Lockheed Martin's F-35 Achieves First Vertical Landing

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Lockheed Martin's F-35 Achieves First Vertical Landing


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Shortly after 1 p.m. on March 18, F-35B BF-1 performed the first STOVL landing at the Pax River hover pad.
“Today’s vertical landing onto a 95-foot square pad showed that we have the thrust and the control to maneuver accurately both in free air and in the descent through ground effect,” said   F-35 Lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson.

Tomlinson performed an 80-knot (93 miles per hour) short takeoff from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., at 1:09 p.m. EDT. About 13 minutes into the flight, he positioned the aircraft 150 feet above the airfield, where he commanded the F-35 to hover for approximately one minute then descend to the runway.

“The low workload in the cockpit contrasted sharply with legacy short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) platforms,” said Tomlinson, a retired Royal Air Force fighter pilot and a BAE Systems employee since 1986. “Together with the work already completed for slow-speed handling and landings, this provides a robust platform to expand the fleet’s STOVL capabilities.”

Today’s vertical landing confirmed the aircraft’s required ability to land in confined areas both ashore and afloat.

"Having the F-35B perform its first vertical landing underscores the reality of the Marine Corps achieving its goal of an all STOVL force," said LtGen George J. Trautman III, Deputy Commandant for Aviation.  "Being able to operate and land virtually anywhere, the STOVL JSF is a unique fixed wing aircraft that can deploy, co-locate, train and fight with Marine ground forces while operating from a wider range of bases ashore and afloat than any other TacAir platform."

On April 2, Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron - 501 (VMFAT-501) will officially stand up as part of the Joint Integrated Training Center located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.  The work being done at Patuxent River will enable the Marine Corps to start training Marine pilots and maintainers during the fall of 2010.

The Marine Corps anticipates reaching JSF F-35B initial operational capability in December 2012.  IOC assets will include the first F-35B training squadron of 15 aircraft in VMFAT-501 at Eglin AFB, an operational test and evaluation detachment of 4 aircraft at Edwards AFB, and VMFA-332, the Corps' first operational squadron of 10 aircraft at MCAS Yuma.  The VMFA-332 aircraft will be equipped, manned and trained to execute Marine missions and deploy ashore or afloat.

The STOVL F-35B Lightning II is scheduled to replace three different variants of USMC combat aircraft (F/A-18, AV-8B and EA-6B).  This 5th generation multi-role fighter has significant advantages over the Marine Corps' current tactical fixed-wing squadrons and will dramatically amplify strategic agility, vastly enhance operational flexibility and capabilities, provide tactical adaptability for basing options ashore and afloat, and reduce aviation training and maintenance costs across the Corps.

The STOVL JSF is expected to carry more ordnance with greater range than the F/A-18 Hornet, operate from austere expeditionary environments like the AV-8B Harrier, and ultimately possess electronic warfare technology similar to the EA-6B Prowler.

BF-1 is one of three F-35B STOVL jets currently undergoing flight trials at the Patuxent River test site.

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