UK Commences F-35B Ski Ramp Test At US Naval Base

  • Our Bureau
  • 01:49 PM, July 19, 2017
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UK Commences F-35B Ski Ramp Test At US Naval Base
The F-35B Lightning II performing its first ski jump test at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in the US state of Maryland in June 2015.

The F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force has started second phase of land-based F-35B ski-ramp testing at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland.

The US-constructed ski ramps would help the UK Royal Navy in Phase 2 Testing of the F-35B Lighting II. The ski ramps are similar to the ones that will be used aboard UK carriers at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, IHS Jane's reported. 

The Short Takeoff and Vertical Lift (STOVL) variant F-35 was first tested at NAS Patuxent River for use on the Uk Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and Italy’s Cavour-class carriers in 2015.

The main purpose of the ski jumps is to allow for higher operating weights and thus the ability to carry more weapons during flight, the defense news outlet reported.

Ski jumps “squeeze the very most out of STOVL aircraft” like the F-35B and Harrier. Phase 2 testing kicked off in June on land, according to IHS Jane’s.

Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will start testing F-35B ski ramp takeoffs in 2018, and military planners expect the takeoff system to reach full operational capability by 2020.

The second round of testing entails more nuanced launch conditions than the first round of trials. For example, pilots will evaluate launching from the ski lifts at different speeds.

“The jet performed as expected and it was a real pleasure,” BAE Systems pilot Pete Wilson said when the F-35B completed its first ski jump in 2015.

Testing the F-35B ski-jump takeoff removes risk for launches on carriers by providing “valuable” data, Wilson said.

Launching from ski ramps needs less thrust than lifting off decks without ramps. Hence it facilitates heavier weapons loads on jets. The Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier operated by the Chinese navy has a comparable lip to assist flight operations. 

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