F-35B takes off from the USS Wasp

Pratt & Whitney has placed orders with Rolls-Royce to produce and support LiftSystems for the US Marine Corps’ (USMC) F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter programme.

Under the $195.5m fifth production lot contract, Rolls-Royce will provide three complete LiftSystems, spares, sustainment, programme management, engineering and field support.

Dave Gordon, Rolls-Royce’s LiftSystem programme director, said: "Rolls-Royce remains focused on further increasing the affordability of LiftSystems for the F-35B Lightning II as the programme continues to grow and mature."

The LiftSystem features the Rolls-Royce LiftFan, driveshaft, three bearing swivel modules and two roll posts on the wings, to provide a stabilising downward thrust.

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The two-stage counter-rotating fan, LiftFan, can generate more than 20,000lbf of thrust from a conventional gas turbine and produce the forward vertical lift while 3BSM swivelling jet pipe will provide the rear vertical lift, by redirecting the main engine thrust downward.

"Rolls-Royce remains focused on further increasing the affordability of LiftSystems for the F-35B Lightning II."

Designed and developed in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 JSF aircraft can perform take offs from smaller amphibious warfare vessels, as well as landings on improvised airstrips.

The aircraft is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburner turbofan engine and has combat radius and maximum range of 833km and 1,667km respectively.

Capable of flying at a maximum speed of 1,960km/h, the single-engine, fifth-generation F-35B fighter aircraft has been designed to replace the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II fighter aircraft which are currently in service with the USMC.

Currently, about 35 Rolls-Royce LiftSystems are operational aboard the Lockheed Martin-built F-35B aircraft, while enabling short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.

In addition to supporting process of F-35B aircraft initial operational capability in 2015, Rolls-Royce will support the USMC’s F-35B aircraft sea trials.

Image: a US Navy’s F-35B aircraft takes off from a aircraft carrier. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Defence Technology