The long beleagured F-35B shot take-off and vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter is accelerating through its flight tests far quicker than anyone would have predicted a year, heck, even a few months ago.
Since January the jet has performed seven times the number of vertical landings that it did in all of last year, according to Defense News. This is seriously impressive considering that troubles with the plane's lift fan doors and structural weaknesses were hurting the plane's test performance so much that Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the B-model JSF on a two year probation late last year.
Now, the plane is at "about 200 percent of our planned test points today," Brig. Gen. Gary Thomas, the Marines' assistant deputy commandant for aviation told DN.
Another interesting piece of info to surface in the aritcle is the claim that the JSF performs very similarly to the F/A-18 Hornet:
Operational pilots should be thrilled with the F-35's performance, Kelly said. The F-35 Energy-Management diagrams, which display an aircraft's energy and maneuvering performance within its airspeed range and for different load factors, are similar to the F/A-18 but the F-35 offers better acceleration at certain points of the flight envelope.All of this flight testing is paving the way for the Bravo to perform shipboard trials in the fall. Barring any major issues, we may well see the jet saved from the brink of programmatic death to replace the Marines' current fleet of AV-8B Harriers, F/A-18s and EA-6B Prowlers.
"The E-M diagrams are very similar between the F-35B, F-35C and the F/A-18. There are some subtle differences in maximum turn rates and some slight differences in where corner airspeeds are exactly," Kelly said.