Feeds

British pilot makes first supersonic stealth jumpjet flight

Harrier successor's engine bother hover hold-up

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The world's first supersonic stealth jump-jet has made its debut flight, with a British test pilot at the controls. However, the F-35B "Lightning II" - intended to replace the famous Harrier in various armed forces including the RAF, Royal Navy and US Marines - isn't expected to show off its vertical-thrust abilities until next year.

The supersonic jumpjet flies: no jumping until 2009

Up still equals away, for now.

The first production F-35B, which came off the US production line last December, was taken up for its inaugural flight last week by BAE Systems test pilot Graham Tomlinson. Tomlinson formerly flew Harriers in the RAF, so he knows his jumpjets, but for now the F-35B is flying purely as a conventional aeroplane.

A statement from BAE quotes Tomlinson as saying that “a great team effort led to a relaxed first flight, with the aircraft handling and performing as predicted following earlier flights by the conventional variant of F-35 and many hours of simulator testing.”

The F-35 programme will produce three different variants of stealthy, supersonic attack plane. The A model, already flying, is built to operate from ordinary runways and will be bought by the US air force and various overseas customers. The C model will be designed to fly from fully equipped aircraft carriers with catapult launchers and arrester wires, and will be supplied to the US Navy.

The B model has a lift fan mounted in a central fuselage shaft, and can tilt its jet exhaust downwards. Like the Harrier, it won't be able to take off vertically with a full load of weapons and fuel, but it will be able to get airborne after only a short takeoff run - even shorter if a "ski-jump" ramp is used. Having flown a mission, burning fuel and possibly expending weaponry, it will be light enough to land vertically.

The F-35B will replace the Harriers currently flown by the RAF, Royal Navy and US Marines. It will be able to operate from US amphibious helicopter ships without catapults and arrester wires; and from the planned British fleet carriers which will also lack such kit.

“The STOVL [short take off and vertical landing] variant of the F-35 Lightning II is one of the most complex aircraft ever built," says BAE F-35 chief Mick Ord.

Despite its array of desirable features, the F-35B has its critics, especially as a solution for the British forces. Many have pointed out that the decision to go for jumpjet ships rather than proper carriers has denied the Royal Navy any chance to buy a proper fleet radar aircraft, and it's suggested that savings on cheaper carriers will be more than outweighed by the extra expense of vertical lift.

Apart from that, the F-35B will not offer the same performance as the A and C models in payload or range. There are even some concerns that it may not have enough thrust to land vertically while loaded with weapons. This would be a serious issue for the Royal Navy, which intends to use the plane as a carrier fighter; every time a jet landed after a routine patrol, it might have to dump expensive missiles into the sea beforehand. (This problem seriously affected the late, great Sea Harrier fighter in hot climates, which is why the Royal Navy now operates GR9 bomber Harriers.)

The RN is still hoping that the F-35B will be able to get back onto a ship without dumping weapons, however, using a so-called "ship-borne rolling vertical landing", so the issue of weight and thrust may not be a crippling one.

It'll be a while before anyone can really find out, though. Recent turbine blade failures during bench testing of engines have delayed the F-35 flight programme, and industry analysts reckon that serious vertical-thrust trials of the F-35B won't happen until well into next year. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
UK.gov chucks £28m at F1 tech for buses and diggers plan
Well, not really F1 but who's heard of LMP and VLN*?
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.