July 2018

2018 July

US Marine Corps/Lockheed Martin
F-35B Lightning II

Initial sea trials and STOVL testing onboard USS WASP (LHD-1) – first at-sea vertical landing: October 3, 2011

F-35B reaches initial operational capability: July 31, 2015

Though nearly identical in appearance to the F-35A, the F-35B incorporates a counter-rotating shaft-driven lift fan located behind the cockpit. The lift fan, produced by Rolls-Royce, is turned by a driveshaft from the F-35’s powerful single engine, the Pratt & Whitney F135 with 40,000 lb (178 kN) thrust. The aircraft jet engine exhaust module features a swiveling nozzle that vectors thrust downward during vertical flight. The lift fan, engine and stabilizing roll ducts beneath the F-35B’s wings combine to produce 40,000 lb (178 kN) of lifting force. Converting the F-35B from short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) operations to conventional flight and back to STOVL requires only the push of a button by the pilot.

The F-35B flew for the first time on June 11, 2008 at the hands of British test pilot Graham Tomlinson. The F-35B ushered an era where supersonic V/STOL is accomplished as a matter of routine. The STOVL F-35B provides a combination of capabilities never before available: stealth, supersonic speed and STOVL basing flexibility.

The F-35B was the first of the three Lightning II variants to achieve Initial Operational Capability, beginning with the US Marines in 2015. Currently deployed in at least two US Marine Corps squadrons, the F-35 STOVL variant is also operated by the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, and the Italian Air Force.

Lockheed Martin photo by Andy Wolfe
Text: Erasmo Piñero Jr.

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