Harrier, JSF & STOVL Flight
Will the F-35B variant of the JSF be able to take off vertically? It is called the STOVL model for Short
Take Off and Vertical Landing, which leads me to believe otherwise. If not, then how will the F-35B be
able to truly replace the Harrier? Will it still be able to operate from amphibious assault ships like
the Harrier does?
The capability to both takeoff and land vertically is called VTOL for Vertical Take Off and Landing. Both the
AV-8B Harrier and the
F-35 Lightning II can take off vertically with a small load of fuel and
weapons. However, neither one can take off vertically when fully loaded. Even the Harrier has never had such a
capability at maximum takeoff weight because the thrust requirements and the amount of fuel needed to lift such a
large weight straight up is simply impractical. This limitation explains why both the Harrier and the F-35B
usually perform a rolling short takeoff at the beginning of the mission. This type of takeoff allows the plane to
carry a reasonable weapon load and enough fuel for long range. After returning from its mission when the fuel is
nearly gone, the plane weighs much less and can land vertically. This mission profile inspires the STOVL
- question from Joe Kim
Sea Harrier takes off using the ski jump aboard a British aircraft carrier
The Harriers in service today perform rolling takeoffs whether based on land or at sea. The US operates the
Harrier from the decks of amphibious assault ships while the British fly Harriers from small aircraft carriers.
The British carriers also feature ramps that allow the plane to become airborne with a shorter takeoff roll. The
F-35 will be operated in the same manner by both the US Marine Corps and the Royal Navy. The same techniques have
also used by other navies flying STOVL aircraft, such as the Soviet
Yak-38 flown during the Cold War. Like the British carriers, the
Russians adopted ramps or "ski-jumps" to increase the plane's takeoff weight and shorten the takeoff roll.
Ski-jumps can also be seen on the aircraft carriers of Italy, Spain, India, and Thailand. All of these countries
fly the Harrier from their carrier decks and use the ramps to improve takeoff performance.
- answer by Molly Swanson, 30 July 2006
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