The US Marine Corps' (USMC) F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) has successfully conducted its first night flights at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, US.
Undertaken by the USMC F-35B training squadron VMFAT-501, the flights were put in place to train new pilots. The JSF was flown by major Paul Holst, an instructor pilot with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501.
Holst said: "The F-35B performed perfectly.
"This demonstrates that the aircraft is maturing in the way we're expecting it to. We're on our way to where we need to go.
"All the systems and lighting in the airplane are different at night.
"There are fewer outside references and things happen a little faster, so you have to pay more attention to your sensors."
Currently under development in three variants, the F-35 JSF is a fifth-generation, multirole fighter aircraft designed for an array of ground attacks, reconnaissance and air defence missions with stealth capability.
The variants include a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) aircraft for the US and allied air forces, a STOVL fighter for USMC and the UK Royal Navy, and a carrier version (CV) for the US Navy.
The US Air Force is set to buy 1,763 F35A CTOL aircraft and USMC 340 STOVL jets, as well as 80 CV variants.
The JSF programme receives funding from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.
Image: F-35B Lightning II aircraft prior to its first night flight at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, US. Photo: courtesy of Cpl Sarah Cherry / marines.mil.