The partnership between Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems means the design of the F-35B incorporates the ski-jump takeoff capability from the very beginning.
The ski-jump is key in enabling takeoffs with more weight and less speed than required for an unassisted horizontal launch aboard US aircraft carriers.
Squadron Leader Andy ‘Gary’ Edgell said:
“The performance of the jet has been great. As the pilot, I have to do very little to accomplish a perfect ski jump takeoff. I push the STOVL button to convert to Mode 4, push throttle to mil and use the pedals for minor directional inputs to remain on centerline.
As the jet travels up the ski jump it automatically makes the necessary adjustments to the nozzle and control surface deflections. With the F-35 automatically adjusting for the optimum takeoff, the pilot is free to adopt more of a supervisory role, monitoring for any off-nominal behavior and ready to immediately take full control, if necessary. Virtue of the superb F-35 STOVL handling qualities, the low pilot workload during launch and recovery from an aircraft carrier enables the pilot to focus more on the operational task at hand and less on the administrative aspects of the flight.”
The first ski-jump launch took place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland last June from a land based ski-jump and marked the start of an initial testing phase expected to last two weeks.
The trials demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to take off safely and effectively from a ski-jump ramp similar to that which will be used on the UK’s new aircraft carrier.
Test Pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson said:
“It’s always exciting when you get to do something in aviation for the first time. We spend literally years planning these ‘firsts’, with hundreds of hours in the simulator as the event gets close, but even with all the preparation the test team remains focussed on the potential that something unexpected might happen. As is usually the case, the jet performed as expected and it was a real pleasure.”
BAE plays a key role in the design, development and manufacture of both the aircraft and the aircraft carrier and also leads the work to ensure that both are integrated seamlessly for the UK.