Marine Corps F-35B Finishing Sea Trials

WASP F-35USS WASP — The Marine Corps and Navy are close to wrapping up 19 days of Sea Trials for the Corps’ F-35B short take-off-and-vertical-landing, or STOVL, variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, service officials said.

The trails, taking place aboard the USS WASP Amphibious Assault Ship about 30-miles off the coast of Maryland, are designed to assess the F-35B’s ability to take-off and land vertically at night, maneuver and operate in high crosswinds and headwinds, among other things.

“There’s no better way to determine how an aircraft is going to operate in the fleet than to take it to sea,” said Navy Capt. Erik Etz, director of test and evaluation, F-35 Naval variants. “We’ve been pushing the aircraft out to the edges of its operational envelope.”

The Marine Corps F-35B variant, slated to reach what’s called initial operating capability by 2015, is a stealth aircraft specially engineered to land vertically, meaning without a runway.

This ability to land vertically without a runway is designed to give the Navy and Marine Corps the ability to use the aircraft from a smaller amphibious platform such as the USS WASP – without needing the catapult or large runway of an aircraft carrier, Etz added.

The ongoing Sea Trials have resulted in at least 90 successful short take-offs and 92 vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp, said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Joint Strike Fighter’s Joint Program Office.

The JSF program developmental strategy is, in part, grounded upon a series of incremental software “drops” — each one adding new capability to the platform. In total, there are more than 10 billion individual lines of code for the system, broken down into increments and “blocks,” F-35 program office officials explained.
The F-35B is currently testing with Block 2B, which enables the aircraft to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM [Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile], JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition] or GBU 12 [laser-guided aerial bomb].

In addition, the aircraft has conducted test flights with a full internal weapons load, including a GBU or Guided Bomb Unit and an Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.

As what’s called a fifth-generation stealth or low-observable fighter platform, the F-35 is engineered with a suite of next-generation technologies designed to provide the pilots with more capability and more information.

When it comes to STOVL landing technology, the F-35B is a generation beyond its Harrier Jet predecessor, also a Marine Corps plane designed for vertical landing.

“Harriers are all manual controls. With the F-35 we have computers. A ton of engineering goes into making it a low work load. The plane is literally sampling winds, sampling conditions and the parameters,” said Marine Corps Capt. Michael Kingen, an F-35 developmental test pilot.

The F-35 is also engineered to accomplish what’s referred to as “sensor fusion,” namely the technological ability to fuse relevant information from a variety of sources into one common operating picture for the pilot to view – such as digital maps, radar information and sensor information all combined into a single set of screens, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matthew Kelly, former F-35 test pilot.

For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infra-red sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.

In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

“The ability of the aircraft to take in all that information, process it and then provide it to the pilot with the right information when he wants it in the right format – is really what makes this the fifth generation design for the next war and the war after that,” said Kelly.

The next Sea Trials for the F-35B are slated for sometime in 2016, DellaVedova said.

“F-35 is a growth platform and will remain so for the forseeable future,” he said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Harry Canyon

    ” there are more than 10 billion individual lines of code for the system”
    That gives you a warm and fuzzy doesn’t it? Microsoft 8?

    • zak

      lines of code is a stupid metric.

      • Amicus Curiae

        So is “dollars per pound”, but it is still the most useful cost predictior for the aircraft itself.

        • tee

          Not if you have to make it work or “DeBug It”, as someone with over 20+ years of writing code the more you have, the more “Issues” that arise!

        • Rest Pal

          cost predictor? no predictions necessary! You already know that the F-35 is the most expensive and least cost-effective fighter jet program in the history of mankind.

          how many lines of code are there for each of the following?

          If (target == (Russian() || Chinese()) { report(); prepare_to_run();}

          If (target ==(Russian() || Chinese())
          // notify pilot and command ctr.
          // last debug date: Feb 2, 2012. Ref. A301826


          // prompt pilot for supercruise and IR minimization options;
          // also see Ref. A301826


      • SJE

        Lines of codes tells you (a) its a big (b) it is expensive (c) there are lots of places for bugs, hacking etc. In theory, it gives an idea that they are throwing a lot of code at different problems. In practice, the proof is in the pudding. Lets see

        • blight_

          extra line

          The equivalent of “this page left intentionally blank” on govt documents?

