back to article Supersonic stealth jumpjet makes 'short landing'

The F-35B Lightning II, world's first supersonic stealth jumpjet and successor to the famous Harrier, has carried out its first "short" landing. Test pilots are currently making slower and slower flights with the aircraft, progressing gradually towards hovering vertical landings. Video of the jet coming in for a rolling runway …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    What's the point of....

    .... a jet having a Sunroof? Surely these things have air-con???

  2. MinionZero

    I want to see VTOL!

    I don't want short landings, I want Vertical Take-Off and Landing because its so cool. I want to see it do that! :)

  3. Richard Waterhouse

    Acid Test

    The acid test for this plane is going to be "Can it carry out a carrier landing with a full armament", if the anwer is no then it will be unfit for the most basic carrier operation, the combat air patrol.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Not impressed

    1. That is a pretty long landing.

    2. Landing on a runway this way is one thing, landing on a carrier deck is another. The moment the plane crosses from sea above the deck at low (relative to the deck) altitude is going to be "very interesting". If vertical trust is not adjusted immediately to compensate for "stepping on the deck" the result will be a nice backflip. Just ask any helicopter pilot why such landings are prohibited in the flying manual and why do they come up onto center-deck from at least tens of meters above it. Granted, the plane has a number of advantages compared to a heli and the most important advantage is of having multiple thrust vectors so you can adjust them to prevent this. Getting this to work however will be quite entertaining. My guess is that it will require semi-automated landing under computer control and that is something that Navy pilots hate almost as much as the idea of having no airplanes whatsoever.

    1. DavyBoy79

      specifically point 1)

      The landing appears to be very long, but try and examine the speed at which the plane lands. From very poor visual estimates, I would estimate this to be around 50kts. If you sail your carrier into wind, you could expect around 20kts+. Thus, the horizontal speed relative to the deck is only going to be around 30kts at max. I would argue then, the brakes and a suitable length short runway would allow this aircraft to land and stop on deck unassisted.

      Point 2, now this will be a fun transition for the pilots. I can see the Standard Operating Procedure for a deck landing to be "Aim about 1 ft behind the edge of the carrier, and the bounce will make the wheels touch down just beyond it"

  5. Hairy Spod

    1st supersonic jumpjet?

    Didn't both the French and Russians make working protypes in the 1970's?

  6. Hairy Spod


    missed the stealth bit!

  7. Tom Adair
    Big Brother

    Old tech..

    Short of the stealth technology, the RAF could've had a supersonic Harrier decades ago, the Hawker Siddeley P.1154. Unfortunately this project was killed by the Labour government of 1964, alongside the more famous TSR-2 (which would have replaced the Vulcan and Canberra fleets and quite possibly still be in service to this date). Instead the P.1127 Kestrel was developed into the current subsonic Harrier (the P.1154 was a further development of the P.1127, with a longer fuselage and more boxy engine intakes, and was also to have been given the Harrier name had it been produced and gone into service, instead of P.1127). On the subject of confusing names, the F-22 Raptor prototypes in the early 90's were also given the name of Lightning II.

    Instead, with the cancellation of these two aircraft, the British aviation industry slowly died, and the various manufacturers were absorbed into one another to stay alive, eventually leaving only BAe (and Westland if you're counting helicopters). While the Harrier was a success, there can be no doubt that a supersonic version would have made moves into air forces/navys that instead purchased regular supersonic aircraft.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good post

      The other thing that did for our aircraft industry was putting all our eggs into the supersonic basket (thank you Tony Benn, another success to chalk up alongside ICL and the AGR). The money needed for that killed our relatively successful airliner business.

    2. Mr Mark V Thomas

      Re: Old Tech

      One could validly make the argument that it was the Royal Navy that effectively "scuttled" both TSR 2 and P.1154, as they wanted to ensure the money that would not be spent on said programmes, would go to support their "Pet Project", the Queen Elizabeth class "supercarrier" programme a/k/a CVA-01/02.

      (Reportedly, said "Supercarrier's" would have weighed some 60,000 tons, & been larger than the USS Enterprise, their nearest U.S equivalent. ).

      To that extent, they actively sabotaged the P.1154 programme, by insisting on a naval version for the Fleet Air Arm, which was effectively a completely different aircraft, to the single seat strike version the RAF wanted, in that it had a far larger wing span to the RAF version, had a 2 man crew, & was optimised for long range interception.

      The radar/fire control system for this version, would at best reach a beta test version in 1970, & probably would have taken until 1975 to reach full operational service...

      Because of the Royal Navy's activities, the unit cost for P.1154 reached a unacceptable level & the P.1154 programme was cancelled.

