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F-35B BF-1 Performs First Hover and Short Takeoff

Lockheed Martin has released a video of F-35B BF-1’s first “free air” hover on March 17, 2010. An accompanying press release stated that Lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson put BF-1 into STOVL mode at 200 knots, decelerated through 60 knots down to zero airspeed and transitioned the aircraft into a hover 150 feet above the runway. The short video, shot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., shows the Lightning II being maneuvered on its yaw axis and laterally, as well as demonstrating altitude changes.

The successful flight was good news for the JSF program, which has been taking a beating in the mainstream media and faced questions from Congress.

According to the release, 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.”

F-35B

The successful flight of Lockheed Martin’s F-35B BF-1 was good news for the embattled JSF program. Lockheed Martin photo

Another video released by LMCO showed BF-1 performing 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 1,000 feet of runway,” the release read.

The successful flight was good news for the JSF program, which has been taking a beating in the mainstream media and faced questions from Congress.

The F-35B is also important to allies such as Spain and Italy who have small carriers in their fleets, as the only foreseeable replacement for the Harriers flying from their decks today.

The flight is another step toward the F-35B’s first vertical landing.

The F-35B is a much-needed aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps, which wants the stealthy, supersonic Lightning II as a fifth-generation replacement for its aging AV-8B Harrier IIs. The F-35B is also important to allies such as Spain and Italy who have small carriers in their fleets, as the only foreseeable replacement for the Harriers flying from their decks today. Speculation continues as to whether the U.K. will buy the F-35B for the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers now under construction, or whether they will choose the F-35C carrier variant, which has not yet flown, being built for the U.S. Navy.