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January 13, 2010

Posted by allthingshavelock in MCAS Cherry Point.
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F-35B passes more flight tests

 Sue Book

Sun Journal Staff

Successful tests on the Marine version of the Joint Strike Fighter were performed last week, the Marine Corps Times reported Saturday, bringing the plane that could bring as many as 11 new aircraft squadrons to Cherry Point air station one step closer to its first short takeoff and vertical landing.

The test on the F-35B Lightning II was at the Patuxent River Navy air station on Thursday and a test pilot successfully engaged the lift propulsion system for 14 minutes, the Times reported. The pilot practiced slowing the aircraft from 288 mph, making ready to hover, and then accelerating.

The F-35B fifth-generation fighter jet is the first aircraft in history to combine STOVAL — or short takeoff/vertical landing capability and supersonic speed — with stealth.

The tests aim for full STOVAL flight in the spring after civilian partner contractors BAE Systems and Lockheed work to progressively slow the aircraft while in flight so it can hover and then land vertically.

Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager Dan Crowley said in a statement: “The joint F-35 industry and government team has already shown during extended ground tests that the STOVAL propulsion system performs well, and thousands of hours of component testing has validated its durability.”

“Now we are seeing early proof that the system operates in flight as our team predicted,” Crowley said.   

There have been several delays in the program, but Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said in December that he is confident the first operational squadron will stand up in 2012 as first planned.

He said the Corps has “accepted risk now for a number of years by not buying fourth-generation airplanes, such as the Navy has done, to await the arrival of this aircraft.”

 The F-35B is expected to replace the AV-8B Harrier, EA-6B Prowler and the F/A-18 Hornet at East Coast Marine bases expecting a total of 176 planes.

The Golden Leaf Foundation allocated $115,000 in December to look at the economic impact of F-35B home base options being studied by the Navy in a report expected in April that include air stations at Cherry Point and Beaufort, S.C.

The options under consideration involve as many as 11 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons at Cherry Point, and Craven Community College is already optimistically preparing for them.

Those close to the process say the basing plan will probably split between two training squadrons with 40 F-35B’s likely coming to Beaufort, S.C., and most of the rest to Cherry Point.

The college plans to launch a new training program next fall on developing, using and testing the strong, lightweight carbon fiber-polymer composite materials used in F-36B and the V-22 Osprey’s construction and repair.

Scoping hearings on the environmental impact of the F-35B were held in Havelock and Pamlico County in February 2009. About 250 people attended those hearings, and the noise expected to be generated by planes was the only possible negative issue raised.

At that time, plans were for the Department of Defense to buy about 700 Joint Strike Fighters with the Air Force expected to get first delivery.

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