F-35B Performs First Landing at Sea

F-35B - touchdown on the Wasp. Photo via Lockheed Martin

October 3, 2011: Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Fred Schenk recorded a major milestone yesterday, flying his F-35B (BF-2) to a safe landing on the flight deck of USS Wasp’s (LHD-1), the first at sea vertical landing for the Marine Corps’ F-35 JSF version. The first vertical landing is part of the initial ship trials for the F-35B which started Monday and is expected to last two-weeks. The tests are scheduled to collect data on the aircraft’s ability to perform short take-offs and vertical landings on a ship at sea, as well as determine how the aircraft integrates with the ship’s landing systems, and deck and hangar operations.

Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Fred Schenk lands his F-35B (BF-2) on the Amphibious Deck Ship Wasp LHD-1 for the first time, October 3, 2011. Photo: via Lockheed Martin

“The first at sea vertical landing is a huge milestone,” said Marine Corps Col. Roger Cordell, military site director for F-35 test and evaluation at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.  “We’re still early in this test period, and we expect to learn a lot more, but this is a great step toward delivering the capability to the fleet.”

F-35B - touchdown on the Wasp. Photo via Lockheed Martin

In addition to being the first ship to successfully land the F-35B, USS Wasp was also the first ship to host the V-22 Osprey during shipboard trials in October 2007. Prior to the recent test Wasp spent time in a shipyard earlier this year, preparing for conducting the F-35 operations on board, adding specialized instrumentation to measure deck environmental effects. This test period is the first of three scheduled at-sea test periods over the course of the development program, will also collect environmental data on the deck through added instrumentation to measure the F-35B’s impact to flight deck operations. According to Vice Admiral David Venlet, F-35 Program Executive Officer the current test was scheduled back in the early spring 2011 and was carried out on the planned date. “Signs of dependable performance are emerging across broad aspects of the development program.  Professionals from the Navy, Marine Corps and industry team of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce continue to work tirelessly to deliver this aircraft to the fleet.” General Venlet said, adding that the data collected from this event will assist further development work necessary to successfully integrate the F-35B on large-deck amphibious ships.

The F-35B is the variant of the Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps, capable of short take-offs and vertical landings (STOVL) for use on amphibious ships or expeditionary airfields to provide air power to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.  The F-35B will replace Marine AV-8B Harriers and F-18 Hornets and is undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River prior to delivery to the fleet.

F-35B BF-2 recovered on the Wasp. Photo: vai Lockheed Martin