The F35B Joint Strike Fighter began Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) trials last weekend at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The aircraft will be used by the United States Marine Corps to replace both the aging Harrier STOL aircraft and the FA/18 Hornet fighter.
Designed as a stealth aircraft, the F35B appears to be the size of a golf ball on enemy radar. Three variants will be built for different roles; the F35B is the only one with vectored thrust nozzles for STOL applications. While earlier STOL aircraft (such as the TAV-8A Harrier) were notoriously difficult to master, the F35B's vectored thrust design is much more forgiving of pilot error and should require less flight training prior to pilot certification. The U.S. Marines will begin to utilize the F35B beginning in 2012.