back to article British pilot makes first supersonic stealth jumpjet flight

The world's first supersonic stealth jump-jet has made its debut flight, with a British test pilot at the controls. However, the F-35B "Lightning II" - intended to replace the famous Harrier in various armed forces including the RAF, Royal Navy and US Marines - isn't expected to show off its vertical-thrust abilities until next …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Dumping weapons...

    Why not just have a big net towed behind the carrier? Drop the missiles/bombs into on your way in to land and then haul the net back in afterwards? It's less of a bodge solution than most of this whole supercarrier project...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Why not

    Just use kitchen paper rolls, paint them silver and call them missiles. Saves money and since most of the time the pilots aren't really going to shoot them, saves on fuel and such like.


    Paris, I hear she likes large weapons going off

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Production Aircraft?

    If this is a production aircraft, then it should be able to land vertically. If it can't do this for a year (?) then it's a pre-production, aka prototype aircraft.

    the F35 has always been overweight, so It's no surprise that it can't land with weapons. I'm guessing that it can't land with much fuel on board, just like the curent (GR9?) Harrier.

  4. Graham Dawson Silver badge


    2 reasons

    First, munitions are surprisingly delicate things built to extremely fine tolerances. Dropping them at speed tends to make them break. Useful in a bomb, not so much in an air-to-air missile...

    Second, sea-water makes things corrode like nobody's business. It's likely that your average missile is designed to withstand a bit of splashing, but immersing such a delicate piece of kit in the sea would render it useless in minutes.

    Other than that it's a bright idea. Perhaps they should think about water-proofing.

  5. Jim Moores

    Great idea!

    Would you like an AIM-9 Sidewinder with your Tuna, Sir?

  6. goggyturk

    Forger Mark II

    This whole design concept is pretty naff really. I remember from my childhood days the contempt with which the Soviet Yak-38 Forger (the only Soviet carrier borne jet from that era) was held by Westerners precisely because it used a separate lift jet that was redundant in forward flight - much less elegant, and less useful in dogfighting, than the Harrier's vectored thrust Pegasus.

    Fast forward 30-40 years or so and the Western powers are reviving the same concept. The F-35B will be the aviation equivalent of a Toyota Prius - except it can't actually go forwards on one of its engines.

    Yup, mine's the anorak.

  7. David

    Taking a dump

    Wouldn't want to catch bombs in a net after my boat that's for sure.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC - Dumping weapons...

    >Drop the missiles/bombs into on your way in to land and then haul the net back in afterwards?

    Great idea until the realease mechanism one day takes longer to operate, and 10 seconds later releases said munitions onto the tail end of the ship. Oops.

    They should teach seals and dolphins to retrieve the dumped missiles.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    Wouldn't the net actually be rather dangerous for the carrier, given that, y'know, naval aircraft weapons are designed to sink such vessels? When you're coming in at 150mph, dropping your bombs into the net, but not into the stern or flight deck, would be extremely challenging.

    (Flame, because that's a pretty reasonable outcome to bombing your own carriers.)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Replace AWACS with several small drones?

    Is the lack of large a ship-launched radar aircraft such a big problem these days? Couldn't this capability be replaced with a drone, or fleet of drones, with the data relayed back down to the ships below? Seems to me that it would be potentially cheaper and easier than the relatively outdated idea of a single large radar aircraft with a dozen bodies onboard. This looks like one area where robot aircraft would actually be extremely useful.

    Aside from that, I'd agree that the decision to buy the smaller carriers and use the F35b seems half baked when you consider it's limitations. If the F35B can't exceed the VTOL performance of the Harrier then what's the point?

  11. Edward Rose


    The most complex plane ever.

    Guys, we have lots of money, we have the technology, we have sometime. Lets put all three together to find an over priced, over complicated (read increased failure and maintainance), and very likely late product.

    "Keep It Simple Stupid" really should be shout repeatedly at the people involved in military procurement.

    That said, the F-35B may prove me wrong. It hasn't really had a chance to defend itself yet.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Great idea there AC

    I'll just drop these massively complex autonomous guided munitions into the sea for a little while, drag them back out using a f**cking net and expect them to be damaged in no way...

  13. Nick Palmer

    WRT radar aircraft

    "Many have pointed out that the decision to go for jumpjet ships rather than proper carriers has denied the Royal Navy any chance to buy a proper fleet radar aircraft, and it's suggested that savings on cheaper carriers will be more than outweighed by the extra expense of vertical lift."

    Lewis, you've already reported on the development of the V22 TOSS variant (OK, I'm wincing over the name), equipped with the Cerberus airborne radar system which could easily be accommodated on the new carriers.

