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F-35 Lightning Performs First Vertical Landing (VIDEO)

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*See video below*

On March 18, an F-35B Lightening II stealth fighter jet performed its first-ever short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL).

Pilot Graham Tomlinson, a former Royal Air Force pilot, performed a 93-mile-per-hour takeoff and hovered the craft at 150 feet for one minute before coming in to land, reports The Bay Net.

The F-35, Tomlinson commented, is an improvement over Harrier Jump Jets, the older generation of STOVL fighters that the F-35 is poised to replace. Although the F-35 is not the first aircraft to perform the feat, its ability to land and take off vertically are necessary if the jet is to serve as a replacement for the Harrier.

LtGen George J. Trautman III, Deputy Commandant for Aviation said that the success of this test brings the Marine Corps one step closer to an all-STOVL fleet, which will be able to take off and land 'virtually anywhere.' LtGen Trautman went on to say:

Being able to operate and land virtually anywhere, the STOVL JSF is a unique fixed wing aircraft that can deploy, co-locate, train and fight with Marine ground forces while operating from a wider range of bases ashore and afloat than any other TacAir platform.

The F-35B Lightening II fighter jet is worth $133.5 million. It is part of the military's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program aimed at reducing costs and creating a more affordable weapons system.

Despite a yearlong delay in the JSF program, plans for the F-35B will remain on schedule--for now. The Marines Corps hopes to begin training a crop of F-35 pilots during the Fall of 2010. The ultimate goal is to have a fully operational squadron by 2012.

See a video of the F-35B Lightening II test (below).

WATCH: [via PopSci]

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