The F35B Lightning II has successfully completed another major milestone as the fifth generation stealth fighter was launched into the skies from a ski-jump, Friday 19 June.
The land-based test — conducted by the F35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force — took place at Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, US.
The joint U.S.-U.K. test team will continue phase I of ski jump testing this summer in anticipation of eventual U.K. aircraft carrier operations.
Peter Wilson is the BAE Systems test pilot and ski jump project lead for a highly diverse cadre of technicians, engineers, administrative support staff and test pilots based at the Pax River ITF and in the UK.
Friday’s F35B ski jump was a great success for the joint ski jump team. I’m exceptionally proud of this team. Their years of planning, collaboration and training have culminated in a fantastic achievement that advances the future capabilities of the aircraft and its integration into UK operations.
For more than 30 years, the U.K. has used the ski jump approach to carrier operations as an alternative to the catapults and arresting gear used aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.
The shorter UK carriers feature an upward-sloped ramp at the bow of the ship. Curved at its leading edge, a ski-jump ramp simultaneously launches aircraft upward and forward, allowing aircraft to take off with more weight and less end-speed than required for an unassisted horizontal launch aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.
As expected, aircraft BF-04 performed well and I can’t wait until we’re conducting F35 ski jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carrier. Until then, the de-risking that we’re able to achieve now during phase I of our ski jump testing will equip us with valuable data we’ll use to fuel our phase II efforts.
The F35B’s design allows it to automatically position the control surfaces and nozzles for takeoff; a unique capability compared with previous STOVL aircraft. Such automation frees up pilot capacity and provides an added safety enhancement.
This test marks the second time in one week that the F35 Lightning II program made aviation history. Royal Air Force Test Pilot Squadron Leader Andy Edgell released two inert 500-pound dual mode Paveway IV precision-guided bombs from aircraft BF-03 over the Atlantic Test Ranges 12 June.