  14. Scott

    "Proper" carriers

    The CVFs *will* be proper carriers, big enough for catapult-assisted aircraft, but the RN still opted for the F-35B and ski jumps. According to the MoD:

    ...while configured to operate STOVL aircraft, can be altered later in its projected 40-50 year service life to accommodate catapults and arrestor gear to fly conventional CV (Carrier Variant) aircraft.

    Also, the F-35B is unlikely to be in service when the CVFs are commissioned - they will probably be flying Harriers for the first few years at least.

  15. Geoff Mackenzie

    Re: dumping weapons ...

    Or, alternatively, just fly the plane into the net and haul it aboard.

    Or another idea - when you're out for a routine patrol, if you don't find a target, find the most militaristic looking school or hospital you can and 'dump' the weapons there.

  16. Ross

    Joined up thinking

    The only "joined up thinking" these guys are capable of involves dots.

  17. George

    Great news

    This is a great aircraft and since there is nothing else out there to meet our specific requirements it should operate well.

    The thing is with military technologies, somebody always (or claims to) know better. Sometimes you just have to let them get on with it.

    And the rolling vertical is the solution that was put forward a fair while ago, its simply not worth buying a massive super carrier since we don't have the infrastructure to support it.

  18. Carl

    @big net

    Missiles and bombs tend not to get on well with saltwater.

  19. Dan

    AC and dumping weapons...

    ...was likely being sarcastic, with his nets and all, you lot really need to know when not to take someone quite so seriously...

  20. Chris G Silver badge

    Hmmmm fish n chips

    Use cheaper missiles, if they are unused on a sorty fire em into the sea, the resulting explosions will bring a lot of dead and stunned fish to the surface. If the navy recruit Britain's now mostly redundant trawlermen they can use the easily caught fish to feed the crew and the surplus can be sold to cover the cost of new missiles. In the past I have seen Russian trawlers at Ullapool the size of aircraft carriers, perhaps they have got a couple of old ones we could have to convert so we could save even more money. What does the UK need a navy for anyway it's not as if we are an island that depends on the sea is it?

  21. Nexox Enigma

    Re: Drones

    A proper long range flying radar would require a good amount of power and computing. I don't know numbers, but I imagine that the current drones don't have the capacity for a couple kW of advanced radar and computers.

  22. Steen Hive
    Dead Vulture

    @Geoff Mackenzie

    "Or another idea - when you're out for a routine patrol, if you don't find a target, find the most militaristic looking school or hospital you can and 'dump' the weapons there."

    No I don't think we should be adopting the Septics' ROE.

  23. beerpot

    Come on!! We're supposed to be programmers ....

    Program all of the missiles with a default target and then always fire them soon before landing.

    It should probably be somebody we're at war with, but never mind, we soon would be anyway, and in today's world there's should usually be a "bad guy" in range most of the time.

  24. Plankmeister
    Paris Hilton

    @Edward Rose

    Yeah, I guess the plane is built by a load of ex-NASA Space Shuttle designers and engineers.

    Paris because I'd inspect her payload bay good and proper.

  25. Mark


    Why not have a big bouncy castle and drop the craft into it?

    Lots of fun!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Re: Drones

    For the radar, sure you need a lot of juice, though I don't know that it would be more than the generator in a drone could supply if it were stripped down to the essentials. The computers may be required, but since the raw data would be downlinked for processing on the ship, only basic signal processing and filtering would be needed on the drone itself.

    The principle I'm suggesting is that having two, three or four drones in the area at all times would give the same sort of cover as a single AWACS, with the advantage that the drones could be moved to provide longer range or more detailed coverage in multiple areas at once. If you want a clear picture of what lies ahead without compromising coverage at the rear or flanks, you've the option of sending up another drone or repositioning one further forward.

    Drones are smaller and therefore easier to launch and store onboard the new carriers, then are also cheaper than an AWACS and it's trained crew. They would probably even be cheaper to operate and have a higher operating time in the air.

    I'm probably overlooking something though, if the answer were so simple then surely someone in the MOD or another countries armed forces would have thought of it by now.

  27. Richard Claunch

    Doesn't this sound FAMILIAR!!!

    What is it with big business today? Let's spend more and get less! This jet program is suspiciously similar to VISTA!!! Billions spent in development with only marginal gains for the result!


  28. Outsider

    Missiles... Nets

    Dumping ordnance in the sea....

    I hope thats a joke...given the fairly intensive deepsea trawling that goes on.

    But then again... given the military's complete disregard for those they are supposed to be protecting maybe it's deadly serious


  29. Charles Silver badge


    KISS doesn't work with jets anymore--not in the age of highly-accurate SAMs that can chase planes virtually to the edge of space. A fair chunk of the complexity of the F-35 program stems from its design and stealth philosophy--to reduce the odds of being seen by the enemy and likely shot down. Some of the additional complexity is in the cockpit--it's meant to improve the pilot's situational awareness (and that's big in a jet--normally, it's the one you *don't* see that gets you). Other things that affect its up-front costs are actually meant to reduce its maintenance (and long-run costs).

