STOVL F-35 - Progress Report: "Lockheed Martin flew the third F-35B STOVL test aircraft - BF-3 - on Feb.2. It is the fifth JSF to fly, and F-35 chief test pilot Jon Beesely was at the controls for the hour-long flight from Fort Worth.
F-35 program general manager Dan Crowley says BF-3 should ferry to Pax River this month to join BF-1 and BF-2. The fourth F-35B - BF-4, the first JSF mission-system test aircraft - is on the flight line at Fort Worth.
BF-4 has been loaded with the first block of mission-system software - Block 0.5 - which has been turned on several times on the ground without any problems, says Crowley, adding: 'We've had no problems with software stability.'
At Pax, Crowley says, BF-1 has seven flights to go to the first vertical landing (engine supplier Pratt & Whitney says six, but may not be counting the actual VL flight). He expects the long-awaited feat to be accomplished in 'mid- to late February'.
After four flights in powered-lift STOVL 'Mode 4', with the lift system engaged, BF-1 has flown down to 3,000ft and 120kt, which puts the aircraft into the 'semi-jetborne' flight regime, says Crowley, where propulsion and flight control is integrated.