Air Platforms

F-35B begins new ski-ramp testing campaign

17 July 2017
F-35B test aircraft BF-1 seen during Phase 2 ski ramp testing. The aircraft is pictured here configured with external pylons and AIM-9X missiles. Source: Dane Wiedmann/Lockheed Martin

Key Points

  • A land-based ski-ramp has been built at NAS Patuxent River to support testing for the United Kingdom
  • The Phase 2 test programme is designed to expand the ski-jump envelope for the F-35B

The F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force has begun a second round of land-based F-35B ski-ramp testing at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland ahead of First of Class Flight Trials (FOCFT) on the UK Royal Navy (RN) carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth , scheduled for 2018.

The Phase 2 test programme began in June and is designed to expand the ski-jump envelope. This includes launches with external stores, increased crosswind conditions, and take offs at a range of different speeds.

The RN’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers feature a 12.5-degree ski-ramp on the bow. This serves to launch aircraft upward and forward, allowing the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B to improve its payload radius.

As part of the F-35 system design and development phase, a land-based ski-ramp – modelled on the legacy 12-degree design used in the RN’s earlier Invincible-class carriers – has been built at NAS Patuxent River to support UK testing. A first ski-ramp launch was performed in June 2015, and by the end of June 2016 a total of 31 ski-ramp take offs had been performed to complete Phase 1 testing.

Test aircraft BF-01 and BF-04, both instrumented to measure landing gear loads, were used for testing with internal stores only.

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