The shape of things to come – video of F35B on trials

May 12, 2012   //   by NavyLookout   //   Articles, blog  //  15 Comments

This is an F35B on shipboard trials, prototype of the aircraft that is now planned to fly from the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers from sometime around 2018.

As a non-aviation specialist, first impressions are that this £100 million contraption looks incredibly complicated, masses of moving parts hydraulics, hinges, doors levers etc all which all must function properly for a safe landing. Surely a huge maintenance challenge and vulnerable to even minor battle damage? When the plane takes off and is ‘cleaned up’ it has a certain 21st century beauty but seems to lack the elegance of the much simpler Harrier. However it does represent an exciting step up in capability if it works as advertised. FLY NAVY!


  • Or perhaps not to come given the F-35 is now on its third grounding due to tech issues. Worlds biggest helo carriers anyone?

  • 30 years ago today Sea Harriers started using forward operating base at Port San Carlos. The F 35B can do the same, the F 35C can’t

  • The F35B decision is the right one for the UK. What we now need is two smaller Juan Carlos class carriers to complement the QEs and we have four fast jet platforms.

    • Two more platforms?! It will be a battle in 2015 to avoid one of the QEs not being mothballed. The First Sea Lord has no more destroyers/frigates left to sacrifice to obtain additional platforms! But I do agree you only need a 27000T platform for F-35Bs and rotary AEW…..

  • The sad reality is that UK politicians (and most voters) don’t do/grasp naval airpower and out of area operations.
    It really is a sorry tale since 1918:
    World-leading RNAS being transferred into RAF-controlled FAA until 1939 (Cunningham had to use obsolete Swordfish at Taranto in 1940!), Sempill Mission transferring technology to Japan, failure to modernise Glorious/Courageous (not just Hood/Repulse and the last 2 QE class battleships (Malaya/Barham)) before WW2, the Force Z debacle off Kuantan, 1966 Defence White Paper and CVA-01 cancellation, premature retirement of HMS Eagle/HMS Ark Royal in the 1970s, the lack of fighter cover/AEW in the Falklands and the consequential destroyer/frigate/Atlantic Conveyor losses, building huge supercarriers in STOVL configuration, retiring Sea Harriers in 2006 with no replacement aircraft for over a decade………

  • What a fiasco, from start to finish – you don’t need 65000t STOVL carriers!
    (1) Should have been nuclear powered from the start, plenty of excess steam for CATOBAR without experimental EMALS or additional boilers and no oiler to guard and which feeds the thirsty carrier.
    (2) Should have been CATOBAR from the start, with an initial F-18 squadron with 2 F-35C squadrons (not inferior F-35B aircraft) to follow in the 2020s, plus E-2 Hawkeye AEW and UALs and aerial carrier tankers.
    (3) A dozen Type-45 dstroyers, so there are enough destroyers and frigates to defend such a task force.
    (4) The through deck cruisers and Sea Harriers (not the useless redar-less G7/G9 RAF Harriers retired in 2010) should have been kept in service until Queen Elizabeth/F-18s were commissioned.
    We waste enough on welfare and overseas aid…..

  • Sorry, I went back through other opinion here and noted people were under the assumption Cat and trap launched aircraft had lost out to the ramp and VTOL option? Didnt the current UK government order PoW be reconfigured for CTOL operations ( a major budget blow out) and change their order to the CTOL F-35C? Ive been reading of major traumas in the UK and Australian Naval and air oriented media stating this and that work on the QE was too far gone to convert until after her completion. she would therefore serve as a helicopter carrier until PoW commissioned then be paid off for a major rebuild of her deck for CTOL operations. Or have recent comments of the current UK Defence minister they may have got the decision wrong been turned into actual policy?

    • Own question answered. Read other stories. So apparently they have or a considering it? Makes the former UK government look almost competent.

  • Should have added, that since the first ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth is being finished in original configuration, she could have continued to operate Harriers ( Impossible now but if the UK government had reprieved Ark Royal and Ilustrious until her commission) while a conventional cadre worked up for HMS Prince of Wales with whatever CTOL aircraft was picked up for her. Harriers could have then been retired 2020-22, QE placed into refit to CTOL as planned while PoW entered service. Whatever aircraft is selected. I would suggest RAFAEL or Super Hornet / Growler…..note RAAF was able to fast track 24 Super Hornets into service with two former F-111 squadrons within five years on the back of USN orders, and twelve are wired for Growler conversion. Super Hornet has also performed the Tanker role…something neither version of F-35 seems fit for. The UK Government could do same, showing they a flexible and recognize a mistake when they see it. Order the aircraft now. Beg the aircrew and handlers back with big bonus payments and see about doing a deal with the US to prove they really are Britains freind, and getting a squadron or two flying off a USN CVN with deck crew to work with their people to get ready for big deck operations again by 2022. Maybe they can be generous and hand enough Harriers back so Lizzie can do a proper job.

