back to article Supersonic stealth jumpjet achieves its first mid-air hover

The F-35B supersonic stealth jumpjet has achieved its first hover in flight testing. British test pilot Graham Tomlinson held aircraft BF-1 stationary in midair 150 feet above the runway yesterday before executing a slow 70-knot rolling landing. The F-35B is now in flight testing at the Patuxent River naval air station in …


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  1. Ged T

    That's great! All it needs now are...

    ... some real-world threats that it would actually be capable of addressing!

    Also, before potential purchasers do this, the producers and design authorities might also want to think about the obvious dichotomy created by hosting a "stealthy-for-wealthy" jet collection, sat aboard a hulking great aircraft carrier...

    Maybe its just a marketing "thing" that needs to be addressed, perhaps by aggressive leafleting of potential foes, reminding them stearnly but politely, not to attack the carrier, especially when the birds are roosting... ;-)

    1. Vehlin

      Real-World Threats

      There are plenty of "Real-World Threats" that the JSF would be able to address, don't confuse the EFT with the JSF, even with tranche 3 the ground package for the EFT is just a bolt on, the JSF has been designed from the ground up as a strike fighter.

      Force projection is very important in any potential war zone, this is doubly important for an island nation. A US Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is as much a deterrant as it is a solution. When you look out of your window and see a carrer, a cruiser or two, 3+ destroyers, 2-3 guided missile destroyers and a submarine or two (you don't see these), you start to rethink your actions.

      We don't have a shortage of defence spending in this country, it's just that so much of it is spent on projects that never materialise or are largely pointless anyway. The whole concept of building the equipment ourselves when not one of our industries can compete with the likes of FN and Boeing. The last time we tried was with the A400M and look at the mess that's turning into.

      Back to the original point, there are plenty of situations in which a ground attack aircraft could be useful even in places like Afghanistan.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward


      > These are people (MP's) who are paid £65K+ per year...

      > Surely at that rate we can expect a certain level of competence?!

      Depends. Did you vote for a competent one last time? I tried, couldn't find one. We got Iris "toyboy" Robinson inflicted on us instead :(

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (can't think of a title)

    Why can't we just all be friends...?

  4. spezzer
    Jobs Horns


    What an awesome piece of kit - but hang on - didnt I see something like that in Wittering about 40 years ago - Oh yea I remember - Its a freakin Harrier!!!

    Still bit tasty tho

    1. cmaurand

      Yeah, but this is faster

      the F35 is supercruise, that is it cruises at supersonic speeds without using an afterburner. It also has a small radar signature, two things the harrier doesn't have.

      1. graeme leggett

        If we hadn't cancelled it

        ...we would have seen supersonic Harrier-like aircraft over the UK in the 1970s.

    2. Mr Young

      WOW! Again

      I noticed this impressive kit doesn't sound very much quieter than a Harrier? Looks like it's working ok though!

  5. Andrew Newstead

    Buckling deck plates issue.

    Far be it from me to take Lewis to task but this issue of jet exhuast heat affecting deck plating is not a new one. One of the problems that emerged when the Royal Navy started to operate Phantoms off our carriers in the late sixties/early seventies was that of the heat from the aircaft's engines on full chat at launch causing deck plates to buckle!

    A fix was found but it was only fitted to one ship, Ark Royal, as by then the carrier force was being run down. That fix was good old water cooling on the exhaust deflectors at the catapult head, I'm sure a similar solution would present itself for the 35B.

    Andrew Newstead

    1. david wilson



      Presumably, it wouldn't be impossible to have one or more relatively small areas of deck for vertical landing, designed to cope with the heat?

  6. Secretgeek

    "...roaring columns of hot air."

    These would be the columns of hot air generated keeping this crappy variation alive then would it?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Now I don't know a lot about aerodynamics....

    ...but it might be an idea for the pilot to close that sunroof canopy.

