UK Launches Externally Loaded F-35B from 'Ski Jump' for First Time (excerpt)
(Source: IHS Jane's Defence Weekly; posted Aug 13, 2017)
By Gareth Jennings
While the ski-jump fitted to the British carriers may enable the F-35B to take off with more fuel and/or weapons, any use of underwing stores will heavily degrade its “stealth” capabilities, which are the fighter’s only raison d’être for the UK. (BAE photo)
The United Kingdom has taken a further step towards re-constituting its fixed-wing carrier strike capability with the first take-off of an externally loaded Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) from a representative ‘ski-jump’.

The test, which took place in early August, saw a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B loaded with a UK-specific mix of four Raytheon Paveway IV precision-guided munitions and two MBDA Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs) take off from a launch ramp of the type that will be fitted to the United Kingdom’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

As noted by BAE Systems in its Twitter announcement of the test, aircraft BF-02 was piloted by the company’s chief STOVL test pilot, Peter 'Wizzer' Wilson.

F-35B Phase 2 ramp trials continue. (BAE Systems video)

This test at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland is part of a wider campaign to validate for the F-35B the ‘ski-jump’ launch technique that was first developed by the United Kingdom to launch its Sea Harrier jets from the decks of through-deck cruise carriers in the late 1970s.

This method enables the aircraft to take off with more fuel and/or weapons, and provides an extra safety margin compared with the US Marine Corps’ (USMC) system of launching from a flat deck. This is especially true during rough seas, when the ship will be pitching up and down.

The 'ski-jump' will be used to launch jets from the decks of the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales carriers being built for the UK Royal Navy (RN), and will likely be adopted by other maritime F-35B customers such as Italy. The first ship-borne trials of the F-35B aboard the Queen Elizabeth are due to commence in late 2018. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the JDW website. (paywall)


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