First Supersonic Flight For F-35 STOVL Variant

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The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant flew faster than the speed of sound for the first time on June 10, the company announced on Monday. The aircraft accelerated to Mach 1.07 (727 miles per hour) on the first in a long series of planned supersonic flights. Bob Price, Lockheed Martin's F-35 U.S. Marine Corps program manager, said this marks the first time in the history of military aviation that a radar-evading stealth aircraft also has supersonic speed and short takeoff/vertical landing capabilities. The supersonic milestone was achieved on the 30th flight of the F-35B known as BF-2. U.S. Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col. Matt Kelly climbed to 30,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 1.07 in the offshore supersonic test track near Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. During the flight, Kelly accomplished 21 unique test points, including several integrated test blocks to validate roll, pitch, yaw and propulsion performance.

Future testing will gradually expand the flight envelope out to the aircraft's top speed of Mach 1.6, which the F-35 is designed to achieve with a full internal weapons load of more than 3,000 pounds. All F-35s are designed to launch internal missiles at maximum supersonic speed, as well as launch internal guided bombs supersonically. "The supersonic F-35B can deploy from small ships and austere bases near front-line combat zones, greatly enhancing combat air support with higher sortie-generation rates," Price said. The F-35B will replace AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s for the Marines. It will also enter service for the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and the Italian air force and navy.