As the F-35B closes in on its (somewhat arbitrary) Initial Operational Capability date, crews have been expanding their flight training. Part of that includes Field Carrier Landing Practice where pilots hone their abilities at handling the aircraft around the tight confines of a amphibious assault ship – or at least a really convincing mock-up.
The short takeoff at the very end is especially edgy to watch as the jet slowly gains momentum at post-stall speeds low over ground:
Say what you will about the F-35 – and there’s a lot to – but it’s just about the best Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) fighter money can buy.
Sadly, that also means it is far from the best conventional or carrier-borne fighter that the same amount of money could buy.
The truth is that 84 percent of all F-35s built – the A and the C models – will have to pay the extremely high price of including STOVL capability into the Joint Strike Fighter initial design goals. As such, if there’s going to be an F-35 at all, the Pentagon better get the very most out of its high opportunity cost and extremely expensive F-35B fleet, otherwise the USAF and the Navy will be flying a less than ideal fighter for no reason at all.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com