Members of the JSF team expected the USAF to order STOVL-capable JSFs long before Air Force Chief of Staff General John P Jumper announced his intention to do so at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium at Lake Buena Vista, Florida, just before Asian Aerospace.
The JSF team also expect other countries to make split purchases of conventional take-off and landing F-35As and STOVL F-35Bs, to take advantage of the basing flexibility offered by the latter type's ability to use short and semi-prepared strips, including lengths of highway.
JSF team members pointed out that Singapore, soon to become a Security Co-operation Participant in the JSF programme, already has some expertise in operating fast jet aircraft from semi-prepared highway strips, making the F-35B especially well suited to the RSAF's requirements.
Lockheed Martin JSF sources at the show say Jumper himself was "won over" to the advantages of STOVL after recently visiting austere bases used by Air Combat Command Lockheed Martin F-16s and Northrop Grumman A-10s participating in operations over Afghanistan, and seeing the conditions under which they were operating.
Remarkably, the USAF's first experience of STOVL operations was in 1964, when USAF pilots participated in the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron set up to evaluate the Hawker Siddeley P1127 Kestrel FGA Mk 1.
The TES was commanded by an RAF wing commander and was based in the UK, but had pilots from the RAF, Luftwaffe, USAF, US Navy, and US Army performing flight tests. The US Marines were interested, but did not participate.
Six surviving Kestrels were purchased outright by the USA and were shipped across the Atlantic for further tests, before being retired.
Despite promising results and the enthusiasm of the USAF pilots who sampled the aircraft, the USAF made no effort to acquire a STOVL fighter, and it was left to the US Marine Corps to join the Harrier programme during the 1970s.
Source: Flight Daily News