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F-35 Lightning II News

F-35B STOVL achieves successful first flight

June 11, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II made its first flight with BAE test pilot Graham Tomlinson at the controls from Lockheeds Martin's Fort Worth facility.

The first Lockheed Martin F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing stealth fighter takes off from Lockheed Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas, on its inaugural flight Wednesday, June 11. [Lockheed Martin photo]

Tomlinson, a former Royal Air Force Harrier pilot performed a conventional takeoff at 10.17h local time. All initial F-35B flights will be conventional takeoffs and landings, with transitions to short takeoffs, hovers and vertical landings beginning early next year.

The F-35B climbed to 15,000 feet and performed several handling related tests, engine power variations and handling checks before returning to Fort Worth at 11.01h.

"A great team effort led to a relaxed first flight, with the aircraft handling and performing just as we predicted based on STOVL simulator testing and flying the F-35A," Tomlinson said.

The F-35B, also known as BF-1, became the second Lightning II to enter flight test, preceded by the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A, which first flew in December 2006 and has completed 43 flights to date. The F-35B that flew today is the second of 19 System Development and Demonstration aircraft and the first to incorporate new weight-saving design features that will apply to all future airframes.

"This is truly an historic day for aviation and the JSF program," said Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis, F-35 program executive officer. "It caps a commitment we made in August 2006 to the Department of Defense and the U.S. Marine Corps when we said we would fly a production-representative STOVL F-35 by June of 2008 – and the team did it. This flight is also a milestone in a 5,000-sortie flight test program that spans five years but continuously rolls out incremental F-35 war fighting capability. It’s a proud day and proud beginning."

Three versions of the F-35 will be produced:

  • F-35A CTOL variant for conventional runways
  • STOVL F-35B for operating off small ships and near front-line combat zones
  • And the F-35C carrier variant (CV) for catapult launches and arrested recoveries aboard the U.S. Navy's large aircraft carriers

All 19 F-35 flight-test and ground-test aircraft are either in production or on the flightline, and assembly has begun on the first two production-model F-35s.

Additional images:

F-35B on approach into NAS Fort Worth after a successful first flight on June 11th, 2008. [Photo by Keith Robinson]

F-35B on approach into NAS Fort Worth after a successful first flight on June 11th, 2008. [Photo by Keith Robinson]