Lockheed: F-35B is ready for sea. Is the ship?

Lockheed: F-35B is ready for sea. Is the ship?

Lockheed Martin’s top man on the F-35 Lightning II said he is confident the Marines’ B model is ready for its first at-sea tests next month aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. In fact, he said, the tests are as much for the ship as they are for the aircraft.

Lockheed Executive Vice President Tom Burbage told reporters at the Air Force Association’s trade show outside Washington that, when it’s time for the real thing, it may actually prove easier for pilots to land at sea than at a ground base. Lockheed and the Marines have been testing B vertical landings in all manner of crosswinds and even tail winds, Burbage said, but on a ship, pilots usually can land straight into the wind, making for at least a more predictable dynamic. Navy warships can turn into the wind, or create it with their speeds, to help with flight operations.

What the Navy and Marines really want to find out from the Wasp tests is how the ships behave when Bs take their now-routine short takeoffs and vertical landings onto a steel deck in very close quarters with sailors, Marines and sensitive equipment. For years, naval aviation skeptics have imagined horror stories in which the B’s powerful jet blast melts a ship’s flight deck, or blows off radomes, antennae or who knows what other important topside gear on Navy amphibs.

Burbage said the Marines and Navy will add many new instruments to the Wasp and the two Bs for these tests, to “characterize the environment” when the jets are flying on and off the ship. Burbage said the current plans are for the Bs to make 67 vertical landings on the Wasp and at least that many short takeoffs.

As for the Navy’s C-model, it will make its first catapult launches and arrested landings on an aircraft carrier next spring, Burbage said, although he reminded reporters the program has already finished its catapult testing. Engineers needed to learn how to rig a Navy jet blast deflector so that its cooling systems could accommodate the one very hot point where the C will blast it on takeoff, as opposed to the two hot points of the twin-engined F/A-18.

As we’ve seen before, DepSecDef Ash Carter wouldn’t positively affirm that successful ship tests would be enough to get the B off DoD’s “probation,” but they’ll be a major milestone. And, provided things go well, the photos and video of the Bs operating on the Wasp will hit Washington while it’s still in budget battle deja vu, affording a big new bargaining chip for defenders of the program. Lockheed may do its best to put them on every bus, inside the Metro, in every newspaper — anywhere it thinks it can catch the eyes of Hill people.

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Well Tom Burbage has never been wrong on any of his past F-35 comments either. has he?

Im waiting for that cloud of smoke and streaks of flame that say that the flight deck “no-skid” has not appreciated the F-35 exhaust! :-) It gets toasty warm with Harriers and…. I bet with the F-35 its going to be a really “hot time in the old town” for the first touchdown and takeoff. Whatcha wanna bet that the first few, and probably most of the rest of the landings, will be STOL with no hover allowed? :-) Takeoffs might be the sportiest since USUALLY those are the heaviest, require some engine “run up” in place, and need a higher throttle setting.

And for the C-model, a trap and a cat shot is usually good enough to find anything truely underdesigned from a structural standpoint, so.… bring it on! :-)

Hopefully, they will not be doing many heavy weight VTOLs, since the plan was to only launch via STO. There has been plenty of model testing of the non-skid and the exhaust so there shouldn’t be any “surprises”

The question is — can it land vertically fully loaded after an aborted takeoff? The next question is — if the first attempt (fully loaded) at vertical landing is waved off, can it then make a second vertical landing? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then the B must be cancelled.

The B was designed to land with a set amount of bringback weapons, which included all internally carried weapons. If it had a full fuel load, there should be no issue in making a second vertical landing.

The scorch marks wont lie! Lets hope it goes well.

I’m afraid that your scorch marks comments are most likely accurate. The F135 exhaust temps run around 1700 F and are traveling at over Mach 1. The heat and blast effects from the F-35B overall will be much greater then the Harrier.

The integrated power pack (IPP) exhaust nozzle for the F-35B points down and also had to be redesigned to prevent heat damage to landing pads and ship decks. The IPP runs all the time and is in burn mode whenever the aircraft stops.

The IPP in the F-35C points skyward so deck damage should not be a problem when the Naval variant is tested in the future.

