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F-35B Makes First Vertical Landing

F-35B BF-1 followed up its first “free air” hover earlier in the week with its first vertical landing yesterday, March 18, 2010.

“Today’s vertical landing onto a 95-foot square pad showed that we have the thrust and the control to maneuver accurately both in free air and in the descent through ground effect,” said F-35 Lead STOVL pilot Graham Tomlinson in a press release issued by Lockheed Martin.

“The low workload in the cockpit contrasted sharply with legacy short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) platforms,” said Tomlinson, who, as a former Royal Air Force pilot, had extensive experience flying the STOVL Harrier  jet. “Together with the work already completed for slow-speed handling and landings, this provides a robust platform to expand the fleet’s STOVL capabilities,” said Tomlinson, a BAE Systems employee since 1986.

BF-1 is one of three F-35Bs currently undergoing flight trials at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. In the F-35B JSF variant, a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine powers a shaft-driven, counter-rotating Rolls-Royce LiftFan® located behind the cockpit. A Rolls-Royce three-bearing swivel duct at the rear of the aircraft vectors engine thrust and powers under-wing roll ducts that provide lateral stability. At 41,000 pounds of thrust, the F135 is the most powerful engine ever flown in a fighter aircraft.

In related news, Marine Corps’ 2nd Marine Air Wing Public Affairs announced the reactivation of VMFA-451 will take place April 1, 2010, at the Naval Aviation Museum on Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. VMFA-451 will be reactivated in order to be redesignated as Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) in a ceremony scheduled for the following day at Eglin AFB, Fla. VMFAT-501 will be the first Marine Corps F-35B training squadron.