Seven F-35B Lightning aircraft will sail aboard the USS America, marking the third time the aircraft has been to sea.
The USS America, the first ship of its class, features several aviation capabilities enhanced beyond previous amphibious assault ships which include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment, as well as increased aviation fuel capacity.
The vessel is capable of accommodating F-35Bs, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and a complement of US Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.
Lt. Col. Tom “Sally” Fields, F-35 Patuxent River ITF Government Flight Test director said:
“It’s exciting to start the execution phase of our detachment with VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1) on USS America.
During the next three weeks, we will be completing critical flight test for both Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT). The F-35 Pax River ITF and VX-23 will be conducting DT work that will establish the boundaries of safe operation for the F-35B in the 3F configuration.
VMX-1 will be conducting OT operations focused on preparing maintenance crews and pilots for the first deployment of the F-35B aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1), scheduled to start in just over a year.”
The operational testing will also include simulating extensive maintenance aboard a ship with one of the jets taken apart and put together again.
According to a press release:
“The maintenance work will include the replacement of a lift fan, the specialised equipment made by Rolls Royce and Pratt and Whitney that gives the F-35B variant its short take-off, jump jet capability.”
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, Marine Corps said:
“The F-35 Lightning II is the most versatile, agile, and technologically-advanced aircraft in the skies today, enabling our Corps to be the nation’s force in readiness — regardless of the threat, and regardless of the location of the battle.
As we modernise our fixed-wing aviation assets for the future, the continued development and fielding of the short take-off and vertical landing, the F-35B remains the centrepiece of this effort.”