F-35B Lightning II completes final prep for first vertical landing

The first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II STOVL variant was put through a last test of its engine power and controllability on March 10 at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth made a final slow-approach test landing on March 10 at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River (Md.) prior to a planned test of its vertical landing capability. This composites-intensive short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant approached the landing strip at jsut 40 knots (46 mph) and made a very slow conventional landing. The flight was one of the last missions before the aircraft's first fully vertical landing, and confirmed the jet's power and controllability at very low speeds. The aircraft's short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) propulsion system generates more than 41,000 lb of vertical thrust, and enables airspeeds from zero to Mach 1.6. The F-35B will be flown by the United States Marine Corps, the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and the Italian Air Force and Navy. It will be capable of operating from small ships and austere bases near front-line combat zones. F-35 Lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson was at the controls for Wednesday's flight.