March 19, 2010

F-35B Completes Successful Vertical Landing

A supersonic F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter has successfully completed a vertical touchdown, confirming the craft's ability to land in confined spaces both at land and at sea, manufacturer Lockheed Martin is reporting.

On Thursday, pilot Graham Tomlinson successfully completed a STOVL (short take off, vertical landing) flight in the F35-B, performing a 93mph launch from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, at 1:09pm EDT. Thirteen minutes later, he positioned the aircraft 150-feet above a 95-foot square pad at the base airfield, hovered for about a minute, and then completed the vertical landing.

"Today's vertical landing of the F-35 BF-1 aircraft was a vivid demonstration of innovative technology that will serve the global security needs of the U.S. and its allies for decades to come," Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO Robert J. Stevens said in a statement released following the mission's success. "I am extremely proud of the F-35 team for their dedication, service and performance in achieving this major milestone for the program."

Doug Pearson, the vice president of F-35 Test and Verification Doug Pearson added that the STOVL flight "demonstrates the F-35B's capacity to operate from a very small area at sea or on shore "“ a unique capability for a supersonic, stealth fighter."

Pearson also added that the fifth generation fighter would continue to undergo routine short takeoff and vertical landing tests in order to "further expand the operational flight envelope for the F-35B."

The F-35B Lightning II's first flight was in December 2006. Since then, it has experienced several delays and cost increases. According to a March 18 Reuters report, the projected cost of the stealth fighter has spiked by 60- to 90-percent initial estimates. The Marine Corps is expected to begin using a version of the F-35B in 2012, while Air Force and Navy version may not be ready until 2016.


Image Caption: The Lockheed Martin F-35B begins descending to its first vertical landing March 18, 2010. (Lockheed Martin Photo by Damien A. Guarnieri)


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