A short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II aircraft took off from the ski jump loaded with Paveway IV and ASRAAM missiles for the first time, BAE Systems announced.
Installed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the ski jump is similar to that which will be used on the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
According to BAE Systems, aircraft BF-02 was piloted by the company’s test pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, the same pilot who was the first to launch the F-35B STOVL variant from a ski-jump.
The aircraft load-out was a UK-specific one as both ASRAAM and Paveway IV are in service with UK’s Tornado and Typhoon fleet of aircraft.
The F-35B is the most expensive of the three aircraft variants and the UK is planning on acquiring close to 140 of them. The acquired aircraft will be used by both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
Ship-borne trials of the aircraft aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth are expected to start in late 2018 with initial operational capability slated for 2020.