In the continuing saga of the United States military’s efforts to make sure any of their fighters could take out the rest of the world’s air forces singlehandedly, the Marine Corps’ next generation variant of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the F-35B, has marked another milestone in its journey to full time deployment. On April 2nd, Major C.R. Clift completed the F-35B’s first night time vertical landing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
The April 2nd test was just one of a series of test flights that will prepare the plane for the second of its three more important at-sea tests, currently scheduled to occur later this year. According to Pratt & Whitney, the test was conducted to “gather data on the helmet and lighting conditions for night time operations.”
The F-35B is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighter, but it also has short take-off abilities so that it can launch from “amphibious ships, ski-jump aircraft carriers and expeditionary airfields.” According to Lieutenant General Robert Schmidle, “"The F-35B will enable the Marine Corps to preserve its expeditionary nature and bring the next generation of war fighting capabilities to the Joint Force.” General Schmidle continued, “As the threat environment becomes more sophisticated, the STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) F-35B will enable the Marine Air ground Task Force to project power from amphibious ships as well as austere expeditionary airfields across the entire range of military operations.”
Since the F-35B’s first test flight on June 11, 2008, the plane has completed “approximately 700 short takeoffs and completed more than 380 vertical landings including the first operational vertical landing aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. March 21, 2013.”
Although the Joint Strike Fighter program has been criticized for numerous cost overruns and delays, the craft is finally showing off its capabilities and one can see why the military supported the program through its excruciating growing pains.
Watch a Video of the Test:
Image and Video Courtesy of Lockheed Martin