The world is getting its first look at the Lockheed Martin F-35B taking off and landing at night on the deck of a US naval ship.
While the Internet buzz is over how video of this short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft make it look like some kind of UFO, this is the US Marine Corps second round of sea tests of the F-35B Lightning.
The USS Wasp left the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Md. on Aug. 12 with two F-35Bs on board to conduct 18 days of tests at sea. Marine test "pilots will expand the F-35Bs allowable wind envelope for launch and recovery, conduct first-ever night operations at sea, conduct initial mission systems evaluations at sea, evaluate the dynamic interface associated with aircraft operations on a moving flight deck, and further evaluate shipboard sustainment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter," according to the US Marine Corps.
On Aug. 14, the first DT-II night vertical landing was accomplished by F-35 Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. C.R. “Jimi” Clift, who is a Harrier pilot by training.
The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, also underwent modifications in order to accommodate the F-35B aircraft. Those changes include the "application of a new composite deck coating that offers additional heat protection, movement of some lights and sensors to better support F-35 landings, and installation of equipment to monitor environmental effects and collect data during F-35 operations," according to the Marine Corps.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported last November when the first squadron of Marine F-35Bs was deployed to Yuma, Ariz., "The Marines are the first in the military taking the steps toward putting the planes in operation. The F-35B would replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier."
The US Marine Corps plans one more rounds of sea tests for the F-35B Lightning and expects to deploy the aircraft at sea by 2015.