The US Navy will commence sea trials with an F-35B JSF development aircraft on October 3.
Scheduled to be held aboard the LHD USS Wasp, an instrumented F-35B will conduct a number of short takeoffs and vertical landings to prove the type’s ability to operate from a vessel. Despite the initial trials being scheduled to run for two weeks, the Wasp has been tasked for six weeks to allow for any test “anomalies”.
The ship tests are a major milestone that must be completed this year as part of the F-35B’s ‘probation’. The short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B encountered a number of reliability issues and flight test discoveries in 2009 and 2010, and as such its testing was decoupled from that of the F-35A and F-35C models and it was placed on probation under the threat of cancellation unless its reliability improved.
Since the test program was re-baselined by JSF Program Office (LPO) head VADM David Venlet, the STOVL aircraft based at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland have comfortably exceeded their test flight schedule and number of test points.
The F-35B is also regarded to be the most under threat as part of the US budget crisis, and the US Marine Corps regards the ship trials as vital in order to add weight to its argument to retain the variant.