Lockheed Martin issued a handful of nice images yesterday showing a first for the F-35 programme: a pair of STOVL-variant aircraft taking off and then transitioning back for landing while in close formation.
Conducted from the US Navy’s Patuxent River test site in Maryland, “the mission measured the effects the aircraft had on each other while in Mode 4 [LiftFan engaged and engine nozzle rotated downward], to ensure they can operate in formation safely in an operational environment,” the company says. With the US Marine Corps looking to declare initial operational capability with the type next year, that’s quite important.
We’re still waiting in the UK for an expected first production order of F-35Bs for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Expected to be for 14 aircraft, the deal will provide replacements for the Tornado GR4s flown by RAF’s 617 Sqn; the Dambusters.