    • Amicus Curiae

      There are 10 billion stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.

    • PolicyWonk

      10 billion lines of code would certainly explain why the costs of the F-35 are so out-of-control, and isn’t something anyone should brag about.

      • blight_

        Lockheedwoebegon, where the functions are long and the time-to-debug is always above average.

      • Rest Pal

        The real code is only about 10 million lines.

        The rest has been inserted by hackers from various countries – 1.5 billions lines by EU hackers, 1.2 billion lines by Indian hackers, 1.1 billion lines by Russian hackers, 1.3 billion lines by Chinese hackers, 128 million lines by Japanese hackers, 252 million lines by Indonesian hackers, 194 million by Pakistani hackers, 320 million lines by American hackers, …

        with numerous minor contributors (20 – 80 million lines of useless code) from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, North Korea, South Korea, Belarus, Malaysia, Nigeria, Iran, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Vietnam, Singapore, …

        • Rest Pal

          How could I forget Israel?! At least 1 billion lines of code from Israeli hackers.

          I must admit the influence the tiny state of Israel has exercised over the world makes the British Empire (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, US) look like an under-achiever.

    • CharleyA

      Some cars have more lines….

      • Rest Pal


        Hilary Clinton’s forehead has more lines …

    • blight_

      Indeed, it’s like judging the Mona Lisa by the number of brushstrokes.

      “Hey, I have an idea…let’s use dynamic programming in favor of more efficient algorithms to pad the line count!”

      “This O(n^3) uses 3x the lines of code and leaves room for performance upgrades in the future! We’ll just comment these parts out to increase efficiency…for a price.”

    • Rest Pal

      You mean “Windows 8”? That OS is a failure on par with the pathetic Vista.

      Microsoft might be nearing the end of its corporate legacy. Unless some truly visionary strategies emerge, MS may go the way of CISCO. Time to consider dumping the stock and go short in the coming years.

  • Yaron

    “The Marine Corps F-35B variant, slated to reach what’s called initial operating capability by 2015”

    “The next Sea Trials for the F-35B are slated for sometime in 2016, DellaVedova said.”

    Could someone reconcile those two for me please? Does initial operating capability mean it will only operate from land bases? otherwise how can it reach said milestone before the next set of Sea Trials

    #correction – Also, 2nd paragraph “The trails, ” -> “The trials, ” ?

    • blight_

      I guess it means they intend to operate JSF-B from land bases for a while before embarking them?

    • wpnexp

      IOC is a limited capability. It will still be significant, especially compared to gen 4 fighters, but it is not the full capability. Planes evolve over time and new capabilites are added. That does not mean you have to wait for the last cpapbility to be completed before you can fight the plane. If the plane can be useful in combat, what is the point of waiting until it has every last capability built in. Just look at the F-16. What would have happened if someone said we can’t fight the plane until all F-16s are of the Block 50 standard? We would have had to wait another 20 years before the plane would have gotten into AF hands, and we would have used obsolete plane in the mean time.

      • CharleyA

        The F-35B at the 2015 IOC will have fewer capabilities than originally planned for it to have at IOC. It certainly will be less capable than any flavor of a Hornet, or even the stodgy old Harrier in terms of weapons clearance. The Marines are simply being themselves by going with an earlier IOC.

  • dave

    The fuck is a growth platform? Does it work is all that matters.

    • Rest Pal

      It doesn’t work. Does it matter?

  • SJE

    The F35 has been a growth platform for Def Contractors bottom line

    • Amicus Curiae

      Don’t forget that many a military officer has made a career of it too.

  • hibeam

    What a piece of junk. Hey dad, I want to buy a sports car. Ok son, but make sure it’s also a pickup truck.

    • Musson

      An Austrailian Airman recently said the F-35 ‘would be clubbed like a baby seal in combat.’

