back to article Supersonic stealth jumpjet in first hover-system flight test

The world's first supersonic stealth jumpjet, the F-35B, has belatedly begun flight tests of its vertical-thrust technology - much of which is from Blighty. The radical plane is intended to replace the famous Harrier in the services of many nations, including the UK. Here's a vid of the test aircraft trying out its downward- …


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  1. bobbles31

    I just love....

    contrasting Lewis' cynical reviews of anything European against his forgiving reviews of anything American.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge


    "Then there are other issues to be confronted, not least the fact that the plane is thought likely to melt and buckle carrier flight decks with its superhot exhaust" .... Thought likely to, or will and does, Lewis?

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Andy 97

    Not like on Die Hard 4 is it.

    I am troubled by the idea of the amount of effort to lift the aeroplane and the amount of fuel it can carry, won't VTOL from a ship greatly reduce the range the pilot can operate at?

    Did we think this one through?

    1. Richard 81


      Yes, VTOL off of a carrier would result in it burning up most of its fuel before getting airborne. That's why the navy has been using their existing Harrier VTOL aircraft as a VSTOL for decades. Angle the nozzles for forward thrust, with a little bit of up thrust, then shoot of a ramp.

  5. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Thumb Up

    Now that's stuff you should be buying :)

    1. mickm


      Build proper carriers and marinise the Typhoon

      1. asiaseen


        did you mean "marinate"?

  6. Desk Jockey

    Melting decks?

    The American decks may melt, but that is only because their carriers are old tech configured for conventional naval aircraft. The UK carriers should be fine as the UK went and put monster engines on their Harriers so we already know how to deal with these issues. Plus if the F35B does rolling landings anyway this will not be an issue.

    Andy 97, no one uses VTOL to take-off from carriers. They either do conventional or short run take offs as practiced by the current UK mini carriers for many years now. Current practice, as particularly used by the Americans, is to also have tanker aircraft nearby so that fighters can top off their fuel tanks after take-off. VTOL is only really used for emergencies (such as in the middle of a field cold war style) or for showing off at airshows.

    Don't rule off the RAF just yet Lewis. They may be happy with their current toy, but they know just as well as anyone that they need the F35 stick to beat up BAE with. Deliver on your contracts or else we buy American...

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Recheck a few things, there...

    First off, the comment about melting flight decks is wrong. The whole point of the central lift fan in the F-35B is that it doesn't use hot jet exhaust, unlike the Harrier. In fact, even with the downward-orientation of the rear exhaust cone, the total downward air temperature from an F-35B is less than 50% that of the existing Harrier GR.3, which is even more impressive considering that the F35B weighs well over twice that of a Harrier. And we all know the Harriers aren't melting the desk of the Invincible-class, right?

    The linked article talks about the V-22 Osprey's thermal issues, which are caused by a similar problem as the Harrier (direct jet exhaust downward). The US's LHD/LHA ships didn't operate Harriers anywhere near as much as the Invisible-class, so they don't have the much stronger flight desks. There's no indication that the Nimitz-class carriers are having the same problem as the LHA/LHD's with the V-22s, and thus, there is no reason to suspect that the new UK carriers will have significant problems with the F-35B (which has a lower thermal load than either a V22 or Harrier).

    That said, I still don't understand the MOD for ordering the two new carriers as VSTOL, and not CATOBAR. Yes, there are additional costs for catapults and arrestor gear, but no hull redesign (that is, it's going to cost maybe 5% more to go CATOBAR than VSTOL). In return, you'd get to use the cheaper, less complex, and more capable F-35C, which fairs pretty much equal in performance to a Eurofighter (and, roughly the same about of dough).

    Unfortunately, the F-35B is behind schedule (which is bad). The F-35A/C models aren't (as they don't have the complex VTOL lift fan system). If I were the MOD, I'd go CATOBAR on the new carriers, and buy 2 airwings of F-35C, which would be cheaper overall. Plus, it would allow us Yanks to come for a visit on your nice new carriers, now and then.

    (and, as a yank, I _hate_ the V-22 - talk about getting crap for the buck. Hope you Brits don't get suckered into buying any...)

  8. jason 7

    Well that looked really...umm...elegant?

    I can imagine the pilots going "no way am I flying like that, that looks sooo uncool!"

