The US Marine Corps‘ (USMC) F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) has successfully conducted first night landing aboard the US Navy’s first Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, the USS Wasp (LHD 1) during the second at-sea F-35 developmental test event.
The short takeoff and vertical landing variant (STOVL) variant of the JSF has conducted night landing at sea as part of the second of three planned tests, designed to expand the shipboard operating envelope of the USMC F-35B aircraft.
F-35 Marine Corps test pilot Lieutenant colonel, CR Jimi Clift said: "It all went extremely well. Eight successful landings in one night, so we’re tracking favorably along the learning curve."
The USMC will conduct a series of trials of two F-35B aircraft to determine their suitability for sea-based operations during the 18-day long ship trials.
In addition to expanding the aircraft’s allowable wind envelope for launch and recovery, the F-35B pilots will perform their first ever night operations at sea, initial mission systems evaluations at sea and evaluate the dynamic interface associated with aircraft operations on a moving flight deck.
The Lockheed Martin-built aircraft will be further evaluated for shipboard sustainment, as part of the testing.
The first shipboard testing phase for the USMC’s F-35B aircraft variant was successfully completed in October 2011.
Capable of flying at a maximum speed of 1,960km/h, the F-35B is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburner turbofan engine and has combat radius and maximum range of 833km and 1,667km respectively.
Prior to sea trials, the two F-35B aircraft have undergone electromagnetic environmental effects testing while the Litton Ingalls shipbuilding-built USS Wasp has underwent a series of shipyard modifications to accommodate the F-35B.
The USMC will declare the aircraft’s initial operating capability in 2015, following successful completion of upcoming sea trials.
Image: a USMC’s F-35B aircraft performing night landing on USS Wasp. Photo: courtesy of MCSN Michael T Forbes.