BAE Systems Test Pilot Makes First Vertical Landing in the F-35 Lightning II Aircraft

The F-35B begins descending to its first vertical landing.
Source: Lockheed Martin

PATUXENT RIVER, Maryland – BAE Systems‘ test pilot Graham „GT“ Tomlinson has taken to the skies and successfully completed the first ever vertical landing of the short take off vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

BAE Systems is teamed with Northrop Grumman and prime contractor Lockheed Martin in the F-35’s development, testing and production. BAE Systems is developing a variety of structures and systems for the F-35, from the aft fuselage and empennage (vertical and horizontal tails) engineered and produced in the UK to the electronic warfare suite developed in the US. Vertical and horizontal tails are designed and produced by BAE Systems at its Samlesbury, UK facility using the latest digital design and precision manufacturing technologies.

BAE Systems brings key operational effectiveness and ongoing support capabilities to the F-35 program and delivers significant subsystems including electronic warfare, advanced low observable apertures, advanced countermeasure systems, vehicle management computers, and active inceptor systems from a number of facilities in the US. The Company’s Structural & Dynamic Test facility at Brough, Yorkshire, UK will take the lead on static and fatigue testing for the F-35 program.

Mick Ord, BAE Systems F-35 Managing Director added: „This is a significant milestone on the F-35 program and for the development of STOVL technology. It is a great achievement by the whole team to build on BAE Systems‘ short takeoff/vertical landing experience, and to apply it to this outstanding aircraft.“

The STOVL variant of the F-35 has been developed for the U.S. Marine Corps and the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. The first STOVL aircraft has been at Patuxent River since November 15, 2009, completing a series of test flight activities on ground and in air, including static testing and in air conversion flight tests leading up to the first vertical landing.

Graham Tomlinson said: „Today’s vertical landing onto a 95 ft square pad showed that the aircraft has the thrust and the control to manoeuvre accurately both in free air and in descent. Together with the work already completed for slow speed handling and landings, this provides a robust platform to expand the F-35’s STOVL capabilities“.

Vertical Landing technology allows an aircraft to fly in and out of areas as close as possible to the battlefield. BAE Systems pioneered vertical flight through the P1127 and Kestrel programs and has amassed almost 50 years of experience in STOVL development. Harrier (the first operational military aircraft in the world to use revolutionary vertical take-off and landing) entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1969 and is still involved in front-line operations some 40 years after entering service. The AV-8B Harrier II has been operated by the United States Marine Corps since 1985. Through such legacy experience in STOVL technology, BAE Systems is a vital partner not only to the development but also the operational effectiveness and ongoing support of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The other two variants of the aircraft in development are a conventional takeoff and landing aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and a carrier takeoff and landing aircraft for the U.S. Navy. The conventional takeoff pre-production aircraft first flew in December 2006 and the carrier variant is expected to fly in 2010. The F-35 Lightning II is the world’s largest defense program with stated requirements from initial customers at approximately 3,000 aircraft.

About BAE Systems

BAE Systems is a global defence, security and aerospace company with approximately 107,000 employees worldwide. The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. In 2009 BAE Systems reported sales of £22.4 billion (US$ 36.2 billion).

Text- / Bildquelle (source): BAE Systems
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