Feeds

First ever supersonic stealth jumpjet starts hover tests at last

Will Harrier heir survive Byzantine aero politics?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Royal Navy will be hoping no repeat of the Sea Harrier's problems

The F-35B in flight doors open from the top. Credit: JSF Program

Sometimes it sucks to be a jumpjet.

That debate would seem to be largely over for now - the President and his defence secretary have made it quite clear that they are having no more Raptors and lots of F-35s - but nonetheless any problems in the F-35B's hover test programme will be pounced on instantly by the plane's many vocal detractors.

And there are other reasons, especially for British observers, to watch the upcoming vertical-lift trials closely. The Royal Navy wants to use the F-35B specifically as a carrier fighter, to protect the British fleet from air attacks at sea - and there are grave concerns that it may have trouble setting down vertically with missiles still aboard in some conditions, even with fuel at a safe minimum.

The RN has plans to get around this using a so-called Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) method in which the F-35B would come down still moving forward fast enough to get useful lift from wings as well as engine. Indeed senior naval aviators have told the Reg that they expect this to become the standard RN deck-landing technique.

But if the F-35B's hover performance should turn out to be poorer than thought, even SRVL might become marginal in hot climates (jet engines lose power in hotter air - this is the problem which did for the Sea Harrier in the end, meaning that it couldn't fly routine armed patrols anywhere very warm). This would invalidate the whole present plan for the navy's new carriers, the more so as the RAF is known to be reluctant to replace its own Harrier force - the light-blue airmen would rather spend that money on other things.

It might make more sense for the UK to equip its carriers with arrester wires and catapults for use by simpler tailhook planes. This isn't cheap or simple, as it would involve either serious engine-room changes or development of new technology, but it would save in the long run on the cost of buying and operating the highly complex F-35B, and by allowing cheaper radar aircraft.

There are indications that the UK government is considering such a plan - which might see the Royal Navy equipped with some other plane altogether such as the Rafale or Super Hornet. The F-35B would still go ahead with the US Marines, but loss of its second-biggest customer early on would be a serious blow for the jumpjet.

Or, as many would argue, the UK could scrap the carriers altogether, or use one of them as an amphibious helicopter ship or something.

For all these reasons, then, the next month's hover tests at Patuxent River will be watched keenly from various places around the globe. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.