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F-35B Vertical landing  (Source: DefenseNews)
Five landings are the first of 42 needed to move to at-sea trials

Of all the F-35 Lightning II variants currently in testing, the most troubled has been the F-35B STOVL fighter. The aircraft has had recurring issues with sub-components that are failing at higher than expected rates leading to problems and delays in the flight program.

The F-35B fighter was also dealt a blow when the program was recently put on a 2-year probationary period. Lockheed is still hard at work on the F-35B and the aircraft has shown some progress recently. Defense News reports that the aircraft has had a series of five vertical landings over the last eight days that have come off without a hitch.

The vertical landing tests were performed between January 6 and 13. The five successful landings are part of the 42 that must be completed before the aircraft can be tested at sea on an amphibious assault ship. When the remaining tests will happen is unknown; so far the 2011 flight test schedule has not been published.

"I think it does [signal that the program is getting back on track]. This program has never been quite as troubled as many critics thought. I think it's probably progressed more smoothly than other fighter development program with the possible exception of the F-16," said Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute (Arlington, Virginia). The F-16's development proceeded so smoothly because of the simple nature of the original version of that aircraft, he said.

Thompson also notes that the issues the F-35 has faced so far are common teething problems that can be found in new aircraft programs. By comparison, the issues that the F-22 Raptor faced were much worse.

Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia said that the challenges left in the F-35B program can be addressed in the 2-year probationary period.



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RE: Still needed?
By Chillin1248 on 1/18/2011 2:07:40 PM , Rating: 3
In terms of pure operational history, not much.

In fact, many would call their tactics flawed in regards to the forward basing of Harriers (and F-35B's). If operational experience has shown anything it's that there is no way that the Marines will be cleared to deploy a $150+ Million dollar stealth plane in forward airfields withing range of enemy rockets/mortars.

A recent example of what happens occurred on October 14th, 2005. A British squadron of forward based GR7A Harriers came under rocket fire while on the ground, destroying one and seriously damaging another:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1500702/Har...

In addition, it would completely tie up a considerable amount of resources just to keep these planes supplied, not what you want when you have a landing force also needing supplies. Also VTOL limits the amount of fuel and weapons you can carry considerably.

And the bottom line is, why do the Marine Corps need a stealth strike aircraft to fly CAS?

Especially when there will only be 6 aircraft deployed on each ship, which equals 24 missiles in Air-to-Air stealth configuration. Then you need to subtract 1/5 of the missiles due to the AIM-120D failure "dud" rate. In addition, the AIM-120D has only shown a kill percentage of around 50% (previous versions in combat have demonstrated 70% to be fair).

So now you have an effective ~9-12 missiles assuming all the aircraft are in the air, exactly which air-force is that going to stop that you needed stealth aircraft in the first place?

Better yet, the enemy can just ignore your planes and head straight for the ships. Now your stealth planes have nowhere to land.

Extremely flawed thinking on the Marine Corps part in my opinion.

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Chillin


RE: Still needed?
By Nightraptor on 1/18/2011 2:48:47 PM , Rating: 2
1. 6 is the standard load out for a LHD/LHA, however they can carry upwards of 20 if need be.

2. As you note 4 is the number of missiles they can carry and maintain complete stealth. Take away the requirement for total stealth and they can carry at least 10 AA missiles and possibly more. With a weapons capacity quoted by Lockheed at 15,000 LBs the F35 B could ultimately carry more then the F18 A/B/C/D and come within 2000 LBs of the E/F models as well as the latest F16 variants.

3. One must remember that in any scenario there is either going to be ground based or ship based AA as well.


RE: Still needed?
By Chillin1248 on 1/18/2011 4:07:03 PM , Rating: 2
Your points are valid.

However, if I may address them in turn:

1)- At which point they will cripple their ability to support a sea invasion with aerial resupplies and gunship support. Not to mention that if you have 20 on-board that would be needed, then won't the same scenario already have an aircraft carrier battlegroup as well (USAF also)?

2)- First, we must address the lift fan and the loss of over 5,000lbs of fuel (tank removed), this results in greatly reduced range and time on station.

Second, reduced loadout. The F-35B is incapable of carrying the GBU-31, instead it is forced to carry the much smaller GBU-32 and Small diameter bombs.

3)- Granted. However it is the job of a forward fighter screen to prevent the launches of missiles on the friends ships in the first place, local air-defense is a second line of defense. The last thing you want is for your ships to come under attack by supersonic wave-skimming missiles.

I honestly fail to find a need for the F-35B in the Marine Corps. Can anyone point out any place that the F-35B will be needed that there won't be USAF or USN planes already there?

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Chillin


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