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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Pentagon

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F-35 Fighter Jet Completes Vertical Landing

March 18, 2010 - 3:58 PM | by: Justin Fishel

The Pentagon’s project to build the next generation of military fighter jets cleared a major hurdle Thursday when a test version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter successfully completed a vertical landing for the first time.

Using 41,000 pounds of thrust, the Marine Corps variant of the jet, the Joint Strike Fighter F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing), landed smoothly at Naval Station Patuxent River in Maryland this afternoon. Unlike traditional landings that occur at nearly 200 miles per hour and require long landing strips, this jet was able to ease its way to the surface at a precise location. The jets can take off the same way, giving Marine pilots the advantage of being able operate from at wider variety of locations.

“Having the F-35B perform its first vertical landing underscores the reality of the Marine Corps achieving its goal of an all STOVL force,” said Lieutenant General George J. Trautman III, Deputy Commandant for Aviation. “Being able to operate and land virtually anywhere, the STOVL JSF is a unique fixed wing aircraft that can deploy, co-locate, train and fight with Marine ground forces while operating from a wider range of bases ashore and afloat than any other… platform.”

Video of the test landing can be seen here.

It’s a welcomed accomplishment for the jet’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, at a time when the program has been scrutinized for significant cost overruns and production delays. In February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired a senior manager of project and penalized Lockheed Martin by withholding bonuses.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley announced in early March that production for the jet will likely be delayed by two years, moving the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) across the services to 2015. The Marines, however, are expecting to have their jets in operation by the end of 2012.

The F-35 fighter is called the “Joint” Strike Fighter because it’s designed for use across the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Air Force. The Pentagon also has plans to sell it to allies overseas once production needs within the U.S. military have been met.

From the day an F-35 rolls off the assembly, to the day it’s retired, its total production cost is valued at $69 million.

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