’t think so.

Below, a of RN Sea Harrier FA.2

Two RAF Harrier GR7s (the left one photographed during an air-to-air refueling mission on board a Spanish KC-130 from Aviano in 2000; the right one taking off during RIAT 2002).

Is it Italy facing the same risk? Absolutely not. The current scenario offers just two options for the Italian Navy that can’t afford building a new catapult-equipped aircraft carrier in the short-mid period:

1) the F-35B is axed and the I GrupAer AV-8B+ will keep flying from the Cavour aircraft carrier until the aircraft lifetime expires

2) the Italian Harriers are replaced by the STOVL F-35B as soon as it becomes available.

Below, AV-8B+ Harrier of the Marina Militare refueling from a B707 tanker.

How does the F-35 JSF fly and fight?

In May 2006, I wrote an article about my experience flying with the F-35 using the Lockheed Martin’s JSF Cockpit demonstrator. Since the article was written only in Italian and many foreign readers have been following my recent comments and articles about the F-35B, the Harrier and the STOVL debate, I thought it could be interesting for them to read it in English, especially because I describe also the way the aircraft flies and the way it transits from horizontal to vertical flight. I will also add the slide which were presented during the press briefing that preceeded the cockpit demo that I received from LM some weeks after my “flight”: even if they are some 5 years old, they provide an interesting look into some of the technologies introduced by the JSF.
Have a good read.

Today (May 9, 2006) I had the opportunity to travel in the future (even if it was a short-range trip, let’s say fifteen years ahead) as I attended an orientation session with the JSF cockpit demonstator. Under the supervision of a Lockheed Martin F-16 pilot, I virtually flew the F-35, a 5th generation highly advanced fighter which makes the so-called “sensor fusion” a reality and provides the pilot a stunning situational awareness, while still allowing for simple handling. The first feeling that I had when I was aboard the simulator, hosted by the Comando Squadra Aerea of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) at Centocelle, Rome, was that of being in front of a popular flight simulator from Digital Image Design: “Super EF-2000”. SEF2000 is a PC game that came out in 1997 and that I enjoyed a lot in 1998-99. The graphics for that time was excellent, the scenario’s complexity was good, the only flaw was the being too “easy”. It was basically a game and not a real flight simulator like Microsoft Flight Simulator or Falcon 4.0. The flight model was realistic but the plane was too easy to fly even for a newbie and the information provided by the avionics was too “user friendly”, rather different from those actually provided by aircraft of the 3rd generation. Well, I found the same easiness, the same “at a glance” symbology right in the JSF. The aircraft does not have a HUD (Head Up Display), but has one big touch screen that can be configured at will by tapping the screen with your fingers (like a PDA). The information normally presented to the pilot in the HUD are “projected” directly into the pilot’s helmet that is capable, through the sensors of the aircraft, to see in all directions through any surface. The pilot then has the impression of flying into the air (without an aircraft surrounding him) and can visually track the enemy aircraft with is sight not hampered by the tail or wing of his plane. Then, during a hypothetical dogfight the pilot is able to follow the enemy aircraft through the cockpit mounts, as if suspended in space. For the rest, as mentioned above, the symbolism is clear enough: the red triangles represent the enemies, the white are “unknown” and the greens are friendly aircraft. The JSF is able to share all its information via a network with the other elements of the flight or with AWACS and Rivet Joints. The menu can be browsed with a cursor moved by a small joystick located on the throttle. In short, everything pretty straightforward for someone like me, used to work at the computer; an experience somewhat “shocking” for those pilots who are accustomed to the analogue Starfighter-style cockpits. Obviously, with the JSF the pilot should focus on mission and information management, rather than worrying about “flying the aircraft”. By means of the DAS, the pilot can see all the electronic emissions on the 360 degress around the aircraft. He may even know the search and tracking frequency of the ground radar. Of particular interest was the opportunity to test the hovering capabilities of the aircraft, that is in fact also available in the STOVL version that interests both the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) and the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF). The pilot, by means of a switch manages the transition from conventional flight to the Harrier-style, so to speak. The aircraft autonomously directs the nozzle and reduces the speed to the IAS (Indicated Air Speed) previously set through a dedicated button on the throttle (which is also operated in automatic mode). Once in “vertical” mode, the aircraft is extremely simple to fly, even thanks to the camera underneath the fuselage that allows the pilot to see downwards, and to decide where to place the wheels. Moving the stick forward or backward the aircraft climbs or descends: with a couple of attempts, you can also manage to maintain the desired vertical speed. With the rudder, you can point the aircraft nose wherever you want and even a novice can land with some precision and without major problems. The only difficulty I encountered during the flight was distinguishing between all the switches on the throttle, that pushed up with the little finger, allowed me to select the autothrottle. As for the rest, airplane is a real dream, extremely easy to be piloted and able to provide the pilot with all the information he might need, in the preferred layout.