      Ironically, CVA-01 was itself cancelled, due in part to the worsening dispartity between the Pound & Dollar, which reached crisis level in 1967, caused by the failure of the previous McMillian government to decouple the Pound from the Gold Standard, at the same time the U.S decoupled the Dollar from the same standard, in the early 1960's...

      The Final twist in this tale, is that BAC & McDonnell Douglas offered a supersonic version of the Harrier, using a PCB enhanced Pegasus (now owned by Rolls Royce), capable of Mach 1.2, but using existing Harrier/AV-8A airframes (with slight modifications) to the U.S Marine Corps & the RAF under the name AV-16X, in the early 1970's.

      However both parties refused to go along with this proposal for various reasons...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    early days yet?

    Since that landing still looked fast and longish. Perhaps a different angle would have shown it better.

  9. Tom 7


    Only if you've bought your radar recently. These things stick out like sore thumbs on short wave radar, or can use a short wave station to achieve the same result.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Economics And Performance

    ...of jumpjets is dismal as compared to just buying a proper CVN with a steam-powered catapult. Conventional fighters like the F18 or the Rafale (or the SU27) have much higher performance than any VTOL a/c can ever achieve.

    Why didn't the British procure their carriers together with the french ? The already have a CVN that operates Rafales.

    Ideally, of course it would be a european CVN operating something like a navalized Eurofighter. But the easiest and cheapest route would be DeGaulle CVN/Rafale.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is this the one ...

      ... that has to have a strong head-wind blowing? The one that can't go fast enough because it has a submarine engine and it's a lot bigger than a submarine.

      2CV/whateverplaneyouwant ?

  11. Mark 121


    You should be abbreviating it to Royce, as he was the engineer rather than the salesman.

  12. hugo tyson

    Cold weather only?

    I notice there's snow everywhere. Will it work in the warm, where the air's less dense and less cooling for motor?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cool But...

    I think the Harrier is a fantastic piece of kit and watching it do all it's party tricks at air shows is great, I'm sure the F35 will be a fine sucessor, but the question is why do the RAF need VTOL these days?

    The original premise behind needing VTOL was that during a cold war all the runways would have been destroyed and you needed an aircraft that could provide close air support to front line troops attempting to stop the red menace invading from East Germany. We've all seen the images of harriers being 'hidden' in trees under camo netting, effectively the harrier was designed to be a guerilla weapon.

    Apart from this ground attack role now being fullfiled by Helicopter gunships like the AH64, the concept of having to fight a guerilla campaign against a invading army is now a lot less likely.

    Put some cataputs on the new carriers and so that they can have proper air support cover. Save the RAF some cash and let them buy a couple of B1-Lancers just incase the South Atlantic Oil wars starts up again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes but...

      How the hell do you expect minor Royals to be able to impress prospective girlfriends/future wives if they can't filch one and land on a postage stamp size lawn at the country house?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No cats = VTOL

      Far as I'm aware, the new carriers are being delivered sans cats. See Lewis Page for details.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As to capabilities...

    ... the prudent thing to do would've been to buy a Russian aircraft factory in its entirety for the price of a couple of these overpriced things then build supersonic operate-on-grass fly-on-vodka do-the-Pugachev-cobra fighter aeroplanes at leisure. Fixing a naval variant would've been an option too, and the cost difference might even pay for slightly longer ships than the silly pocket carriers. But well, that'd've been prudent.

  15. Graham Bartlett

    @AC, "Cool but"

    Kandahar airport ring any bells?

    More than ever these days, if the RAF are going abroad then they're going to be operating out of an beat-to-hell airbase in some godforsaken hole that's only just been "liberated" from whatever tinpot dictator is currently enemy-of-the-month. Or in the unlikely case that the UN ever manage to stop faffing before a few million people are massacred or deported in a civil war, they might be policing a UN no-fly zone or DMZ, and again that's most likely to be in Africa where good runways are in short supply.

    If we discount full-on shooting wars between the US/UK and Russia or China, the main uses for the RAF will be ground support, for which a jet can get to a target faster than a helicopter, and preventing anyone from the other side getting into the air in the first place. The Typhoon is a good plane, but it's a classic example of fighting the last war. Any aircraft the RAF come up against are already outclassed by the current Harriers, never mind the new Lightnings, so there's really very little need for Typhoon-type air-to-air-combat planes compared to multi-role fighter-bombers like the Lightning or the Tornado.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: @AC, "Cool but"

      "....for which a jet can get to a target faster than a helicopter...." So, surely a supercruise capable Typhoon2 can get there even faster and more economically than a chopper or a Harrier, loiter over the target longer, and carry a much heavier load of bombs, rockets and cannon shells (if the RAF are ever allowed to use the Typhoon's Mauser).