    Like driving your car with the bonnet and trunk popped up.

    Compared to that the Harrier method looks next generation tech.

  9. Harvey Trowell
    Paris Hilton

    Which one's the stealth plane?

    Probably being dim here, but is it the stubby fella with the flashy decals and toilet lid on top*, or the one that engages a cloaking device 29 seconds into the footage and blinks out of view?

    *Only kidding, any fool can see that's a berth for an astromech droid.

    Paris, because the yanks have uploaded footage to youtube showing an expensive bird with undercarriage down and flaps open doing vertical-thrust ops.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    So we spend £10bn on the Olympics, give £8bn each year in foreign aid and spend hundreds of billions on the lazy and feckless through benefits so we end up at the situation where the country cannot defend its interests abroad.

    Well done to the socialists.

    1. Alex King

      @ Ian 45

      Oh yes, of course we should just stop feeding the poor and needy through foreign and instead spend money on blowing them up more effectively and expensively while making americans richer.


      Protecting our interests abroad is what got the MoD into this financial mess anyway - but it's much easier to just criticise spending money on good stuff like international co-operation and feeding the hungry.

  11. TeeCee Gold badge

    Future testing.

    " Further flights will see it going slower and slower until it is actually hovering...."

    That's going to make life a tad tricky for the (F18??) escort isn't it?

    "Anything you can do, I can bett........oh........bugger."

  12. Number6


    I'm impressed that if it's got significant forward speed, that the lid didn't get wrenched off as it got exposde to the airflow. Or is the intake powerful enough to pull most of the air mass down so it doesn't impact the lid?

    1. Snafu 2

      Why do I need another title? I'm an Earl, donchaknow!

      > I'm impressed that if it's got significant forward speed,

      It won't have

      > that the lid didn't get wrenched off as it got exposde to the airflow.

      & this is one of the significant tactical disadvantages. The Harrier has the ability to significantly change vector in midflight /at almost any speed/, thus adding considerably to its combat advantages (vis. Falklands). This thing, whilst (maybe) able to do VTOL/VSTOL won't be able to make use of that capability in combat except in very limited circumstances - thus less useful (don't think simply dogfights, also missile & other groundfire avoidance)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Seems to me this aircraft is a colossally expensive solution to a problem no-one seems able to define - other than the traditional and almost minimal problem the Americans have in forever screwing money and support out of the UK.

  14. Kevin Reader
    Paris Hilton

    Damn good pilot

    He must be a damn good pilot, since I reckon he'd be testing that with one hand on the eject handle at all times. Impressive the hatches all stayed attached at that speed, especially the upper front one.

    The chase planes seemed awfully close considering this was a first test too.

    There was a program about the TSR2 on Radio-4 the other day. Sob. Oh how things could have been. Apparently they destroyed the jigs and stuff almost immediately. Presumably so any following government could not prove them wrong. Odd really, 1960s = labour: we have no need of weapons like this, 2000s = labour: who can we invade next. How times change.

    Paris: Cos I'm fairly sure she knows about working with a stick firmly in hand.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Some things never change

      "Odd really, 1960s = labour: we have no need of weapons like this, 2000s = labour: who can we invade next. How times change."

      Not really. Looking back at the historical record it would seem that 1960s Labour was all about dithering, cancelling aircraft projects because they were expensive and rockets would make them obsolete, then cancelling rocket programmes because they were expensive and, well, American rockets would make them obsolete. In short, a bunch of ditherers who expected aerospace on a budget - presumably in Whitehall, a few toilet rolls and some tinfoil was all that the budget really needed to stretch to - only to run off to Uncle Sam and whore the country (insert obligatory Diego Garcia mention, plus all the other stuff done at Uncle Sam's bidding) in order to play with American toys.

      Fast forward to New Labour and, well, there's the same old dithering, the same old doing of Uncle Sam's business, and the same old playing with American toys. And people shrug off the whole 51st state thing. Pay more attention, Britards!

    2. asiaseen


      Ah, that was a beautiful aircraft - even the stripped-down hulk that used to be parked at Cranfield looked like impressive.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All the better(*) for bombing wedding parties of the hapless poor in whichever country we decide is our current enemy.

    I wonder if Clippy says "Who do you want to bomb today?"

