The US Navy has received a third Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II short take-off / vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

Lockheed Martin F-35 programme integration executive vice-president Tom Burbage said the third of five STOVL test jets joined the F-35 fleet at the test centre as the flight test programme initiated the expansion of the F-35’s flight-sciences envelope.

“Our focus remains on fielding the F-35’s tremendous capabilities to our warfighters, recapitalising our nation’s aging fighter fleet, and meeting our commitments to the F-35 partner nations,” he said.

The fighter jet joins two other F-35Bs at the navy test site, and will be used primarily to evaluate vehicle systems, expand the aircraft’s aerodynamic and structural-loads envelope as well as for weapons testing for most of the weapons the jet uses in the battlefield.

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The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter that combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs.

The F-35 is being developed by Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.