Well the B with only internal weapon load is a non starter. It needs pylons and external weapons to even be in the ball park of the marginal Harrier. The concept is flawed from the get go. Adding stealth to an airframe the USMC will maintain is crazy. I maintained the F-4’s in the 60’s. Nothing has changed. The first time a shop is called to the flight deck to troubleshoot, a tool bag will be dropped on the wing and boots will follow. Stealth will be a thing of the past. It’s all about close air support, kicking in the door, not sneaking up to the window and tossing in a 250 lb small diameter bomb. Check out the B in several years. Pylons, external tanks and you have a 100 Mil per copy AV-8B. Buy more Hornets.

Steve, Semper Fi!

Great post, Steve and a very fair assessment of the total picture.

One could look at the logistical and maintenance footprint and demand on the current Harrier, while at sea (e.g. for a mere 6-ship complement) and then extrapolate the requirements and demands to serve 6x stealthy STOVL with 5x the avionics, the 6 million lines of code, multiple computers and all the VLO to sustain, while at sea! They’ll probably need extra bunks for at least 50 various private contract support staff to assist the Marine squadron!? Interesting perhaps, for comparison sake only, that for one F-35B enabling a 2 hr sortie off a flatdeck, the Marines could procure and operate 6 Super Tucano with a 6 hr patrol sortie (for 36+ air hrs) off the same deck. How would these two capabilities compare (2hrs 1 jet, vs 36 hrs, 6 distributed platforms) in the armed recon, or even CAS role?!?

By abandoning the AV-8B and F-35B you lose the faster response times, air-to-air capability, and greater survivability against modern air defense systems. I think the USAF could use a number of AT-6s or Super Tucanos but I don’t see the space for them in the USMC or Navy. Something like the OV-10X might work for the USMC though.

The Harrier has a far from perfect safety record, and requires a lot of maintenance work as well. Even factoring in stealth, the F-35B promises to be an improvement in both areas. As far as avionics, you’d still have the same amount of code if you were trying to stuff all of those systems into another aircraft. Yet the end result in terms of sensor integration and networking is very impressive.

There is no such thing as a landing after an aborted take-off.

The F-35B’s bring back fuel reserve requirement is less than that for the F-35C because there is such an infinitesimally low probalility of a vertical landing being waved off. But STILL all three F-35 varients have a fuel reserve to fly to an alternate landing cite are part of their COMBAT RADIUS KPP requirement.

Quite the opposite. Two guided AtG munitions + two AAMs is pretty much commonplace for most missions these days. And sorry but tossing ‘250 lb’ SDBs (which have a range of 60nm by the way) IS the future (& the F-35 can carry EIGHT of them internally).

This is not the 1960’s. The F-35 does most of the troubleshooting for you.

Stealth is the future! Without it you are an ‘easy’ target.

In several years the F-35B will cost LESS thany $100 million each.

In a V/STOVL takeoff, you are totally dependent on engine thrust to avoid “landing”, although Id suppose that only in the sweetest of situations would it be called a landing if the engine so much as burped during takeoff. So,.… if something happened that made you want to “abort” a takeoff, I think that alternate landing sites are somewhat of an non sequitur. I do agree with your supposition that a wave off of a vertical landing is probably not a common event. Once this aircraft, or a Harrier is committed to a landing I think its a done deed.

The plane takes off with a full load of weapons and fuel. The pilot finds something wrong and must circle back to the small deck ship and must land vertically. Can he do so?
In addition to this scenario, lets say the deck was not clear after he engaged the liftfan for vertical descent, so the pilots landing is waved off. Can the pilot circle for a second vertical landing? Or is a crash on deck going to happen.?
I think there is less risk with a conventional landing on a full deck carrier, but that is not what the B has been sold to us for.
Seems like the C is the way to go. As usual, the Brits seem to know what they are doing. Do we?

What about the 40 million sq ft of AM2 matting that Marines use in FOBs? I am told that the F35 B will melt them period.

