Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Apparently the first STOVL variant of the F-35 has been rolled out:

The heart of the F-35B is a STOVL propulsion system comprising the most powerful engine ever flown in a jet fighter, a shaft-driven counter-rotating lift fan situated behind the cockpit, a roll duct under each wing for lateral stability, and a rear 3-bearing swivel nozzle that vectors engine exhaust in the desired direction.

During vertical or short takeoffs, or vertical landings, doors above and below the lift fan open, and a clutch connecting the lift fan to the engine drive shaft engages. A dorsal auxiliary engine inlet opens to increase airflow to the engine. At the same time, doors beneath the 3-bearing swivel nozzle open and the rear nozzle pivots downward, deflecting engine thrust toward the ground. Roll ducts under each wing also are engaged, keeping the aircraft laterally stable. In this configuration, the F-35B can hover, land vertically, take off in a few hundred feet fully loaded, or take off vertically with a light load. When the aircraft transitions from jet-borne to conventional wing-borne flight, the doors close and the pilot can then accelerate to supersonic speeds. The system is completely automatic.

The Lockheed Martin X-35B successfully demonstrated the shaft-driven lift fan propulsion system in 2001, becoming the only aircraft in history to execute a short takeoff, level supersonic dash and vertical landing in a single flight.

Here was my question for the PR guy who sent me the release, and his answer:

from Damian Brooks
to Keelan Green ,
date Dec 19, 2007 10:46 AM
subject Re: Lockheed Martin News Release: First Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing Stealth Fighter Unveiled At Lockheed Martin

Yeah, but the real question is whether or not they've figured out a way to defend the aircraft from a beat-up Bruce Willis jumping on its back and taking it down.



from Keelan Green
to Damian Brooks ,
date Dec 19, 2007 10:57 AM
subject RE: Lockheed Martin News Release: First Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing Stealth Fighter Unveiled At Lockheed Martin

Its called the BWDHDS-101 (Bruce Willis Die Hard Defensive System). It ejects fuel at the cigarette being smoked by a person on the back of the plane causing him to burst into flames.

Gotta love people who aren't so buttoned-down that they can't crack the odd joke. Especially in the defence industry.

Look, I don't know if the F-35 is going to be the jet we need when the time comes to replace the CF-18. I'm not happy about not being able to acquire the same plane the U.S. forces will get. But at the end of the day, if the scaled-back version still meets our needs better than any other aircraft available, I'd swallow my pride and recommend it.

We'll just have to wait and see.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

He needs to get with the modern anti-smoking era :)

the French have announced a new defensive technology that accounts for those who jump on the back of planes but don't smoke.

It's the VVVVVSCDS and it really works.

That would be the Very, Very, Very, Very, Very, Stinky Cheese Defensive Suite. The stench is so bad, bad guys have to grab their noses, cover their mouths and then just fall off.

12:58 p.m., December 19, 2007  
Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

My concern about the STOL version is summarized in this short quote from the website Strategy Page at

"Where Have All The Harriers Gone?"

In twenty years, India has lost half of its 30 Harrier vertical takeoff fighters. The Harrier has the highest accident rate of any jet fighter. This is largely because of its vertical flight capabilities, which give it an accident rate similar to that of helicopters. The U.S. Marine Corps has lost a third of its 397 Harriers to such accidents in 32 years."

Those are some pretty bad loss rates. Any comments from knowledgeable aircraft folks out there?

3:01 a.m., December 21, 2007  
Blogger Jay Crawford said...

Twenty-four years ago I asked that same question to an RAF group captain with 2000+ hours experience in Harriers. That officer told me that higher accident rates for Harriers in USMC and Spanish Navy service were caused by the tendency of the latter organizations to place relatively new pilots at the controls of these unusual aircraft. RAF accident rates were comparitively lower because only experienced pilots with hundreds of hours in other types of aircraft were allowed to be posted to Harriers.
Today we are living in the era of control-configured vehicles: machines which are naturally aerodynamically unstable (hence, super-manueverable) and can only fly with constant second-by-second control surface adjustments made by their flight control computers. Lots of "pilot experience" is actually built into the flight control software of such aircraft so that many mistakes made by inexperienced pilots are automatically compensated.
Given that the F-35B will be over twenty-five years more advanced than the Harrier, it is pretty much guaranteed that its flight control system will be very intelligent and will bear much of the pilot's workload in terms of managing aircraft stability and flight mode transitions.
-Jay Crawford

4:49 a.m., December 21, 2007  

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