Marines ‘Looking Into’ F-35 Vertical Landing During UK Air Show

Lara Seligman, Defense News

WASHINGTON — The US Marine Corps is looking into the possibility of demonstrating an F-35B vertical landing during a major international air show in the United Kingdom this summer.

The Marine Corps F-35Bs, an aircraft unique in its ability to takeoff and land at short distances with no runway, will open the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough air shows in July, according to Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns. The two jets will join a pair of Air Force F-35As at the UK shows, Defense News reported in January.

During the showcase, the Marines will demonstrate the aircraft’s “short-takeoff and vertical landing,” or STOVL, capabilities, where the jet hovers and maneuvers just above the ground, Lt. Col. Brett McGregor, F-35 transition coordinator, told Defense News March 30. The jets will also fly with the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows, Burns said.

The Marines are “looking into” whether it is possible to do a vertical landing during RIAT, which will take place at Royal Air Force Fairford, Burns said. The team is currently trying to find a suitable location for the demonstration, because RAF Fairford has not traditionally supported STOVL aircraft like F-35s or Harriers.

However, Burns stressed that right now nothing is confirmed.

If the surfaces at RAF Fairford can’t handle the heat and exhaust expelled from the jet during a vertical landing, the Marines may need to use a pad of AM-2 aluminum matting to protect the ground from the blast. It is not clear whether the matting will be necessary at RIAT.

“Finding the right place to do the vertical landing is the issue,” Burns said. “They are looking for suitable soil-slash-even surfaces, things like that.”

The team is also considering a demonstration of an airborne F-35 jet receiving fuel from a KC-130 tanker, Burns said.

The joint strike fighter’s appearance at the two major European air shows will mark a critical milestone for the program after the jet was forced to skip its planned international debut at RIAT and Farnborough in 2014 due to an engine fire and subsequent fleet-wide grounding.

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