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F-35B makes first vertical night landing at sea


August 22, 2013

The F-35B comes in for its first night-time at sea vertical landing (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The F-35B comes in for its first night-time at sea vertical landing (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

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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

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

We who are old enough remember the Hawker Siddeley Harrier developed in the 1960? and where crusial in the defgending of the Falkland Islands during that war 30 years ago. also VTOL

Knut Sulen

The P1227 took 9 years to develop into the Harrier from 1957 - 1966 at the point where the first production version was shipped. The X35 first flew in 2001 and we are at least another 2 years from a production aircraft (14 years). The US 2001-2011 built and flew over 4000 UAV drones, many now armed, the implications are obvious. The F35 is looking at an air superiority role in a time when no ememy aircraft could survive a drone and missile attack on the ground (i.e Frances Armée de l'Air has over 600 aircraft which simply would be swarmed by this armarda of drones plus the US cruise missile stock).


@ Knut Sulen

I do. I also Remember the Mach 2 Mafia claiming that the Argentinian pilots weren't trained well enough to know to turn when being shot at. I called bullcookies on that at the time and history has come down on my side.

@ L1ma

So. There was a lot less bureaucratic nonsense to deal with when the Harrier was designed and introduced. the P-51 went from a signed contract to the prototype making its first flight in 149 days and was in combat later that same year. The F-35 is not an air superiority fighter she is primarily a ground attack plane. Going up against a competent air defense system drones will fall like skeet. Also hitting targets of opportunity with drones requires 2 way communications this can be jammed.


"The P1227"(sic)

You're thinking f the P.1127 not the "P1227". Any idea where Hawker would have been without all of that MWDP funding from the United States since the UK wouldn't fund the project?

"1957 - 1966 at the point where the first production version was shipped."

The first pre-production aircraft flew on 31 August 1966. The order for production aircraft wasn't issued until 1967. The first GR.1 flew on 28 December 1967. The first GR.1 was delivered to the RAF on 18 April 1969 at Wittering. That's a timeframe of 12 years not 9 as you earlier asserted.

"we are at least another 2 years from a production aircraft"

LRIP aircraft are already being produced in Fort Worth.

Was the P.1127 a fly by wire aircraft? How many lines of code did the P.1127 utilize? etc. Big difference between the capabilities of the P.1127 and the F-35.

"The F35 is looking at an air superiority role"

The F-35 is a multirole fighter not an air superiority fighter.

AA Cunningham

How much did this thing cost again...?

Richard Auchus

Shouldn't have been very difficult with such calm seas/water. I'd like to see them do it again with the ship rocking. Not that impressed.

James Kroeger

Drones are making the F-35B obsolete. Why keep spending billions on it?


First & Foremost, focusing on only ONE system is Gigantically Flawed. Anyone recall how well the French Maginot line or Hitler's Atlantic Wall fared upon attack? Drones are great but still limited. A man in an airplane is still an irreplaceable combatant. Next, not to quibble, but the article said that there were 41 landings and 40 launches. Don't you generally want the number of landings & takeoffs to pretty much be equal? Hey, I'm just noticing what they wrote, not be judgmental ... It is a lot like with subs where the number surfacings should equal the number of dives..


@ StWils

The national Socialists went around the Maginot line. Hitler's Atlantic Wall was hit at its weakest point in a manner that the Rommel did not think that the Americans had in them. (Coming in on the heals of a storm.)

@ James Kroeger

One step at a time.


I second ezeflyer's comment.

This is all PR to calm the public that not all funds are going into the lucrative branch of UCAVs.

Flight control's proverbial tether of communication to UCAVs are an administrative control, not a technical one. Not for a number of years.

UCAVs can fend for themselves, and while at present will struggle in a dogfight, for targeting and defending against enemy ground forces they would do just fine.

Besides, one could argue that jamming of UAV electronics is no different jamming a manned vehicle. Either way substantially reduces effectiveness.

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