Wednesday, April 10, 2013

JSF Heats Up

There are a group of people in Internetland who view the F-35 (JSF) as a magic solution to virtually every problem the Navy faces.  I’ve read proposals to put F-35B(s), the vertical takeoff and landing version (VTOL), on just about every platform that has a flight deck and some that don’t.  The consensus of these people is that the F-35B can operate off the MLP, LCS, JHSV, logistics ships, commercial cargo ships that have a helo pad, and, in a pinch, lily pad off of Burkes, Ticos or any ship with a helo pad.  Mini-squadrons of F-35Bs will be scattered all over the Navy on any ship with a helo pad.  The day of the supercarrier is over!

The idea is appealing, I suppose, but it totally ignores the reality of operating a VTOL aircraft.  Aside from the mundane issues like maintenance, parts, manning, etc., the F-35B is unlike any other aircraft.  The downward directed jet exhaust is insanely hot - hotter than the Harrier by a wide margin. 

F-35B - Every Ship a Carrier?

As reported by DoD Buzz website (1), the F-35 is proving to be incompatible with existing big deck amphibious ships in a variety of ways.  The latest problems are heat and noise.

Thermion coatings will have to added to the decks of amphibious ships in order to allow them to operate the F-35B due to the extreme heat.  Baffling will have to be added to the substructure of the flight decks to reduce unacceptably high noise levels.  Testing has shown the F-35B jet exhaust causes warping and heat deformation of the existing decks – and these are decks that were built to withstand the downward exhaust of the Harrier which itself was a major problem.

Now, let’s reconsider the idea of operating the F-35B from the MLP, LCS, JHSV, and whatever other platform people have proposed.  Those decks would pretty much instantly burn up and be destroyed under the F-35B exhaust.  ComNavOps encourages out of the box thinking but it must be tempered by a bit of reality supported by a degree of research.  Keep thinking but do your homework before you propose an idea!


  1. Every surface vessel is categorized into groups that define how and what aircraft they can land and support.

    For instance an aircraft carrier can land any aircraft in night or day and provide the necessary maintenance. However, say a destroyer, can land only certain helicopters and can only provide maintenance for certain helicopters.

    Every surface vessel would have to under go major changes in order to support the JSF, never mind the issues listed above.

  2. Asbestos ..... lots and lots of asbestos.

  3. Replies
    1. Now that's funny! Thermite was an autocorrect that happened while I was typing the post and I didn't pick up on it. Thermite is a pyrotechnic. Landing on a Thermite covered deck would be quite an event!

      Thanks for the heads up. I've corrected the post.

    2. Thermion was already headed to sea as a new universal (no just for F-35 ops) non-skid deck material. It lasts longer and has a much lower total lifetime cost than previous materials.

      Thermion was not on the Wasp in response the F-35 but to verify that the F-35 would not damage it (which it does not).

  4. Talk of STOVL aircraft landing on other ships reminds me of this extreme case of a Harrier getting lost and landing on a Spanish merchant ship.


    1. I find it hard to believe that story. Wouldn't the Harrier have set fire to whatever it landed on?

    2. It really happened. Don't know why it didn't set fire to anything. Here's a news programme clip from the time.

    3. Unless the ship was bone dry, it is likely that a thin coat of water vapor/spray acted as a thermal ablative for the heat.

      Water tends to be an excellent thermal ablative due to the steam transition that takes place. For instance, for rocket launches, they flood the pad with water to protect it from the rocket exhaust.

      Water might be a viable method of dealing with the increased heat, at least in emergency situations.

  5. The noise level of the F-35 is really significant. I lived about a mile from Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst where the Navy tests many shipboard aircraft support sysytems like RAST, EMALS, Flight Deck Gear, Blast Defectors, etc., flying in aircraft as necessary to do the tests. You would never know what aircraft had been flown in unless you saw it when going on base. That was until the F-35 started coming to town. When they tested it against the blast defectors, it almost rattled the windows.



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