With over 10 years of Harrier experience, Cdr Gray has conducted numerous operations from both land and sea, but only recently experienced how the F-35 performs a Ski-Jump take-off.

Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray is a member of the Integrated Test Force alongside other F‑35B Lightning developmental test pilots from the RAF, USN, USMC and industry located in Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, USA. The following is an excerpt from a post discussing his experiences.

“With both the Sea Harrier FA2 and to a lesser extent the Harrier GR7/9/AV8B, the pilot was very much in-the-loop and had to execute near-perfect timing and control to safely execute a Ski-Jump launch.

With the F-35B, the whole experience is much more controlled and predictable with the majority of the launch autonomous, allowing the pilot to focus on the mission ahead rather than being distracted by the launch.”

Each F-35 Developmental Test aircraft is able to capture a significant amount of detailed engineering information about each flight test, being equipped with flight science technologies including specially-designed landing gear to capture all necessary test data. Testing occurs daily with particular focus on aircraft configuration, weight and wind flight envelope (which is the combination of speed, altitude and angle of attack when a flying object is aerodynamically stable).

“Being given the responsibility of operating this 5th generation aircraft onboard the only aircraft carrier purpose-built for the F-35 for the first time in history, will be huge privilege and not one taken lightly here at the Integrated Test Force.

We are all working incredibly hard to ensure the flight trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth are a success and deliver a truly strategic capability to the UK Government”.

F-35B Ski-Jump testing began in 2015 with clean-wing testing (no external stores) and are scheduled to conclude this autumn (with full external stores), in preparation for the first F-35B Lightning flight trials onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018.”

The ITF is a team of almost 700 Military, Government and Contract workers conducting Developmental Test (DT) flying on all 3 variants of the F-35. The ITF is split across two sites, NAS Patuxent River for flight science testing and Edwards AFB for Mission System testing.

The UK is on track to deliver a Carrier Strike capability from 2020, read more here.

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It looks as if things are coming together nicely and we are on schedule for Great work by all involved.


It’s nearly a decade late.

Dave Branney

It would be interesting to see if the aircraft could perform a “Viff” manoeuvre like the Harrier. However, looking at the combined airbrake/ lift fan intake door. I suspect it won’t last very long due to the sudden deceleration.
Still an awesome asset for this country, well done to the project team and engineers for the steady progress in getting this aircraft near mission ready status.

tim UK

Erm no software for the rolling landing has been developed. Check the recent commons committee discussion with Bronk from Rusi. When is supposed to be ready ????????

Are the americans even going to design if it just a UK specific request or are we going to be left with BAE having a stab and ten years from now still no jets actually able to perform as promised?

This could well be a Chinook and Apache debacle all over again.