    (*) Better here means transferring wealth from us to the CEOs of the MIC.

  16. GilbertFilbert

    sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD is wrong

    when he says watch

    This is much more appropriate:

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Good aircraft, but painted into a corner, IIRC it was designed for high level work, but due to the development of SAMs would have been forced into low level work, which it wasn't designed for, thus risking the airframe and needing further changes, thus costing more money so they were cancelled in the same manner as the RNs carriers of the 60s

    I think we should just amalgamate the armed forces, if necessary "retire" any brass who are unwilling to play nicely with others and set it up very roughly as follows (fill in blanks and concepts as required)

    Transport & support

    - Royal Fleet auxiliary & hydrography

    - Transport Aircraft

    - royal logistics core etc


    - RN warships

    - Carriers converted to CATOBAR and nuclear propulsion

    - All fixed wing aircraft purchased CATOBAR enabled (sell it to the RAF types as they get their shiny toys, but they have to be willing to operate them from RN carriers as and when required in exchange for said shiny toys)

    - Upgrade in infantry training to amphibious assault capabilities

    -Refit of illustrious / invincible from MarStrike to LitM role / conversion to similar role to Ocean

    Which would give us a pretty powerful force, deployable virtually anywhere on earth...however intra service rivalry would be a difficult issue to overcome

  18. jason 7

    TSR2 - Unions didnt help.

    I remember seeing a documentary on this several years ago. The interviewed one of the retired union bosses that worked on it and he said (quite proudly) that the company bosses would demand a piece of work was done in say three months. The union guy said that three months was very reasonable and easily done but as this was the time of the unions they would go back and demand to be given six months to do it in.

    So the delays and costs mounted up.

    Why companies dont say "chaps, get this work done asap and as long as it passes inspection you'll all get two weeks extra holiday and a bonues of £x at the end!" I bet the work would be done in a week! Unions be blowed.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Not literally, but...

    "the air marshals would rather close the entire joint Harrier force down now - quite likely torpedoing the carriers"

    That's if they actually had any torpedos, which they probably don't. Oh well, shaking one's fist at those baddies will have to do.

  20. Stratman

    If this plane is the answer

    What exactly is the question?

  21. Andrew Newstead

    TSR 2 operations

    Re Mike JVX, you are in error I'm afraid. TSR 2 was designed as a very low level penetration bomber. This can be seen in the very compact wings of the aircraft which where designed to give low wing loading which would smooth out the bumps caused by hi-speed low level flight. Tornado does the same by sweeping it's wings back to produce a short span delta (we also see this with the American B1).

    For reference see the Thunder and Lightnings website:

    Andrew Newstead

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "Not really. Looking back at the historical record it would seem that 1960s Labour was all about dithering, cancelling aircraft projects because they were expensive and rockets would make them obsolete, then cancelling rocket programmes because they were expensive and, well, American rockets would make them obsolete."

    Not quite acurate. In fact somewhat revisionist. The first slaughter of the UK aircraft industry was the 1957 review done by the then Minister Duncan Sandys. A Conservative. This bozo wanted a missile for everything.

    Labour came in, and during that "White heat of technology" that Wilson spoke of dumped Blue Streak on the not unreasonable grounds that a liquid oxygen fuelled ICBM was a turkey (just as the US had with Atlas, which is what it was *very* closely modelled on) but would have made quite a good satelllite launcher (as Atlas did for about 30 odd years) but instead *very* grudgingly went with Black Arrow. After all those nice Americans can always sort you out for a launch and besides this space business will never amout to much (this is very shortly after Bell labs built and had launched the first Telstar commsat).

    TSR2 was cancelled when it appeared to be carrying the burden of doing R&D for the *whole* of the UK aircraft systems industry (as the only major active military aircraft programme). They also fell for the US story that they would supply a UK variant of the F111 (never happened).

    So Conservative lunacy versus a rather too great Labour belief in a special relationship with the US. Ah, some things never do change.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ian 45

    "So we spend £10bn on the Olympics, give £8bn each year in foreign aid and spend hundreds of billions on the lazy and feckless through benefits so we end up at the situation where the country cannot sacrifice UK service men and women to defend American interests abroad.

    Well done to the chickenhawks."

    There I fixed it for you.

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