Good Call

With the first flight of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing test aircraft steadily approaching, the decision, in retrospect, to fly the F-35A conventional flying variant first was a good one, even though it was criticized at the time, said John Young, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer. Speaking to reporters June 6 in the Pentagon, Young said much was learned about the program by putting the F-35A variant into testing first to work out any engine issues before moving to the STOVL aircraft, which presents more challenging propulsion modes. “We’ve now had 44 flights without engine issues,” Young said of the first F-35A test aircraft, which is dubbed AA-1. “I expect the same results from STOVL number one.” This aircraft is designated BF-1. Young said that there are some design changes being made to the STOVL variant to resolve some of its engine difficulties, but he feels good about the fixes and does not want to stop the program due to the enormous cost it would engender.