First supersonic flight by US short-takeoff stealth fighter

June 15th, 2010 - 6:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 15 (IANS) A fifth generation stealth fighter with short-takeoff-vertical-landing capabilities has for the first time flown at supersonic speeds, providing military commanders a potent edge as the aircraft can operate from ships and from bases close to areas of conflict.

The Lockheed Martin F-35B achieved the feat when US Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col. Matt Kelly climbed to 30,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 1.07 at the offshore supersonic test track near Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, a company statement said.

“For the first time in military aviation history, supersonic, radar-evading stealth comes with short-takeoff-vertical-landing capability,” said Bob Price, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 US Marine Corps programme manager.

“The supersonic F-35B can deploy from small ships and austere bases near frontline combat zones, greatly enhancing combat air support with higher sortie-generation rates,” he added.

Future testing will gradually expand the flight envelope out to the aircraft’s top speed of Mach 1.6, which the F-35B is designed to achieve with a full internal weapons load of more than 3,000 pounds, the statement said, adding the jet is designed to launch internal missiles at maximum supersonic speed, as well as launch internal guided bombs supersonically.

The F-35B will enter service with the US Marines, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the Italian Air Force and Navy.

The jet is the third F-35 to achieve supersonic flight. Two F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants also have broken the sound barrier. An F-35C carrier variant is also under development.

The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, advanced sustainment, and lower operational and support costs.

The F-35 programme has about 900 suppliers in 45 US states and directly and indirectly employs more than 127,000 people. Thousands more are employed in the F-35 partner countries, which have invested more than $4 billion in the project. The countries are Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.

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