Air power is critical to military operations nowadays, but it’s hampered by the fact that you need a bunch of infrastructure. With a few exceptions, you need things like runways or aircraft carriers relatively nearby to allow aircraft to, you know, land.
Unless you’ve got one that can hover and land vertically, that is.
The F-35B, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is the first practical airplane with the capability (in one variant) of making vertical landings since the Harrier Jump Jet, which first flew over 40 years ago and is still in active service today because it’s so useful. The F-35 performs the tricks that it does by rotating its engine nozzle downward, and then engaging a gigantic lift fan situated just behind the cockpit to produce enough balanced thrust to keep it from dropping like a brick. Like the Harrier, the F-35, while technically a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft is for all practical purposes a V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) aircraft. While capable of lifting itself vertically into the air, the F-35 can only do this if it’s not carrying much in the way of extra fuel or ordinance. So operationally, it won’t be using its vertical takeoff capability. In this context, “short takeoff” means that the F-35 can clear a 50 foot obstacle 1500 feet down the runway.
After the jump, we’ve got a NOVA special about the initial competition to build the X-35 that includes a whole bunch of detail about the lift system. It’s quite interesting, and a great way to waste a bunch of time on a Friday.
Click here to watch it on Hulu.
VIA [ Gizmag ]