A F-35B Lightning II test fires an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM missile for the first time during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 1-18 training in Yuma, AZ, on Sept. 21, 2017.
Unlike other variants, the F-35B has no landing hook. The “STOVL/HOOK” control instead engages conversion between normal and vertical flight. Jet thrust is sent directly downwards during vertical flight; the nozzle is being redesigned to spread the output across an oval rather than circular shape in order to limit damage to asphalt and ship decks. The variant’s three-bearing swivel nozzle that directs the full thrust of the engine is moved by a “fueldraulic” actuator using pressurized fuel as the working fluid.
The U.S Marine Corps plans to disperse its F-35Bs among forward deployed bases to enhance survivability while remaining close to a battlespace, similar to RAF Harrier deployment late in the Cold War which relied on the use of off-base locations that offered short runways, shelter, and concealment. Known as distributed STOVL operations (DSO), Marine F-35Bs would sustain operations from temporary bases in allied territory within the range of hostile ballistic and cruise missiles, but be moved between temporary locations inside the enemy’s 24- to 48-hour targeting cycle. This strategy accounts for the F-35B’s short range, the shortest of the three variants, with mobile forward arming and refueling points (M-Farps) accommodating KC-130 and MV-22 Osprey aircraft to rearm and refuel the jets, as well as littoral areas for sea links of mobile distribution sites on land. M-Farps could be based on small airfields, multi-lane roads, or damaged main bases, while F-35Bs would return to U.S. Navy ships, rear-area U.S. Air Force bases, or friendly carriers for scheduled maintenance; metal planking would be needed to protect unprepared roads from the F-35B’s engine exhaust, which would be moved between sites by helicopters, and the Marines are studying lighter and more heat-resistant products.