F-35 Enters STOVL Flight Test

Lockheed Martin officials announced that the Marine Corps short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the F-35 had engaged its STOVL propulsion system for the first time Jan. 7 during flight tests at NAS Patuxent River, Md. The flight lasted 14 minutes, during which BAE Systems test pilot Graham Tomlinson climbed to 5,000 feet, engaged the shaft-driven LiftFan propulsion system at 210 knots, and then slowed to 180 knots with the system still engaged before accelerating again to 210 knots and converting back to conventional-flight mode. Lockheed executive Dan Crowley said that extended ground testing had proved that the STOVL propulsion “performs well.” He continued, “Now we are seeing early proof that the system operates in flight as our team predicted.” Meanwhile, Pentagon officials are poised to slow the buy rate to put more money into the strike fighter’s reportedly shaky development program.