  8. Jelliphiish

    it's not really the politicians

    it's the mandarins.

    Rural Payments Agency anyone?

  9. DI_Wyman
    Thumb Up

    Now where did..

    ..I put those F35B's.....oh yeah on that hulking great carrier.....not so stealthy now are thay!

    1. Sceptic Tank
      Black Helicopters

      Great Carrier

      Somehow I doubt if that hulking great carrier will be going along to drop nukes on Moscow, Berlin, Brazaville, {wherever}.

  10. Bilgepipe


    It brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it - a Brit using some of that roaring hot air we're so good at producing. Go for it, lad, do us proud.

  11. ian 22

    Real-world threat?

    Remind me again why we need this, other than for junior bird-men's pleasure. "Fighter" jets no longer fight, they launch missiles at other "fighters" at 20 miles. A missile launching platform need not be carrying a meatbag or two, nor need it be capable of anything over mach 1. Likewise ground-attack duties seem to be passing to meatbagless Reapers and such.

    There, that's sorted. RAF, be warned.

    I'm willing to allow BAE develop my flying missile platform idea for a small fee...

    1. James 132
      IT Angle

      @ian 22

      That was the doctrine in the 60's. It was incorrect then, and there's a good chance it will be now, hence the continued emphasis on super-maneuverability. UAV's are common nowadays, but they have no opposition in any of the theatres they are deployed in. They are slow, have limited sensors, and are vulnerable to just about any air-defence threat. They have a role to play, but that complements rather than replaces conventional manned platforms.

      Manned aircraft will be around for a while yet. Just because they seem irrelevant today, does not mean things will stay that way.

      1. garbo


        ...I seem to recall a USAF spokesman's recent response to statements about the Su-30's far superior maneuverability vis-a-vis the F35/22: "Irrelevant. Dogfighting is 60s strategy. Future air war will be 'over-the horizon' using rockets."

        But what does he know?

  12. MinionZero

    I want one! :)

    Anything VTOL in my mind is so cool (Although maybe I should say hot at least for the warped and buckled flight deck ;)

    But I can't help wondering (with some sadness) that we could also be witnessing perhaps one of the final human piloted fighter aircraft. Give it even just 20 years of service and by then I strongly suspect it could be easily replaced by future next generation supersonic UAV's. I know the thought of this is utter heresy to any pilots, who will say to their final breath that humans are needed as pilots, but the way things are going, I can't help thinking we are witnessing an end of human fighter aircraft. Even just the economics of UAV's aircraft look so much cheaper than the extra complexity and cost of putting a human in the machine and protecting and providing for them.

    Also considering how computers are already starting to be able to even exceed what many humans can do in emergency situations, I can't help thinking human fighter pilots are going to increasingly end up with grounded desk jobs in the next 20 years. e.g. how's this for amazing, 60% wing loss and the computer can still fly the plane when even most humans would fail...

    1. M man

      VTOL rocks

      wheres my V44s???

      also we need these because...oh yeah those damn al-quadas keep seeing our harrers coming and blow them out of the sky.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Given the concerns over buckling

    Why isn't part of the test programme constructing a model section of UK aircraft carrier deck (or cutting a chunk out of an old one?) instrumenting it with a bunch of strain gauges and thermocouples (which aircraft test stations tend to have quite a few of) and running a few *real* tests to find out?

    1. Simon Says

      Hot air

      If only the engineers involved had decades of experience dealing with these issues from an existing V/STOL aircraft that takes off and lands on carriers and had the testing and design expertise to use for the F35 and CVF? *rollseyes*

      And LOL at the idea that converting CVF to nuclear power would cost "a bit" more.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    battle of the X planes anyone?

    so the Boeing competitor, the X-32, which lost out on the contract bid (with Boxer and Pelosi involved heavily in the Defense Appropriations Bill, and Lockheed's plant being located in CA, perhaps?) was able to demonstrate hover and VTOL capability (and didn't need a vented platform) before the contract for the JSF was even awarded. The "winner" is more expensive, more failure prone, and took years now to even demonstrate hover.

