First F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) just took off

Attn: airplane nuts and pilots… I just watched the first production JSF takeoff a few minutes ago (I work next to the flightline at LockMart). It’s amazing how big the plane looked, next to its F-16 chase planes. Big crowd came out to watch and cheer. It seemed to take a LOT less runway than most of the fighters I see taking off here.

Just thought I’d share. I’ll update if anything interesting happens

So it wasn’t the VTOL-capable Harrier replacement version?

No. This was the A version (CTOL). I think the VTOL version is scheduled for next year sometime (not sure).

Here is a pic of the takeoff.

Here is a pic of the landing.

Correcting myself, I don’t believe an actual VTOL version is planned. Only a STOVL version.

I’m living next door to the Fort Worth Naval Air Station which has the Lockheed facilities where the F-35 is being flight-tested. Lockheed also works on the the F-22’s engines and various avionics systems here, so it’s not unusual to see AC-130s and F-16s taking off and landing in formation at all hours of the day. My favorite gas station in Lake Worth is practically on the approach path’s centerline. You get used to the noise.

So there I was, filling my gas tank, when this plane passes overhead. I had no idea that they were flying it already! It looks like an F-22, but the body is taller and thicker. The plane overall looks bigger than your typical fighter, though it’s hard to say at a distance. The twin rudders are angled, so from my POV it looked like it only had one. And it’s incredibly LOUD. Damn, it’s loud. I’ve heard a B-2 and a pair of F-117s, and heard reports of the sounds the F-22 makes. They’re stealth planes, and some effort has obviously been put into reducing their engine noise. The F-35 is supposedly a stealth plane too, but I suspect they named it the Lightning II for a reason.

It was apparently quite the show. The on-ramp to I-820 is on a rise that overlooks the lake and the runway, and it was crowded with pickup trucks and shutterbugs. There were at least two helicopters hovering in the vicinity. There were also no fewer than four corporate jet-style planes taking off and landing at the NAS, which I guess were either filming the test plane, or perhaps acting as chase planes. I thought it was odd that there were no other fighters in the air (that I could see - though they are testing a stealth plane!) I figured that they’d at least use a spare F-16 as a chase plane. Maybe tomorrow when they let the test pilot go all Chuck Yeager with the throttle.

They were still fiddling with touch-and-go landings when I left for work. It was really cool, if a bit deafening, to witness this thing in the air.

pullin is correct - this is the A variant. The B variant is the STOVL model, costs more than twice as much as the A, varies enough from the A’s design that it’s almost a completely different airplane, and won’t have a maiden flight for some time. As far as I know, they won’t be testing that one here in Fort Worth. (For completeness sake: the C variant is basically an A that is capable of carrier landings, and I don’t know where they’ll be testing that either.)

pullin’s first picture shows how crowded the on-ramp to I-820 was. It was like a free air show. I just wish I could have stayed longer, and that I had a camera.

Latest news here is that they cut the flight short due to inaccurate airspeed indication. No details (nor Cites), it’s just the grapevine. It was supposed to be an hourlong flight, but ended up only about 35 minutes. No word on the next flight. I work on a [cough] different airplane, so no direct line to F-35 info for me.

Regarding Subprophet’s post, there were 2 F-16 chase planes, but they were the two-seater version, and were white. Is it possible you mistook these for the bizjets you mentioned? I didn’t see anything non-military aloft (except the helicopters).

Comically, MizPullin happend to be toodling down I-30 when the F-35 passed overhead. She called me on my cell to ask “What the heck was that big fighter?” (she doesn’t keep up on current events here). She confirms also that it was quite loud.

Couldabeen on a couple of them. I only saw these briefly and at a distance.

I got a good long look at at another plane, and it definitely was a smallish commercial-style jet, and it was definitely lined up as if to land at or at least fly by the NAS. I was at the Racetrak gas station in Lake Worth, which is between the approach paths to NAS and Meacham, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t headed towards Meacham. Alliance is near by, to the north, but this plane was headed south. It looked like it was about over the lake, too, on the north side of the bridge when I saw it.

Another one was a commerical prop plane, but it could’ve been headed toward Meacham when I saw it.

Meanwhile Australia is considering buying 24 Super Hornets as an interim aircraft because the JSF is taking so long. Hope the program continues successfully.

We Brits are due to be getting the C version for our new carriers, but I was under the impression that like the Harrier it was VTOL-capable - not that it would normally do it, of course. Indeed, the technology transfer side of the JSF has been in the papers recently: the Yanks were stalling, and we would have had to cancel our orders and develop something else.

Right, the STOVL version is VT capable, just as the Harrier is, but like the Harrier wouldn’t normally do it because of the fuel burn.

There are 3 basic versions of the F-35 - CTOL (conventional), which flew yesterday, STOVL, and carrier (like CTOL but with bigger wings and catapult/tailhook gear).

Kick ass!!

Whether or not the program is purchased by the US DoD doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to see new ideas and airframes taking off and being tested. Let me just shout a “Hells Yes!” for scientific progress!

Tripler
Okay, I am now officially pumping my fist and spilling beer.

I remember the news about the F-22, that was when I was in my “All things military aircraft are cool” phase and I’ve cooled off a fair bit. I have to be honest, I didn’t even know about the F-35, but it’s awesome to see progress being made. Woo for the US Military power! And the Aussies! And the Brits!

– IG

Hope you enjoyed it. You may never get the same opportunity again.

It’s likely that the F-35 will be the *last * manned fighter ever built.

That’s a bold assertion. I think it’s more likely that it’ll be the last mass-produced fighter in the US developed using cold war philosophies. Of course not all militaries have the budget that the US DOD has, and will continue to buy lower-tech (manned) aircraft; many of these will be made and sold by American companies.

Personally, I’d like to see more work put into VTOL and STOVL cargo planes, just because it’d kick ass.

Sorry for hijacking this thread, but why do the F-22 and F-35 continue to be developed simultaneously? Couldn’t we kill one program and just make a carrier version of the F-22 or something? What added functionality is predicted from the STOL or VTOL variant or the F-35. How would having a VTOL F-35 help us win in Iraq or Afghanistan?

There was a preety good NOVA on the development of the JSF.
They even tried vertical takeoff (even though the plane didn’t need to do it) - it didn’t quite work.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/xplanes/

Brian