The US Marine Corps’ (USMC) seven F-35B Lightning II aircraft are scheduled to start testing aboard the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA 6).
Two F-35Bs will undergo the third shipboard phase of developmental test (DT-III) and five are scheduled to conduct operational testing.
F-35 Patuxent River ITF Government Flight Test director assigned to VX-23 Lieutenant colonel Tom Fields said: "It is exciting to start the execution phase of our detachment with VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1) on USS America.
"During the next three weeks, we will be completing critical flight test for both Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT).
“The F-35 Pax River ITF and VX-23 will be conducting DT work that will establish the boundaries of safe operation for the F-35B in the 3F configuration. VMX-1 will be conducting OT operations focused on preparing maintenance crews and pilots for the first deployment of the F-35B aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1), scheduled to start in just over a year."
The third test phase will carry out F-35B short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) operations in a high-sea state, shipboard landings, and night operations.
VMX-1 commanding officer colonel George Rowell said that operational testing will include simulating extensive maintenance aboard a ship.
USS America has been designed as an aviation-centric platform for operation of the fifth-generation F-35B fighter jet. It is also capable of accommodating MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and a complement of navy and USMC helicopters.
It features an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, increased stowage of parts and equipment, and enhanced aviation fuel capacity.
Image: An F-35B Lightning II aircraft takes off from the deck of USS America. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Wooddy/Released.