    Gotta love the Dems-they corrupt a project for personal and pork reasons then complain about military budgeting that they themselves bloated. Then they complain about the corruption that they themselves are partaking in.

    And there are idiots who want to trust health care to these sociopathic loons?

    1. Andrew Newstead


      The X-35B (X-plane pre-cursor to the F35B) did demonstrate STOVL operations before the JSF contract was awarded, it's just taken this long for the full scale productionised design to get to this point.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Down


      "so the Boeing competitor, the X-32, which lost out on the contract bid (with Boxer and Pelosi involved heavily in the Defense Appropriations Bill, and Lockheed's plant being located in CA, perhaps?) was able to demonstrate hover and VTOL capability (and didn't need a vented platform) before the contract for the JSF was even awarded. The "winner" is more expensive, more failure prone, and took years now to even demonstrate hover."

      IIRC there was a Discovery Channel doc on the the ATF programme some years ago.

      *Both* prototypes demonstrated STOL but *only* the LockMart one did so *without* having bits taken off it, which the judges seemed to think quite important.

      IMHO LockMart have always been *very* good at playing the DoD (and the CIA & NASA) procurement machine like a f$*"ing violin.. And BTW the *whole* fly-off programme was conducted under a Republican president, with a SecDef from one of the *biggest* gubmint con-tractors in the US with IIRC a fairly good control of *both* houses.

      This train has been rolling for a long time before Obama got on board.

  15. RMartin


    I've never understood why the RN has avoided building nuclear carriers, given that it has several nuke subs so is obviously used to managing the technology, which is ideal for carriers. The USN has this down to a fine art, with the Reagan-class (shudder at the name) supercarriers able to go without refueling - or even opening the reactor core in any way - for the entire 50-year lifespan of the ship. Plus all the energy you need for hauling such a big weight across the world and firing aircraft off on catapults.

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme


      um, no. That would be the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) of the NIMITZ class.

      The next-gen supercarriers would be the Gerald R. Ford class. Other than that, you are correct. Nuclear is the only way to go for a big carrier - the USN has a spectacular track record at this

  16. Doug 14

    Replacement for Harrier ?

    As a young lad I remember spending valuable hours studying in detail the illustrated box cover for my Airfix Harrier , supposedly operating from an open field ( in some as yet not overrun part of Germany ). Can't quite see an aircraft capable of buckling the deck of an aircraft carrier managing this.

    Flames because it seems entirely appropriate in the circumstances.

  17. nichomach
    Thumb Up


    Then again the original raison d'etre of the Harrier was as a second-strike NUCLEAR platform, hence the stress on the capability to deploy anywhere - basically they'd deploy with gravity bombs to exact tewwible vengeance and wetwibution in the event of nuclear wipeout of more conventional facilities. SLBMs kind of superseded them in the role of dispersable unfindable (and thus unkillable) deterrent, and the Harriers got bigger, heavier and fatter to accomodate the vastly greater range of kit and avionics that a more flexible role required. You probably wouldn't want to try that muddy field in Germany stuff with a GR9...

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Looks great!

    I just hope that we can produce them at something approaching an affordable price....

    Terminator icon, becuase the next generation of fighters after the F-35 will inevitably turn on their human masters....

  19. Anonymous Coward


    Didn't the people who invented the Harried get a patent - it was original...

  20. snafu

    strange design thing

    Doesn't that cover panel act as an enormous airbrake?

  21. Geoff Spick
    Paris Hilton


    That things has more flaps than a copy of Hustler, haven't they heard of sliding doors?

  22. Steve Evans

    Okay... but...

    It really doesn't strike me as anywhere near as elegant as the Harrier.

    Can this thing convert from level flight to hover yet, or vice versa? Can it slam on the vertical thrust at speed and go straight up to evade a persuing aircraft? Can it fly backwards?

