The first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter demonstrated the capability to hover during a test flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. on 17th March.
The flight was a significant test mission leading up to the aircraft’s first vertical landing. It confirmed predictions of the jet’s vertical thrust, stability and control in hovering flight.
The flight began with a conventional takeoff before F-35 lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson initiated conversion to STOVL mode at 200 knots airspeed. He then slowed the aircraft to 60 knots and flew a decelerating approach to a zero airspeed hover at 150 feet above the runway. This marked the first free air hover in the F-35B Lightning II aircraft. Upon reaching zero airspeed, the pilot executed test points to confirm the controllability of the aircraft in the hover. After completing all hover test points, the pilot executed a STOVL landing at 70 knots airspeed. Later in the day, BF-1 performed the first F-35 short takeoff. Matching performance predictions, the F-35B accelerated down the runway in STOVL mode and lifted off at 100 knots using less than 1000 feet of runway.
These successful tests are the latest steps in demonstrating the F-35B’s ability to conduct operations from small ships and unprepared fields, enabling expeditionary operations around the globe.