- A land-based ski-ramp has been built at NAS Patuxent River to support testing for the United Kingdom
- The Phase 2 test programme is designed to expand the ski-jump envelope for the F-35B
The F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force has begun a second round of land-based F-35B ski-ramp testing at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland ahead of First of Class Flight Trials (FOCFT) on the UK Royal Navy (RN) carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth , scheduled for 2018.
The Phase 2 test programme began in June and is designed to expand the ski-jump envelope. This includes launches with external stores, increased crosswind conditions, and take offs at a range of different speeds.
The RN’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers feature a 12.5-degree ski-ramp on the bow. This serves to launch aircraft upward and forward, allowing the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B to improve its payload radius.
As part of the F-35 system design and development phase, a land-based ski-ramp – modelled on the legacy 12-degree design used in the RN’s earlier Invincible-class carriers – has been built at NAS Patuxent River to support UK testing. A first ski-ramp launch was performed in June 2015, and by the end of June 2016 a total of 31 ski-ramp take offs had been performed to complete Phase 1 testing.
Test aircraft BF-01 and BF-04, both instrumented to measure landing gear loads, were used for testing with internal stores only.