    I can't see that barn door of a fan lid working very well at speed, it's either gonna slow the plane down too much before the big fan starts providing lift, or get ripped off! Assuming the hydraulics can force it open at x hundred knots.

    If they made the fan roof door a pair which opened to the sides they might have more of a hope, but flipping it forward ruins any rear visibility for the pilot and must be like deploying a parachute!

    Okay, yes, it's got super cruise etc etc, and the non hover version is a fine aircraft, I just think the hover version still has a way to go before it can compete with the ageing, but very competent Harrier.

    That won't stop our unelected president Broon ordering a few dozen though.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it me..

    .. or isn't there something vastly amusing at using a Godawful amount of fuel for the purpose of not going anywhere? I appreciate why, it just amuses me.

    Glad to see the Harrier provided the inspiration for the next generation of VTOL capable planes. No doubt Hollywood will make a film shortly where it will become an American invention. probably by some superfit, athletically built hunk in his garage (roofless, of course, you can only suspend credibility that far, and no, according to Hollywood, fat people don't invent things).

    BTW, if Disney gets involved expect it to be released in cheap popup-book cardboard 3D, of course (judging by Alice in Wonderland - what a waste)..

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "Glad to see the Harrier provided the inspiration for the next generation of VTOL capable planes. No doubt Hollywood will make a film shortly where it will become an American invention. probably by some superfit, athletically built hunk in his garage "

      Actually it was invented by a Frenchman (M. Wibold IIRC but my spelling is suspect) and 75% of the original funding came from a US funded R&D office in Paris. Given how much upfront investment the US Gov made it was a pity they never bought more of them.

      Mine's the one with the Bill Gunston Harrier book in the side pocket.

  24. Adam White

    Why does the RAF need a jump jet?

    The RN and USMC I can understand but what purpose does this plane serve for the RAF? Surely they're not still hiding out in German forests waiting for the Warsaw Pact to attack?

  25. Bobster

    Top Gun 2?

    Maverick: "Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a hover-by"

    Air Boss Johnson: "That's a negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full. "

    Cue cheesy grin by pilot, and scene of Air Boss spilling coffee...

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Downdraft heat

    = potholes fixed fast. No one says this is useless now

  27. Faster Better Greener

    Catapults, Costs and Carrier Capacity

    So RN looks like it'll be the only major customer for a non-standard SVTOL variant of the F35. Read: cost over-run, multiplied.

    Cat-launched variant much cheaper, due to much larger USN order bringing down up-front unit costs and whole-life overhead.

    Redesigning UK carriers to accommodate cats would, Navy blokes say, involve installation of a steam system the size of a Leander Class frigate's propulsion gear – and that's just for the catapults, the gas turbine system would still handle the carrier's propulsion.

    Which means less space to carry aircraft. Which kinda misses the point of an Aircraft Carrier.

    So a redesign to nuclear would provide (a la USN) more than adequate power for both propulsion and cat launch, along with all the other benefits of greater operational flexibility. (And that's a big plus).

    Using nuclear for electrical drive of maglev catapults, not inefficiently piping steam all over the shop for a WW2-style plane-pinger, would both save both space and increase Aircraft Carrying Capacity (a double plus). USN is already trialling maglev cats at Lakehurst.

    And that's in addition to being able to use all that space currently designed for intakes and funnels for increased Aircraft Carrying Capacity (a triple plus).

    And the buckling deck problem goes away (a quadruple plus).

    And patrol fighters can land with a full warload, without having to ditch unused munitions (a quintuple plus).

    "HMS Eric Laithwaite", anybody? A cost-effective, highly efficient and operationally robust maglev-toting British carrier with worldwide capability. Now there's a thought.

  28. Michael Dunn

    Job for life

    Brit test pilot balances on roaring columns of hot air

    So he'll be a politician when he retires.

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