F-35B Conducts First Test of the STOVL Propulsion System

The F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter engaged its STOVL propulsion system in flight for the first time today. Sofar this unique propulsion system was validated for thousands of hours through ground tests. The aircraft is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 engine driving a Rolls-Royce LiftFan. (continue reading...)

Photo above shows the F-35B on the recent test flight. The video at the bottom of this page highlights some of the flight phases. Video and Photo: Lockheed Martin.

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The system, which includes a Rolls-Royce 3-bearing swivel duct that vectors engine thrust and under-wing roll ducts that provide lateral stability, produces more than 41,000 pounds of vertical thrust. The F135 is the most powerful engine ever flown in a fighter aircraft.

Flying the aircraft on this flight was Lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson of BAE Systems. He first engaged the shaft-driven LiftFan propulsion system at an altitude of 5000 ft and a speed of 210 knots (288 mph). He then slowed to 180 knots (207 mph) with the system engaged before accelerating to 210 knots and converting back to conventional-flight mode. Overall the STOVL propulsion system was engaged for a total of 14 minutes during the flight. "Now we are seeing early proof that the system operates in flight as our team predicted,” said Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager. He said STOVL-mode flights will continue, with the aircraft flying progressively slower, hovering, and ultimately landing vertically.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 is a 5th generation fighter, uniquely characterized by advanced stealth with supersonic speed and high agility, sensor fusion, network-enabled capabilities and advanced sustainment. The F-35B is one of three F-35 variants are derived from the common design.

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