I live here in Marietta, GA and have seen the F-22 do its tricks. The F-22 can produce so many G-s no human pilot would survive max F-22 evasion or attack G-s. Now all of a sudden the public hears little information on the 350 million dollar per unit F-22. Has the F-22 doing any missions in Iraq or Afghanistan. With 25% of American children go hungry every day and 30% of the US population live below the poverty line why are we spending billions and trillions dollars on weapons systems that far exceeds their worth of advanced technology. I’m a Marine Vietnam Veteran the F-4s could only stay on station about 30 min before going for more fuel. I think it was called the sky hawk which the S Nam flew for air support who could stay on station for a couple of hours before going for fuel. Barely used f-4s on the dmz as a forward observer but the c-130 saved our buts for many hours at a time. Also the Bronco could be decked out in Air to Ground weapons for hours to support us grunts.

There is no opportunity to ‘land’ from an aborted take-off. Either the plane manages to stop before going off the end of the runway/deck or it doesn’t — if it does then the take-off was sucessfully aborted…

Of coarse he can. The pilot just has to bring the aircraft down to its maximum landing weight. In pretty much all aircraft that requires AT LEAST buring off/dumping a considerable amount of fuel.

An F-35B pilot would not be cleared to land UNTIL the deck is clear.

The F-35C can not operate from LHAs/LHDs. The USN is not procuring F-35Bs to operate from its CVNs, the USMC is procuring them to operate off our LHAs/LHDs & ‘short’ (<1000′) runways. Thankfully the Royal Navy was able to overrule the British politicians & SWITCH from the F-35B to the F-35C as its new carriers are large enough to do so. Italy & Spain however can not.

So we agree, conventional Naval fighters can have an aborted landing, recircle and try again. The B cannot when landing vertically (as opposed to a conventional landing on a full size carrier).
Italy and Spain are both broke, perhaps even more than the US, doubt they can continue with JSF.

“can it land vertically fully loaded after an aborted takeoff?“
Of course not. It only has a 5000 lb bring-back.

“bring back fuel reserve requirement is less than that for the F-35C because there is such an infinitesimally low probalility of a vertical landing being waved off.”

Huh? I’ll say it has less fuel reserve. Probably less than half. There is not a low probability of being waved-off in a vertical landing. The operators want it, and that is why the capability is specified.

So, Tacair…what do you think of notional operational concepts that put the F-35B on helipad ships and godforsaken forward operating locations?

As always, pfcem is right on target.

So, here we go…more emphasis on carriers andtweeking super planes to fly on and off of them? Where is the sanity? We can’t afford to house, feed and educate our population, yet the old birds on retiners or retired are still trying to do business as usual. Meanwhile, the Chinese are gonna develop standoff weapons to sink the carriers while they take back Tiawon and take over Africa and South America and their resources while cutting off our loans. You guys are a bad joke!

In the discussions of the F-35 program, we keep mumbling about alternatives. While certinaly not going to go nose to nose with any of the new Russian or Chinese fighters, here is an interesting little sniglet on another option that seems to be getting some traction for at least ONE of the F-35 roles.… . .

The Brits had to cancel due to funds, social progrems broke them.

There are very few if an AV8 waveoffs, F-35B will have less. Most all of them have been due to having to much fuel on board, if that is the case you have enough to go around. The F35 will have a higher bring back than the AV8. I assume it can jettision ord and fuel just like the AV8 and Hornet (for immediate landing). It is much easier to stop and land than land and stop. The waveoff/bolter that happens with CV airplanes does not happen with V/STOL, no need to argue this point it is a fact.

Engine runs ups in AV8s are to verify it works and aren’t done with nozzles down. I doubt the Navy will every allow anything other than a vertical landing on an amphib, so I’ll take that bet, I do a pay check. We always take off at mil, who doesn’t?

Hornets can’t do what AV8s can (and vice versa), and neither can do what an F35 can. Hornets will not solve future issues. If we don’t mind not being in the fight we can do without the stealth and sesors the F35 brings. A prop compliment would be nice if there is not threat. I wonder if the downed A/F pilot thought that the quick response of the AV8s in Lybia was subpar, or marginal.

what you mean by this. The Brits had to cancel due to funds, social progrems broke them.

Why in the world is there concern if the JBD’s can handle a single engine Afterburner or hotpoint as they are calling it in this article? Did they all forget we operated with single engine afterburners with the F-8 Crusaders for decades??? Come on engineers work smarter not harder…


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