  • Recent media comment on carrier trials of the F-35B upon the LHA USS Wasp. it was found that several issues had arisen with the VTOL version of the Lightning including indications that the doors covering the vertical jet outlets and intakes may meed further redesign. The report also stated that some of the issues had to do with arrangements on the Wasp that need a rethink. You have to wonder, now that we are into the second decade of development, and two years after the original outlet modifications for the F-35B were ordered, how much longer if ever it will be before operational aircraft are delivered. While British Labor should have gone with a CTOL configuration, Cameron’s government Should have left the order for a VTOL carrier as is, and what was left of the Harrier force intact, as insurance.

  • Well, it looks the part . But will it work?
    Apart from testing issues there are the stories about how the F-35 can be out-gunned and out flown by legacy airframes in a dog-fight. If the english fleet takes on the Chinese and has to defend its self against flights of J-11′s(Chinese version of the Russian Su-27) will the F-35B be able to defend the fleet when all its missiles are expended and it becomes a close in guns affair? Will this aircraft have a internal gun??? Or will a heavy, draggy gun-pod be added? Also if the action is in the middle east will the F-35B ‘wheezy pig’ be able to perform in hot climate conditions? With so many unknowns its prudent to have a back up aircraft to take over should some one in Washington decides “enough is enough” and reach for the rubber stamp with ‘project cancelled’ on it.

    The options are-
    Super Hornet
    Sea Gripen
    Sea Typhoon

    The last one perhaps will never fly if the land version is anything to by. It will be 2030+ if it does!!! There is one other contender whose spare parts come frmm over the channel and not half the world away and for the cost of one F-35B/C the english navy could purchase 4 of them. The Rafale is proven and a potent machine and while it may not have stealth it has great potential. The French are eager to sell them cheap and a ‘Rafale UK’ with english avionics/ weapons with ‘Royal Navy’ painted on the side would give the Strike fleet the kind of reach and defense ability to insure UK interests are secure. Also the machine comes in a two seat variant which will be useful for maritime patrol when a second pair of hands and eyes are needed. Not only that but UCAV ops could also be controlled from there. Operating both manned and unmanned machines from the carrier could improve its capabilitys as well as keeping the manned machine out of SAM range so the robots takes the risk instead. With a cheap Rafale deal the money left over would allow the UK to operate both strike carriers and convert them to cats and traps(again)plus interoperate with the French/Americans.

  • No Cat a Traps means:

    No AEW aircraft but smalle AEW helicopter or V-22 type.

    No aerial refueling tanker which is carrier based. US Super Hornet Tankers need Cat and Traps to land. Therefore, reliance on RAF Tankers.

    Therefore, RAF will want to base is RAF jets on RN carriers.

  • I totally agree with you it looks great but overly complicated! I think BAE systems should of looked in their archive and “dusted off” the P1154!
    But regardless of the F35B/C argument these jets MUST have Royal Navy stamped on the side and the FAA brought up to strength and be fit for purpose for the 21st century

  • The catapult battle is over for now – the next ones are:
    1. Establish clear independence of FAA as a F35B operator, with an RN land base, pilots, and markings on side of aircraft
    2. Two carriers in service
    3. Credible organic AEW with a concept of operations to allow independent deployment of the carriers away from the eyes of the RAF’s AEW Sentry aircraft.
    4. Heavy-lift air cargo delivery to carriers
    More generally:
    Ensure aviation built into heart of everything the Navy does – “the aircraft is the weapons system”, use UAVs to make “every ship an aircraft carrier” and provide a natural home for the marine-focussed parts of the RAF within the Naval Service in the fulness of time

  • In view of the short sighted decision to go with the F35B, I challenge the Defence Minister to explain the following points.
    First, what was the real cost to convert both carriers to cat and traps. BAE quote £1.8 billion, U.S. experts are saying £400 million.
    Secondly, how much additional cost say over the next thirty years, not only to procure the F35B (at the moment about £20 million a pop over F35C) but to maintain a much more complicated aircraft over this period.
    Thirdly, has any thought been given to the development of a future airborne early warning system. Purchase of off the shelf Hawkeye, which is a known and capable system will now not be possible. We will now need to develop a new system and platform for these operations.
    Judging by the performance of major defence projects (Astute, Type 45, Typhoon and dare I say the carrier fiasco) this will again be overbudget, less capable and years late.

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