      • Guest

        Because the Australians are the ultimate authority in the projection of airpower – whatever dude!

        • Rest Pal

          what has “projection of airpower” got to do with the ability to evaluate the F-35 for combat?

      • wpnexp

        And did that Airman actually fly an F-35?

        • Rest Pal

          One doesn’t need to actually fly the F-35 in order to make an informed judgment about its capabilities (or lack of). That’s just basic, common knowledge.

          I’ve told you so before. Do you have some kind of learning handicap?

  • Steve B.

    90 take-off-s, 92 landings….

    Somebody needs to re-take the math class….

    • Dave
    • Dumbgard B
    • Dumbgard B
    • Dumgard B
      • CharleyA

        Nope, “90 successful short take-offs and 92 vertical landings.” But I’d bet that the F-35Bs flew out to the boat, which accounts for the 2 extra landing.

        • Rest Pal

          What are you talking about? “flew out to the boat, which accounts for the 2 extra landing.”

          • CharleyA

            Here’s a hint: The USS Wasp did not leave port with the aircraft already aboard. Here’s another: the test aircraft are shore based…

    • Dopplerdave

      They had to land the two aircraft on deck first. I would suspect that the numbers aren’t final, and were reflective of the takeoffs and landings on the ship to that point.

    • Rest Pal

      It’s possible that one aircraft broke into two pieces mid-air – the tail landed first, the main section landed 0.8 second later, and the pilot (ejected after disintegration) landed 22 seconds after that – one take-off, three landings. Hence 90-92.

      • LHS3

        Here’s how it went…

        Two planes flew over from nearby PAC AFB in Maryland and landed on the ship. Each aircraft did a combined number of 90 takeoffs and 90 landings. If they leave to go back to PAC AFB two more takeoffs will be added to their overall number to secure your total 92 takeoffs.

        BTW STOVL (Short Takeoff Vertical Landing) aircraft is the vertical landing mode on F35 vs. CTOL (Conventional Takeoff & Landing) which is strictly designed as the name implies for conventional landing only.

  • KahNManN

    90 successful short take-offs and 92 vertical landings

    Probably some long takeoffs with vertical landings and vice versa… they don’t have to match.

    • Rest Pal

      LOL. You would be well-advised to retake elementary school math – not so much about learning to count again as learning the basics of thinking analytically and logically.

      The F-35 has been designed to do short take offs. And how do you do “long take offs” aboard an aircraft carrier, may I ask???

      • mr_smith916
  • BlackOwl18E

    Somehow, the fact that they did sea trials with no fully functional combat systems seems more like a publicity stunt. Once/ if they get all the systems working they may need to do the trails again.

  • Rob C.

    Least their moving on with trials and the new bird will get into production. Its worthy successor to the Harrier II, but i don’t think it can replace the Hornet or more importantly the A-10. Its not that great of bird, but it certainlly able do what Harrier II could and better. Just got hope those computers hold up without crashing (hopefully not literally).

    • Laurin

      You are right, the A-10 could tear up a lot of ass!

    • Rest Pal

      where did you get this idea that the F-35 is a “worthy successor to the Harrier II”???

  • Big-Dean

    “software drops”???

    it’s the year 2018 and two F-35 are facing a pair of SU-35 headone
    Lead to wingman “Tom I can’t target lead boggie for some reason, my radar is saying
    ita a rain cloud”
    Wingman to lead “Bob, you must be on version, I’ve got the latest service pack from Lockhead and my radar is saying it’s a 777 airliner….”
    Lead to wingman “Damn, we should’ve stayed on F-35 XP.”

    • Rest Pal

      or …

      Lead to wingman: “Damn, we should’ve bought the Chinese J-31. It’s 3 times cheaper, 2 times faster, 4 times more maneuverable, and …” (BOOM – the F-35 exploded mid-air)


    Software is what makes the F-35 easy to fly as the pilot doesn’t need to do anything to perform a vertical landing except to tell where and when; but one has to wonder why the software hasn’t mature since they did the Battle of the X-planes.