Preparing the F-35B for HMS Queen Elizabeth: Ski Jump Testing
2015-06-24 The ski jump is a feature on UK warships which have operated the Harrier and will operate the F-35B.
The joint UK-US test team at Pax River has recently completed the first test of the ski jump for the F-35B.
In the photos below, there are three shots of the ski jump as used by the British.
The first shows it in use during USMC harrier certifications in 2007 aboard the HMS Illustrious, which also saw the first landing on a foreign warship of the Osprey.
The second shows the ski jump aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The third shows the first launch of the F-35B off of a ski jump at the Pax River test facility.
The fourth photo shows the F-35B taking off from the USS Wasp without a ski jump.
The ski jump provides an advantage for launching with more weight and with less-end speed.
The fifth photo shows an RAF F-35B at MCAS Beaufort with Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols.
The F-35 is generated by and will be supported by a global enterprise.
For the British, the immediate advantage of this is to be able to leverage US-located facilities as their own are built over the next three years in the United Kingdom.
This means that the UK F-35Bs can be deployed about the HMS Queen Elizabeth fully capable in 2018 rather than having to start at that point, which is when infrastructure has been put in place in the UK for operations.
The Public Affairs Officer for the Joint Program Office provided his assessment of the test in the following story.
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – An F-35B Lightning II completed the first ramp-assisted short take off to test the aircraft’s compatibility with British and Italian aircraft carriers.
“This test was a success for the joint ski jump team,” said Peter Wilson, BAE Systems F-35 test pilot and U.K. citizen, who flew the June 19 mission at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
“The aircraft performed well and I can’t wait until we’re conducting F-35 ski jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carrier.”
Two F-35 partner nations use ramp-assisted short take offs for their carrier operations as an alternative to the catapults and arresting gear used aboard longer U.S. aircraft carriers.
The shorter U.K. and Italian carriers feature an upward-sloped ramp at the bow of the ship.
Curved at its leading edge, a ski-jump ramp simultaneously launches aircraft upward and forward, allowing aircraft to take off with more weight and less end-speed than required for an unassisted horizontal launch aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.
The F-35B’s design allows it to automatically position the control surfaces and nozzles for takeoff – a unique capability compared with previous short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft.
Such automation frees up pilot capacity and provides an added safety enhancement.
“The control laws on the F-35B are designed to make the task of taking off and landing at the ship much easier than for previous STOVL aircraft,” said Gordon Stewart, flying qualities engineer representing the UK Ministry of Defence.
“For ski jump launches, the aircraft recognizes when it is on the ramp and responds by positioning the control surfaces and nozzles automatically for takeoff and climb.
This was our first chance to demonstrate these new control laws using a land-based ski jump.
We’ll be using these results — along with those from future testing — to help us prepare for the first shipboard ski jump launch from HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
The work on the F-35B at Pax River is being performed by a joint US-UK test team.
The joint U.S.-U.K. test team will conduct phase I testing this summer.
The Spanish also operate a ski jump aboard their ships and are a very likely future user of F-35Bs.
For earlier pieces on HMS Queen Elizabeth and UK F-35 preparation see the following:
Credit Photos in Slideshow:
Photo One: Second Line of Defense
Photo Two: The Royal Navy
Photo Three: Pax River
Photo Four: USN
Photo Five: Second Line of Defense
And the F-35B could be coming to the Canberra-class ships for Australia as well.
These links were provided by Rob Henderson and the Second Line of Defense team thanks him.