Navy’s new F-35 jump jet flies from trademark ski ramp for first time
This is the moment years of complex calculations, computer simulations, planning, training and testing pays off for the Navy’s jet of tomorrow.
This is the first launch of the F-35B Lightning II using a ski jump ramp – exactly as it will do when launched from flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.
Naval reservist and BAE Systems test pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson guided his state-of-the-art strike fighter BF-04 down the runway at the US Navy’s Pax River air base, about 45 miles from the American capital, where the ramp has been built to pave the way for Royal Navy carrier operations.
“It’s always exciting when you get to do something in aviation for the first time,” said Peter.
I can’t wait until we’re conducting F-35 ski jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carrier.Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson
“We spend literally years planning these ‘firsts’, with hundreds of hours in the simulator as the event gets close, but even with all the preparation the test team remains focussed on the potential that something unexpected might happen.
"As is usually the case, the jet performed as expected and it was a real pleasure.
“I can’t wait until we’re conducting F-35 ski jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carrier.”
Ski jumps were fitted to the RN’s generation of Harrier carriers to give the jets more lift with less speed than a conventional flat flight deck.
The concept has been retained with the Queen Elizabeth class – although the replica ramp has been built in Maryland, not Yeovilton.
On the new carriers the structure rises about six metres (20ft) above the normal deck.
Two weeks of initial trials are being carried out with the data gathered fed back by the test team to engineers and designers, including those at Warton in Lancashire where F35 simulators help pilots ‘fly’ from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth – before they do it for real from 2018 onwards.