  30. SnowHawk

    Re: Forger Mark II

    goggyturk, the F-35 does not carry a second engine to drive the central fan. The vertical thrust fan is driven by a shaft from the single main engine. The exhaust of the main engine is also directed down, by a rather ingenious three bearing gimbal, providing two columns of thrust to support the aircraft.

    The weight problems have been addressed as well, but yes, the extra kit on the F-35B make it have a smaller payload than either the A or C variants, but that has always been an issue with VTOL or STOVL craft.

  31. Joe Cooper


    Oh...My...God. You're terrible. Please go look up how many engines the F-35 has.

  32. Adam Foxton
    Black Helicopters

    @Geoff Mackenzie

    Isn't that already standard American practice? They're also fond of "donating" ordnance to us Brits...

    @RE:RE:Drones AC

    You could also have a quick, linear launch/recovery system- they'd launch, you'd have them flying a simple circuit around the aircraft carrier for all of 5 or 10 minutes and then they'd them return to the recovery point (more accurate short-range sensors in use for this bit...) and guide themselves onto a conveyor belt. On this conveyor belt their batteries would be recharged or swapped out, then off they'd go for another 10 minute run.

    With Ultracapacitors and powerful inductance charging coils (or brushes that contacted against conductive bits on the wings) you could probably have them just fly through a tunnel running the length of the Aircraft Carrier to fully recharge themselves for their next run without even slowing down. Have 20 UAVs flying through this tunnel-scan cycle and you could have a helluvan accurate, long-range, high-redundancy radar system.

    In related news, Lockheed Martin- who have rather a lot of experience with aircraft- have even got the contract for sole military provider for the eeStor ultracaps. So they may be developing this idea already!

  33. storng.bare.durid
    Thumb Down

    Stupid imported crap...

    What's the matter with you Brits, you have shown in the past you can make great aircraft and now you're thinking of buying a compromise yank solution. Build your own! Or have you not learnt from the TSR2?

  34. Dave

    Bring back the Vulcan

    How about a carrier capable of launching and landing a squadron of Vulcans? I reckon one of those with a decent set of fighter-like weaponry could take on most modern stuff, especially if they got to argue at 40,000ft. If nothing else you'd probably deafen the enemy.

  35. heystoopid
    Thumb Up

    But then Again

    But then again , why do I have the feeling that as usual a certain current production aircraft built by either MIG or Sukhoi will fly rings around this over weight over cost toy which will be subject to the usual US military graft contractors pig feeding fest !

  36. Gareth Pye

    @ Adam Foxton

    Yeah, thats what I want right next to where I land my plane, a constant stream of UAV's. I hope something a little bit more friendly to the planes would be a good idea.

    Also how big would your tunnel be? I hear those seas can move a fair bit, you wouldn't want to have to turn your radar off when the seas get too big.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not...

    Have even smaller carriers, the plane can be launched by a big elastic band and rocket boosters and don't even bother landing at all, just eject the pilot when they get close.

    That way even more money could be pissed up against the wall.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    @ Geoff Re: dumping weapons ...

    "Or, alternatively, just fly the plane into the net and haul it aboard.

    Or another idea - when you're out for a routine patrol, if you don't find a target, find the most militaristic looking school or hospital you can and 'dump' the weapons there."

    Isn't that a standard OP for our American cousins?

    Flames: Cos the Yanks love blowing our shit up. (but don't you dare complain about it - "That's war, shit happens, get over it.") Though oddly they don't like it when someone else blows their shit up.

  39. Death_Ninja
    Paris Hilton

    Over price Amerikan junk

    Should have bought some Su-33 instead really.... the Russians fly these without giant aircraft carriers and catapults and they are pretty capable... well, capable of bombing 3rd world countries with little in the way of air defence which lets face it is all we are ever going to do with these anyway.

    Oh hang on we can't buy them because our government is having a stupid pissing contest with Moscow.

    Perhaps the Chinese will sell them to us instead.

    Paris, cos she has see many an Amerikan cock up before

  40. Robert Harrison

    @Graham Dawson

    "First, munitions are surprisingly delicate things built to extremely fine tolerances. Dropping them at speed tends to make them break. Useful in a bomb, not so much in an air-to-air missile..."

    Um, but surely not so delicate as to withstand the stresses and strains of belting through a relatively thick atmosphere at speed. You make it sound like these things are made of paper mache.

  41. Frank Bough


    "Or have you not learnt from the TSR2?"

    Sod TSR2, it's Eurofighter that provides the most relevant lessons - tons of money for a capability that we don't actually seem to need. F-35B almost looks smart by comparison.

