The F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter has completed its first vertical landing. The Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) demonstration saw Lead Pilot Graham Tomlinson perform an 80-knot (93 miles per hour) short takeoff, a one minute hover and a vertical descent onto a 95-foot square pad riding more than 41,000 pounds of thrust provided by the Rolls-Royce LiftFan system.

“Today’s vertical landing onto a 95-foot square pad showed that we have the thrust and the control to maneuver accurately both in free air and in the descent through ground effect,” said F-35 Lead STOVL Pilot Graham Tomlinson.

“The low workload in the cockpit contrasted sharply with legacy short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) platforms. Together with the work already completed for slow-speed handling and landings, this provides a robust platform to expand the fleet’s STOVL capabilities.”

Designed to operate at sea or on shore, the F-35B is one of three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter. The conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A is the lightest and smallest version, while the F-35C is designed specifically for the Navy. The F-35B gives up some if its fuel capacity to incorporate the shaft-driven, counter-rotating LiftFan system which is driven by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine. The Rolls-Royce system includes a three-bearing swivel duct that vectors engine thrust and under-wing roll ducts for lateral stability.

Three F-35B STOVL jets are currently undergoing flight trials.

“The successful first vertical landing today met our test objectives and demonstrates the F-35B’s capacity to operate from a very small area – a unique capability for a supersonic, stealth fighter," said Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president. "This is the first of many such tests to fully define the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) characteristics of the world’s most capable 5th generation fighter. We will routinely conduct vertical landings and short takeoffs to further expand the operational flight envelope for the F-35B.

Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.