Marines wrap up F-35B sea trials

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) wrapped up operational tests with six Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning IIs on board aircraft carrier USS Wasp last week. Pilots of various USMC squadrons clocked up a total of 85 flight hours in 110 sorties and each performed four take offs and landings at night.

The test, known as OT-1, marks the most F-35s ever deployed at sea at once and was meant to assess the integration of the F-35B into current assets and procedures. The aircraft were flown in varying configurations during both day and night time. Refueling and weapons loading was also tested.

For night landing, the pilots could not yet use the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System, which by the use of six infrared sensors provides the pilot with an complete 360 degrees infrared picture, even allowing them to look at things “through” the aircraft.

According to the USMC, the test team encountered zero ‘show stoppers’ while at sea. The Marines hope to reach initial operating capability (IOC) with their new fighter aircraft in July. Full combat readiness seems a long way however, since the F-35 still suffers from many teething problems, such as weapons integration, maintainability and reliability issues.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top) Night time F-35B’s on board the USS Wasp. (Image © Anne K. Henry / USMC)