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Marines move forward with F-35B

March 19, 2010 (by USMC Headquarters) - The Marine Corps moved closer March 18 to adding the Joint Strike Fighter F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) variant to its arsenal. The test plane, BF-1, rode more than 41,000 pounds of thrust to a vertical landing for the first time, confirming its required ability to land in confined areas both ashore and afloat.

The F-35B with a full load of external weapons, including the 25mm gun pod. [Lockheed Martin photo]

"Having the F-35B perform its first vertical landing underscores the reality of the Marine Corps achieving its goal of an all STOVL force," said Lt. Gen. George J. Trautman III, Deputy Commandant for Aviation. "Being able to operate and land virtually anywhere, the STOVL JSF is a unique fixed wing aircraft that can deploy, co-locate, train and fight with Marine ground forces while operating from a wider range of bases ashore and afloat than any other TacAir platform."

BF-1 lifted off at 80 knots using less than 1000 feet of runway from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. About 13 minutes into the flight; the pilot positioned the aircraft 150 feet above the airfield, wherehe brought the F-35 to a hover and then descended to the runway. BF-1 isone of three F-35B STOVL jets currently undergoing flight trials at the Patuxent River test site.

On April 2, Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron - 501 will officially stand up as part of the Joint Integrated Training Center located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The work being done at Patuxent River will enable the Marine Corps to start training Marine pilots and maintainers during the fall of 2010.

The Marine Corps anticipates reaching JSF F-35B initial operational capability in December 2012. IOC assets will include the first F-35B training squadron of 15 aircraft in VMFAT-501 at Eglin AFB, an operational test and evaluation detachment of 4 aircraft at Edwards AFB, and VMFA-332, the Corps' first operational squadron of 10 aircraft at MCAS Yuma. The VMFA-332 aircraft will be equipped, manned and trained to execute Marine missions and deploy ashore or afloat.

The STOVL F-35B Lightning II is scheduled to replace three different variants of USMC combat aircraft (F/A-18, AV-8B and EA-6B). This 5th generation multi-role fighter has significant advantages over the Marine Corps' current tactical fixed-wing squadrons and will dramatically amplify strategic agility, vastly enhance operational flexibility and capabilities, provide tactical adaptability for basing options ashore and afloat, and reduce aviation training and maintenance costs across the Corps.

The STOVL JSF will carry more ordnance with greater range than the F/A-18 Hornet, operate from austere expeditionary environments like the AV-8B Harrier, and ultimately possess electronic warfare technology similar to the EA-6B Prowler.

Courtesy of Eglin Air Force Base.

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Additional images:

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

USMC BF-01 Initial Transition flight at NAS Patuxent River, MD. Mr. Graham Tomlinson is the Test Pilot. First time the STOVL lift system (MODE 4) has been engaged in flight. [LM photo by Andy Wolfe]