Well, no one can say the Lockheed JSF team hasn’t had a good week. First came the hover and short takeoff and short landing. Today, they capped it with the plane’s first true vertical landing.
The Marines were officially happy. “Having the F-35B perform its first vertical landing underscores the reality of the Marine Corps achieving its goal of an all STOVL force,” said Lt. Gen. George Trautman, deputy commandant for aviation. “Being able to operate and land virtually anywhere, the STOVL JSF is a unique fixed wing aircraft that can deploy, co-locate, train and fight with Marine ground forces while operating from a wider range of bases ashore and afloat than any other TacAir platform.”
Of course, there are always skeptics out there, thank goodness. “I’ll look forward to the STOVL ops,” Winslow Wheeler, at the Center for Defense Information and all-about-town defense budget guru, said in an e-mail. “They say in their statement they will perform at ‘unprepared fields.’ By ‘field’ do they mean cow pasture or Hartfield Atlanta International. I suspect the latter, but they’ll sell the former.”
The plane, BF-1, took off at 80 knots using less than 1,000 feet of runway from the Pax River strip at 1:09 p.m. Then the pilot brought the plane 150 feet above the airfield, hovered and then descended to the runway.
Here’s what if looked like:
That’s 41,000 pounds of thrust that the pilot is riding down. According to Lockheed, the approach included “the first free air hover” for the F-35B.
The Marines noted that they will stand up their official test squadron on April 2 — Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) — at Eglin Air Force Base.