Here’s a little more information relevant to those hidden, secret bases deep inside enemy territory that F-35Bs will supposedly use to wreak havoc on the enemy from within. We all understand that Harriers and F-35Bs are not really vertical takeoff aircraft, at least not with any useful range and payload. They require a rolling takeoff. According to Aviation Week website (1), the runway needs to be 3000 ft long.
“… the Pentagon bought the F-35B for two reasons: it can land on an LHA/LHD-class amphibious warfare ship, and it can operate from an improvised forward operating location (FOL), created around a 3,000-ft. runway.”
A 3000 ft runway hardly supports the concept of a secret base “carved out” of enemy territory and hidden from the enemy. I don’t think any enemy is going to have trouble spotting a 3000 ft runway in its territory!
The problems extend beyond the mere size of the runway. The heat from the downward directed exhaust is immense and melts or tears up normal runways.
“The main engine exhaust, the engineers said, was hot and energetic enough to have a 50% chance of spalling concrete on the first VL [vertical landing]. “Spalling” occurs when water in the concrete boils faster than it can escape, and steam blows flakes away from the surface.”
“And what Navfac calls “standard airfield concrete” is military-grade, made with aggregate and
runways are built with asphaltic concrete—aggregate in a bitumen binder—which
softens and melts under heat.” Portland
There are solutions. Protective pads can be used.
“At the Navy’s
center, F-35Bs perform VLs on a pad of AM-2 aluminum matting, protecting the
concrete from heat and blast.” Patuxent
“The Marines could use AM-2 landing pads. But AM-2 is not a friend to the agility that justifies the F-35B over other forms of expeditionary airpower. An Air Force study calls it “slow to install, difficult to repair, [with] very poor air-transport-ability characteristics.” A single 100 X 100-ft. VL pad weighs around 30 tons and comprises 400 pieces, each individually installed by two people.”
|AM-2 Runway Under Construction|
Rolling takeoffs and landings can spread the heat and blast load somewhat but comes at the expense of requiring longer runways. A recent comment suggested the use of barges to act as refueling pads for F-35Bs. This would be problematic in terms of physical damage to the barge although it is undoubtedly possible to protect the barge sufficiently to allow such operations. The bigger problem is that a true vertical takeoff from a barge would limit the aircraft to very small fuel and payload weights – an unacceptable and useless scenario.
We see these same concerns even in the attempt to use the F-35B on amphibious ships – ships designed for vertical and short takeoff and vertical landing operations (VTOL/STVOL) and helo/Harrier operations. Our entire amphibious fleet has to be modified to handle the added heat from the F-35B exhaust. It was originally assumed that the F-35B could land anywhere a Harrier could but, like so many aspects of the F-35 program, that turned out to be a false assumption.
“Lewis [Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5)] added that the amphibious assault ships are spending more time in maintenance than planned due to the F-35B LIghting II Joint Strike Fighter interoperability upgrades taking more time than anticipated. The upgrade is meant to boost the ships’ computers and communications to keep up with the sophisticated new fighter, and to strengthen the flight deck to withstand the extreme heat of the exhaust in the vertical-landing jet.” (2)
All of these landing concerns and requirements are proof that the concept of basing F-35B’s on unimproved landing strips hacked out of the jungle and a complete and utter fantasy even neglecting the unsustainable logistical aspects.
All you “jungle flyers” out there … let it go. Your fantasy is just that.
(1)Aviation Week website, “Opinion: F-35B Vertical Landings In Doubt For U.K.”, Bill Sweetman,
(2)USNI News website, “Exacerbating Shortfall in Available Ships for Marines’ At-Sea Training”, Megan Eckstein,