      ".....The Typhoon is a good plane, but it's a classic example of fighting the last war...." Which is why making it into a real multi-role jet, as is virtually done with the Tranche 3 kit, would seem a very good idea, so it is even better at dropping guided munitions accurately on those Third World baddies (whenever the UN lets us). Then we can get rid of most of the old Tornados too.

      "....Any aircraft the RAF come up against are already outclassed by the current Harriers..." Really? So all those secondhand MiG-21s, MiG-23s, even the old MiG-19s, all available cheaply on the arms market and common to many of the not-so-nice countries of the World, would you really like to go up against them in a Harrier? Sure, the Harrier, especially the RN's FSR2, was very good at dogfighting with a good air-control system directing the action, but in anything other than low-level CAP I'd much rather be driving a Typhoon2. Do remember that the Argies avoided combat with the Harriers over the Falklands as they didn't have the fuel load to allow them to indulge in dogfighting and get back home. The majority of the Harrier kills were tail-chase attacks on Argies making low-level bombing runs. Had the Falklands been even a few dozen miles closer to Argentina then their Mirage pilots would probably have been much keener to mix it and results a lot less single-sided.

      But you do make a good point in that we could buy a much cheaper airframe and kit it out with the required bomber and air-superiority kit to do the UN policing role. After all, the US ground forces prefer the slow A10 Warthog, flown by pilots trained for close support, over F-16 drivers that usually have a problem getting in to the tight Afghan valleys. My personal fave choice would be the single-seat version of the BAe Hawk 200 series, which has already had all the development work done. It would even keep the work in Blighty (more so than the Typhoon2 or F-35B), and share spares with the existing Hawk trainer fleet, and cost peanuts to run even compared to the existing Harrier. So, cancel the F35-B; halve the Typhoon2 fleet but make them all Tranche3 plus cannon; then buy twice the number in Hawk 200s to give us actually more capability. We could even put cat launchers on the carriers with the savings and let them take a mix of Typhoon2s, Hawk 200s and Hawkeyes (for proper air-control) to sea.

      It's easy, innit, doing this armchair General stuff?

  16. No, I will not fix your computer


    Two [insert the country of choice for racial abuse] pilots coming into land, one says to the other, "oh this landing strip is a short one", "you're not wrong, are we at the correct airport?", "yup correct airport, we're going to have to do a stall, spotland by the look of it", "OK, lets go for it...." a few moments later and the plane bumps to a really short landing, one pilot turns to the other and says, "That's the shortest ever landing strip I've ever seen..." the other replies, "yea, but look how wide it is!!"

  17. Ken Smith 1
    Thumb Down

    If that is a sshort landing

    What do they class as a long landing???

    No were near as cool as a Harrier in hover

  18. Camilla Smythe

    For Shit

    What's this bit of turdbox doing opening up flappy shit left right and centre when it needs to for shit for shit for shit and then not really achieve shit?

    If my Mums gas central heating system is good enough for a Harrier then what are these arsefucks doing implementing the same old failed crap Mr Hubbard wrote about in their comics for them?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Proper Carrier Ops

    Look at this:

    1. ac616

      Proper Carrier Ops

      This is my favourite carrier video:

      (not totally relevant, totally impractical, but genuine and very cool).

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I concur with Mark121

    The company is either Rolls-Royce on a formal level, or Royces if you have any fucking clue about the company. Rolls is what 80s yuppies drove around in when they's got bored of their Porsche.

    I have pretty much zero respect for Lewis Page anyway (yes, yes, buy American, European is shit, American is great - You Ess AYE, You Ess AYE) but this really shite level of industry knowledge actually takes my respect levels negative. So much so as I would trust a detailed discussion on global military affairs from 50 cent more now than Lewis Page.

    El Reg, please replace the man, he is embarrassing even to a non serious piss take like yourselves.

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    @Mike Richards

    "The other thing that did for our aircraft industry was putting all our eggs into the supersonic basket (thank you Tony Benn, another success to chalk up alongside ICL and the AGR). The money needed for that killed our relatively successful airliner business."

    Your history of the UK aviation industry is seriously at odds with reality. Tom Adair has rather more accurate complaints about the Labour government's role in stuffing the UK military aircraft business.

    The all the eggs in 1 supersonic basket was down to Conservative Defense Minister Duncan Sandys, whose defense review (1957 IIRC) concluded that crewed military aircraft were "Obsolete," and the *only* programmes allowed to continue were ones too far gone to cancel. Missiles would do everything needed in future. To be fair he was involved in the "Headless man" sex scandal at the time. A cock of a minister in every sense of the word.

    In at least one interview with Anthony Benn he stated that it was *only* his decision to release the cancellation proposal to the public (which demonstrated it was nonsense) that saved the concorde, which BTW is a civilian aircraft. In the concorde timeframe in the UK you would be looking at Lightning, Tornado and Jaguar. IIRC *all* were supersonic. Tom Adiar comments point out that a supersonic VTOL would have also been possible.

