Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017
Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on October 28, 2016. America embarked seven F-35Bs – two began the third shipboard phase of developmental testing (DT-III) and five conducted operational testing.
America, the first ship of its class, is an aviation-centric platform that incorporates key design elements to accommodate the fifth-generation fighter, including an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment, and increased aviation fuel capacity. America is capable of accommodating F-35Bs, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and a complement of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.
The third test phase evaluated the F-35B’s short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) operations in a high-sea state, shipboard landings, and night operations. The cadre of flight test pilots, engineers, maintainers, and support personnel from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are assigned to Air Test & Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.