A US Marine Corps test pilot has performed the first vertical night landing at sea on board the USS Wasp with a Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The F-35B is embarked on board the amphibious assault ship for the short take-off vertical landing variant's second set of sea trials, which started on 12 August.
"It all went extremely well," says Lt Col C R Clift, the USMC test pilot who performed the 14 August manoeuvre. "Eight successful landings in one night, so we're tracking favourably along the learning curve."
US Marine Corps
The sea trials are scheduled to run for 18 days. "Pilots will expand the F-35Bs allowable wind envelope for launch and recovery, conduct its first-ever night operations at sea, conduct initial mission systems evaluations at sea, evaluate the dynamic interface associated with aircraft operations on a moving flight deck, and further evaluate shipboard sustainment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter," says the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO).
According to the JPO, this is the second of three planned test series aimed at expanding the F-35B's shipboard operating envelope for the USMC. The first set of sea trials were completed in October 2011.
Completion of this second round of trials should provide sufficient data to the US Navy and USMC to certificate the F-35B for shipboard operations ahead of its first active deployment in 2015, the JPO says.
Some of the lessons learned from the first series of sea trials showed that the ship needed a few modifications to accommodate the F-35B. As a result, the USS Wasp now sports a new composite deck coating that offers additional heat protection.
In addition, some of the ship's lights and sensors had to be moved.