Lockheed Martin has revealed that an F-35B fighter jet made its first vertical takeoff on May 10 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. This follows on the heels of its first vertical night landing on April 2 at the same location. The vertical takeoff capability is designed for moving the strike fighter over short distances in an emergency when a runway isn't available, but it is not seen as a combat feature due to its heavy use of fuel.

The F-35B Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing (STOVL) Lightning II is a multi-role strike fighter and the part of the most expensive weapons system purchase in United States history. It’s one of three F-35 variants built around a common airframe and is designed to use its lift fan and variable geometry engine to fly from aircraft carriers equipped with ski jumps, assault carriers, and small or damaged air fields.

The F-35B differs from conventional-takeoff F-35A and the F-35C strike carrier variant in that it has a lift fan for short takeoffs and vertical landings and, unlike the F-35C, it lacks the tailhook used for landing on strike carriers. Though the fan provides the advantages of working from short runways, the F-35B has only one-third the fuel volume of the F-35A.

The principal customers for the F-35B are the US Marine Corps, which has ordered 340 to replace the F/A 18 Hornet and the AV8 Harrier, the Royal Air Force, which is replacing the Harrier GR9, the Royal Navy, which will arm the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers currently under construction, and the Italian Navy, which will use the F-35B on its Cavour aircraft carrier.

The video below shows the F-35B making its first vertical takeoff.

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