    The thinking that gave the UK ICL was the same thinking that gave it BAe systems (ultimately) and GEC. Both the ICL and AGR situations were testimony IMHO to the deep ignorance of business, science and economics in the UK civil service at the time.

    I mention this because people who are ignorant of history have a strong tendency to repeat it, regularly.

    Mine will be the one with the concorde book in it.

  22. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Just Coy or Absolutely Petrified? AIRight Royal Dilemma in Every Great Virtual Household Game.

    Crikey,..... reading all those posts makes one wonder what everyone would be doing if no one was permitted for any good, bad or indifferent reason, to design and build war death and destruction machinery?

    Man is a bit Slow to Catch on to his Systemic Failings and Plot a Course of Correction, is he not?

    Obviously a Sub Prime Media Performance thing too with Digital Programming Missing the Sweet Spot with Sticky Subject Matter Experts Leading with ProActive Play Projects .

    Or maybe Sticky Subject Matter Experts Leading with ProActive Play Projects need to Beta Introduce their Program to the Masses with Media InterPlay Courses ....... for CyberIntelAIgent Insertion into Live Operational Virtual Environments.

  23. b 3

    the harriers got life left in it yet!

    all that money they spent on developing this thing..

    the americans have tweaked the harrier above what we did (i presume we get that tech back?), with ceramic engines and grp bodywork..

    i wonder if it was physically impossible of making the harrier supersonic?

    either way it was dam fine plane and i find it hard to see why speed is the only important thing with fighters..

  24. S 10
    Thumb Down


    Would have expected something a little more impressive by now.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Like the Vj 101 ?

    "Tom Adiar comments point out that a supersonic VTOL would have also been possible."

    You mean something like this ?

    btw, RR was part of the engine developers and it nearly killed a testpilot with a British-sounding name. Also, it was supersonic w/o afterburner.

    Despite the fact that this thing was cancelled, it clearly demonstrates that we really don't need yank technology here in Europe, if we only decided to develop less than three fighters at a time. And stopped buying those cheap F16s only because the merkins talk so sweeet to us.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    My guess is that it actually is easier to land a Hercules on a carrier, as it is designed for low-speed operations.

    As far as I understand it, they did not even use arresting cables. Also the takeoff seems to be w/o catapult.

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    @B 3, @jlock

    @B 3

    "the Americans have tweaked the harrier above what we did (i presume we get that tech back?), with ceramic engines and grp bodywork.."

    No. The AV8b which MD sol dd the US marines is a very different aircraft. The wing was carbon fibre (GRP is *glass* reinforced plastic). I'm unaware of any "ceramic" elements in the engine.

    It's particularly ironic as the Harriers Pegasus engine was about 75% funded by a US backed NATO R&D programme and the original idea was French.


    "Like the VJ 101"

    No. With specific regard to the Harrier Hawker had done work on a supersonic version and what changes needed to be made regarding wings, inlets etc. The key Pegasus change AFAIK was referred to as "Plenum chamber burning," IE afterburner. IIRC this was deemed too risky, given those nice Americans were going to sort out a special version of the F111 and the Harrier was just a stop gap, part of the reason it is *very* difficult to service. Nearly all of 1 wing has to come off to get the engine out.

    One of the reasons for the Harriers survival and it's VTOL competitors (of which there were many) failure or relegation to test aircraft is they solved they VTOL in *obvious* ways, like the V22 Osprey. These obvious solutions had various obvious (and plenty of non obvious) problems which only show up when you try to build them. The UK example was the Shorts SH1, with 4 lift jets in the central fuselage. Simple. Except the 4 channel quad redundant fly-by-wire control system to keep them all *perfectly* balanced (using early 1960s analogue tech) was *not* simple and was not easy to design.

    In research in general the UK had a turbo-ramjet under development along similar lines to

    to the J58/nacelle structure of the SR71 and a plane to carry it, the Avro730 (which bears a striking resemblance to both it and the Skylon spaceplane) but with wing tip engine nacelles and forward canard. It would have lacked the Blackbird extremely low radar cross section as AFAIK it would have been made out of stainless steel honeycomb instead of titanium (the fuselage chines on the Blackbird are also part of this, as well as giving significant lift in a way the canard does not). The French had 2 such projects, both of which resulted in experimental aircraft (one with an all glass nose for the pilot which must have been quite a unique experience).

    Mine's the one with the experimental aircraft book in the pocket.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Nice VTOL vids

    Nice VJ 101 vid:

    Dangerous looking Do 31 vid:

    (except for the last takeoff in the vid, which looks very smooth)

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