  42. TimM

    World's best plane replaced by US junk

    American build... oh dear.

    I assume it comes fitted as standard with the button to blow up British tanks.

  43. call me scruffy


    On paper a good plan, it's a proven airframe, tried and tested technology, and no faffing around with composites, DSP based control systems and so on... Sadly it suffers from three problems.

    1) It involves BAE Building something big

    2) It involves BAE Building something.

    3) Since every empire building willy waving manager would want their own fingerprints on it, the designs would never be completed, even though they're theoreticaly ready to go. It'd get stuck in a decades long cycle of design, redesign and review.

    Consequently BAE would never take the task on as it would demonstrate that they aren't nearly as competent as AVRO were sixty years ago.

  44. Robert Day

    Re: Avro Competence

    Ahh how refreshign to see a reference to a well ran company in the aerospace field. Yes indeed, Avro was a competent company, and they built a heck of a plane in the Arrow. Pity the government was too wussy to keep the project going. With that many years to develop, they may well have designed an EFFECTIVE VTOL that would be able to both land loaded down, AND take off fully loaded... Might have created an even faster supersonic jet, with longer range, and by now, we may well have jets that could scrape the atmostphere, flying nearly in space.

    But alas - it is not to be, and the power and money hungry Aerospace kings are constantly rebuilding, rebranding, and revamping the same technology they have been marketing for the past countless years.

    Mine's the one with the Canadian Flag on it.

  45. Michael

    @ Robert Harrison

    >>>Um, but surely not so delicate as to withstand the stresses and strains of belting through a relatively thick atmosphere at speed. You make it sound like these things are made of paper mache.

    Did you even think about what you wrote??? A "relatively thick atmosphere"??? If it was being compared to space, sure. One problem: It's being compared to the damn OCEAN!! Sorry buddy, in that comparison, no, the atmosphere is NOT relatively thick...

  46. peter tomlinson

    nice ride, cuz'

    I want one to go with my flying car.

  47. Charles Manning

    6 months from production to first flight?

    Yeah I know military paperwork is bad, but really!

    That's why wars are so good for aviation progress, there's significant motivation to get things done. The Mosquito was less than a year from concept to flight and flying sorties a few months later. Many other planes got going faster than that: the Me321(ok, only a glider) was approx 2 months.

    Red tape be damned!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dropping weapons into a net???

    I've heard of 'friendly fire' but this is ridiculous ...

  49. Pierre

    Simple is beautiful

    In real conflicts (not talking about colonization of resource-rich poorly armed countries here), what dou you want? Loads of cheap, robust aircrafts easily expandable and quickly built, or expensive, complicated, failure-prone and unmaintainable shiny pieces of kit? Plus, it doesn't take an expensive shiny state-of-the-art jet to take down these "mine is bigger than yours" thinggies. Only a skilled pilot in a relatively obsolete aircraft. Now throw in the required pilot training and ground support... I bet a picture is beginning to form.

    Same for the current "multi-purpose" hype. When you can -quickly- get a dozen of good and robust specialized aircrafts for the price of a single shiny complicated -and late- multi-purpose one, why would you go for the latter?

    Look at what happened in wwII. Do you think Germany and Japan would have been able to expand like that in a very short amount of time if they hadn't used robust, cheap, easy to build (and quite crappy) aircrafts? True, they finally lost, but it took a considerable amount of time and "casualties", and they were fighting against the odds anyway (ressource-wise). And that's not specific to aviation. On the ground, the IIIrd Reich was basically defeated by the USSR and their pre-historic armoured vehicles, backed by horse-driven support (sorry Yanks, but when you went in all the real German forces were East, trying to keep the Ruskies away from Berlin. History can't be totally obliterated by Holliwood movies).

    Now I understand that we are not preparing a world war, but trying to gain control by "surgical" interventions. But wouldn't a good long-range aircraft with a large payload be more useful than a neutered shiny jet that might at some point be able to take off or land vertically (provided you cut the fuel and fire power out), from a slow carrier that will need days if not weeks to reach the region of interest?

    Some people clearly have wayyyy to much money in their hands, and the bad thing is, this money comes from our pockets (and is taken away from education, public health and the like). Not to mention that this money might also be used to teach American pilots how to tell the difference between the Union Jack and a dart board...

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Dolphin, friendly Tuna.

    Dropping missiles into nets could easily escalate the 'friendly war' between dolphin and tuna. Who will be providing your salad nicoise needs once the war-mongering dolphins have annihilated all those peacenik tuna-types using their free bags of military death technology? It'll be dolphin-steak only, so think on.

    PH because there's never been a cock-up she hasn't admired, because she's landed more missiles than the RAF, because she knows how to shed money like it's going out of fashion and because I suspect there's a salty whiff around her under-netting.

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