The Navy's F-35C Lightning II fighter took off using its first steam catapult launch at a test site in New Jersey on Wednesday, the service announced. Navy Lt. Chris Tabert was at the controls when Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Launch and Recovery Equipment) Brandon Barr pushed the button and shot the jet into the air.
Engineers with Naval Air Systems Command are working their way down the checklists for the things they need to prove the C can do during its visit to Naval Air Station Lakehurst, N.J. Here are some of the other goals, per the Navy's announcement.
In addition to the catapult launches at varying power levels, the integrated test team will execute a test plan over three weeks to include dual-aircraft jet blast deflector testing and catapult launches using a degraded catapult configuration to measure the effects of steam ingestion on the aircraft. The ability to degrade the catapult is unique to the test facilities at Lakehurst.So although the Navy and Lockheed are doubtless pleased with this milestone, they still have a long road ahead before an F-35C actually replicates this cat shot, or does an arrested landing, aboard an actual ship at sea. The jet isn't scheduled for those trials until 2013.
There's another photo below, and you can see video of the launch here.