First F-35 STOVL Aircraft Has Successful First Flight
Just recently the first F-35B STOVL aircraft took to the skies for its first successful test flight. The short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jet took off from the Fort Worth Naval Air Station in Texas on June 12 and the flight lasted about 45 minutes. The test aircraft was piloted by test pilot Graham Tomlinson and the flight marked the second stage in the development of the next-generation of fighting aircraft.
What makes the F35 so special? This aircraft is the first to enjoy the combination of stealth, supersonic speed and a short take-off and landing distance. The STOVL capabilities of the aircraft enable it to operate from small ships and small, remote bases located near combat zones. Its superior capabilities in the air ensure that it will be a most welcome addition to any airbase or naval ship. The aircraft was developed as part of a program to develop a three-variant family of fighters that can be maintained and serviced by a common infrastructure, making them far more accessible and useful than ever before. The project’s prime contractor is Lockheed Martin, while Northrop Grumman serves as a principal member of the team which operating on a global scale. The international collaboration made it possible for a British pilot to be the first to fly a jet which was developed for the U.S. Marine Corps, the RAF and Royal Navy, and the Italian Navy and Air Force.
When the Lightning II project is completed there will be three different variants of the F-35. These are the F-35A, which will have conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) capabilities, the F-35B with its STOVL capabilities, and the F-35C which will serve as a carrier aircraft. The three aircraft variants will be used to replace some 13 different types of aircraft currently in use by at least eleven different nations. The final result is a massive reduction in costs and an increase in ease of maintenance. Northrop Grumman has had a lot to do with the development of the fuselage, radar, electro-optical and communications subsystems and other avionics. They have also seen to the development of pilot and maintenance training courseware and have been developing support hardware and software. With production and development of these excellent aircraft variants moving ahead at top speed, it would seem that it won’t be long before they become the mainstay of military aviation.