The US Marine Corps' (USMC) first operational F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft has successfully completed its first short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) operations aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, US.
F-35B Lightning II test pilot major Richard Rusnok performed the first short landing and takeoff using BF-19 aircraft, as well as the hover and vertical landing outside of a testing environment.
Meanwhile, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) commanding officer lieutenant colonel Jeffrey Scott piloted second F-35B as a chase aircraft.
Designed and developed in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 JSF aircraft can perform takeoffs from smaller amphibious warfare vessels, as well as landings on improvised airstrips.
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.
In addition to replacing the USMC's AV-8B Harrier and F-18 Hornet aircraft, the other JSF variants will replace US Air Force's (USAF) existing F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II fleet, as well as McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet aircraft for the US Navy.
The first F-35B squadron to join Marine Aircraft Group 13, VMFA-121 is scheduled to receive additional F-35s throughout the next eight to 12 months, reaching a total of 16 aircraft by late-2013.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to buy up to 138 F-35B JSF aircraft for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.
Image: A USMC's F-35B aircraft performs vertical landing aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Photo: courtesy of Cpl Ken Kalemkarian.