Lockheed Martin's F-35b joint strike fighter jet made its first nighttime vertical landing aboard the USS WASP amphibious assault ship.
U.S. Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Russell Clift performed the landing of the F-35b, a Marine variant of the F-35, which will also be used by the United Kingdom and Italy, AL.com notes
The tests being conducted over 18 days started on Aug. 12 when the Wasp left the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Md.
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Marine test "pilots will expand the F-35Bs allowable wind envelope for launch and recovery, conduct first-ever night operations at sea, conduct initial mission systems evaluations at sea, evaluate the dynamic interface associated with aircraft operations on a moving flight deck, and further evaluate shipboard sustainment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter," said a Marine Corps statement
"It all went extremely well," Clift said in a Marine Corps press release. "Eight successful landings in one night, so we’re tracking favorably along the learning curve."
The jet is in phase two of developmental testing, having completed 40 short takeoffs and 41 vertical landings as of Aug. 18, according to a Lockheed Martin press release
The joint strike fighter jet is expected to reach initial operating capability in 2015, when it will be incorporated into shipboard operations on U.S. aircrafts, Lockheed added.
The F-35b will replace the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier, both of which are Cold War-era aircraft.
Lockheed Martin is reportedly building three F-35 versions, one each for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps is the first branch of the U.S. Military to take steps toward putting the planes in operation, the Christian Science Monitor reported
The F-35 program, which began ten years ago, has been delayed due to cost overruns, having begun with a $233 billion original price tag it has now ballooned to a revised estimate of $385 billion, making it the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program ever, the Associated Press reported
A global security and aerospace company that is headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs approximately 116,000 people worldwide and had a reported net sales for 2012 of $47.2 billion.
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