The F-35B, a real success but a severe handicap for the Joint Strike Fighter program

On October 3, 2021, after a year-long modernization program, the Japanese Naval Self-Defense Forces assault helicopter carrier Izumo saw for the first time a United States Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighter jet taking off from its flight deck (photograph in main illustration), some 76 years after the last plane of the Empire of Japan left the deck of an aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. After the United States, Great Britain and Italy, it is the 4th country to implement the American stealth fighter with vertical or short take-off and landing of Lockheed-Martin from an aircraft carrier, but not the last, since South Korea is also preparing an aircraft carrier dedicated to this use, and that Spain is widely expected to acquire the aircraft itself in order to replace its Matador and preserve its naval air capacity.

Thanks to its almost 90 ° orientable nozzle, and to a stabilization fan located behind the cockpit, the F-35B is able, like the Harrier, to take off from a springboard but also from a right bridge of a door. -aircraft while maintaining a significant load thanks to the 180 KN of thrust delivered by its Pratt & Whitney F-135-PW-600 reactor equipped with a lift system specially developed by the British Rolls-Royce, at the origin of the famous Pegasus reactor of the Harrier. And even if the F-35B carries less fuel than the A versions implemented from land runways, or C from aircraft carriers equipped with catapults, its short / vertical takeoff and landing limits its maximum takeoff weight. and therefore its ability to carry ammunition and fuel, and that it struggles to exceed Mach 1, it does not remain about it less a device endowed with unique characteristics to this day, making it possible to implement a fighter on a par in many fields with land-based fighters, from aircraft carriers without catapults and stop strands, and therefore much less expensive than aircraft carriers operated by the United States and France.

The solution allowing the F-35B to perform vertical or short takeoffs and landings was developed by the British Rolls-Royce on the basis of its expertise acquired with the Harrier and the Pegasus reactor.

The performance of the F-35B, in particular its stealth and its wide range of sensors and information processing and communication capabilities, make it suitable for two missions, namely the support of amphibious assault forces and the air protection of the naval group. Through its stealth in the frontal sector, the aircraft can in fact eliminate enemy anti-aircraft defenses, then provide the necessary fire support to the forces engaged on land, while coordinating naval support thanks to its fusion of data. This same detection and data fusion capacity make it a valuable asset for protecting the naval group in the absence of a device combining aerial surveillance aircraft and combat aircraft, even if the American aircraft does not have the extension to carry out air combat missions, or CAP, as is the case with aircraft ensuring the safety of French or American aircraft carriers. Finally, even in spite of its low speed and lower maneuverability than that of many modern fighters, the F-35B remains a formidable adversary in aerial combat, particularly at long distance and when operating in a cooperative environment allowing to take advantage to the best of the advantages offered by stealth and data fusion.


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