This video summarizes several days of shipboard trials of the F-35B aboard the USS Wasp in October 2011. The trials went very well and we reported on those trials earlier on the website.
One of the unnoticed changes are the efficiencies the new systems are introducing with regard to use of deck space aboard the LPDs. The ability to make better use of Amphib deck and below deck space is significantly enhanced by the new systems.
First, having the two modernized helos – the Zulu and Yankee Class – use the SAME engines means that support for two different engines aboard the ship is no longer necessary. This frees up both manpower and maintenance space aboard the ship.
Second, the V-22 compared to the CH-46 uses 20% less space to fold its wings, providing more space aboard the deck for combat air or helo operations. The lateral orientation of the blades permits this deck saving option. For example, this means that one can spot 5 V-22s aboard the deck in a space, which formerly would hold 3 helos.
Third, the F-35B operates – dependent on loads and other conditions – in a smaller space than the Harrier. Because of internal loading of weapons, the ability to turn around the aircraft will be much more rapid in many conditions than the Harriers as well.
The key point is the F-35B is a ground attack replacement for the AV-8, and F/A-18 and air-to-air fighter replacement for the Hornet in that role and also an EW/ECM replacement for the EA-6B. The F-35B also has the untapped combat potential to also sortie continuous battle knowledge because of the revolutionary “Z-axias” C4ISR-D, “D” is for combat decisions being made in the cockpit.
Physically, the take off-range for the F-35B aboard an LHD Wasp Class ship will be similar to the Harrier operating in the 600-700 foot range. But because of the inherent capabilities of the F-35B, it can be used without a full up weapons ordinance and take off in a shorter range than a Harrier and be combat relevant. The question revolves around the weapons load the aircraft will be using in different mission sets.
And the LHDs with F-35Bs aboard can have a significant carrier role. 15 F-35Bs can operate off of the deck with 4 more below deck in the Hangers. The normal configuration would be to deck spot 6 F-35Bs to allow for the other elements to support the MEU.
So with the F-35B, the V-22, improved helos the ARG will pack a very significant combat punch across a wide front of action from the sea and to the sea, dispersed and ready.
The video has been provided by Lockheed Martin Corporation