F35B Lightning II

The F35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) has started testing the short takeoff capability for the Lightning II, with the launch of the aircraft into the skies from a ski-jump.

The joint US-UK test team have begun testing at Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, US.

Ski jump project lead Peter Wilson said that the F35B ski-jump was a great success.

Wilson added: "Their years of planning, collaboration and training have culminated in a fantastic achievement that advances the future capabilities of the aircraft and its integration into UK operations."

The team will now continue the Phase I of ski-jump testing this summer.

"The joint US-UK test team have begun testing at Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, US."

The ski-jump ramp in the shorter UK carriers will allow for the launch of an aircraft upward and forward, which will help aircraft to takeoff with more weight and less end-speed than required for an unassisted horizontal launch aboard US aircraft carriers.

F35B jets will be able to automatically position the control surfaces and nozzles for takeoff, which will frees up pilot capacity and offers an added safety enhancement.

Wilson said: "As expected, aircraft BF-04 performed well and I can’t wait until we’re conducting F35 ski jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carrier.

"Until then, the de-risking that we’re able to achieve now during phase I of our ski-jump testing will equip us with valuable data we’ll use to fuel our Phase II efforts."

The UK is using the ski-jump approach as an alternative to the catapults and arresting gear used aboard the US aircraft carriers for more than 30 years.

Recently, the F-35 Lightning II Patuxent River ITF conducted an inaugural weapons separation test of the Paveway IV, achieving a milestone for the UK Royal Navy and RAF F-35 programme.

Image: F35B Lightning II takes off from a ski-jump during testing. Photo: courtesy of UK Mnistry of Defence.