After the first vertical landing at sea of the F-35B in 2011 and its first night-time vertical landing in April of this year, the two feats have now been combined in the first night-time vertical landing at sea of the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The landing took place in the Atlantic Ocean on the US Navy’s multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on August 14 with US Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Russell Clift at the controls.

"It all went extremely well," said Clift. "Throughout the night we conducted eight successful launches and landings, so we're on target and quickly gaining experience with F-35B night operations at sea."

The milestone was part of a week of Ship Suitability Sea Trials – also known as Developmental Test Phase Two (DT-II) – that kicked off on August 12 when two F-35Bs (BF-01 and BF-05) touched down on the USS Wasp. By August 18, the two aircraft had completed a total of 40 short takeoffs and 41 vertical landings.

Although Clift took the honors of being the first to complete a night-time at sea landing in an F-35B, UK Squadron Leader Jim Schofield claimed his own first, becoming the first international pilot to carry out a sea-based launch and landing in an F-35B during DT-II.

The F-35B is scheduled to enter initial operating capability with the US Marine Corps in 2015, with sea-trials of the US Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier variant scheduled for the end of 2014.

The first night-time vertical landing aboard the USS Wasp can be seen in the video below.

Sources: Lockheed Martin, US Navy