PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION (Oct. 29, 2009) - A new jet aircraft will soon be calling Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River home. The F-35 Lightning II, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will arrive from Fort Worth, Texas to continue its System Development and Demonstration (SDD) testing efforts at NAS Patuxent River. Since early 2002, NAS Patuxent River has been getting ready for the arrival of the F-35 with the addition of new facilities and equipment required to support the testing of this new aircraft.
The F-35 will bring a new look, feel, and sound to NAS Patuxent River. It is a single-seat, single-engine, stealth-capable military strike fighter that will provide aircraft weapon support to troops on the ground, the ability to precisely drop/shoot weapons, and the ability to conduct airspace patrol and defense missions. It was designed to fulfill the multiple combat mission requirements of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the United Kingdom (U.K.) Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force. Additional international partners include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey. The F-35 will replace the following aging fighter aircraft, including the U.S. Air Force A-10s and F-16s, U.S. Navy F/A-18s, U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s, and U.K. Harrier GR-7s and Sea Harriers.
Three versions of the F-35 are being manufactured to support different mission needs: the F-35A, a conventional takeoff and landing variant for the U.S. Air Force; the F-35B, a short-takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) model for the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.K.; and the F-35C, carrier version that is designed to take off and land on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. The F-35B and F-35C will be tested and developed at NAS Patuxent River, which will host a total of eight aircraft at the peak of the testing program.
The Centerfield Complex will be used to test these capabilities including vertical landings on pads mimicking those found on land and on the LHD class of ships; short-distance takeoffs using the ski jump which is similar to those found on U.K. carriers; and flight performance testing on the EAF. Expeditionary Airfields are mobile systems that allow U.S. Marines to quickly build functioning airfields in mission critical areas that do not support a standard-use airfield. These areas allow the JSF to perform missions in any terrain. Additional testing activities to occur at NAS Patuxent River include carrier approach and landing flights, software and aircraft systems development, and aircraft certification testing.
The JSF SDD program operations at NAS Patuxent River are expected to continue through 2013 although the F-35's presence at the Naval Air Station will likely extend well into the future. Aircraft equipment and systems requirements continually evolve, resulting in the continued need for follow-on test and evaluation.
Lockheed Martin is the F-35 prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are the principal partners in the project.