F-35 Jets Use New Vertical Landing Pads at RAF Marham for the First Time
LONDON — The United Kingdom’s new F-35 multirole combat jets have used their vertical landing capability to land on new Vertical Landing Pads (VLPs) at RAF Marham for the first time, the Ministry of Defence said in a July 25 release.
To support the aircraft’s short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) capability, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation is building three VLPs through its contractors, a joint venture between Galliford Try and Lagan Construction, at RAF Marham. The Norfolk site is the main operating base for the F-35 in the United Kingdom.
The F-35’s STOVL capability will provide operational flexibility including landing on the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. Initial flight trials of the F-35 Lightning aircraft from HMS Queen Elizabeth are on track for this year, allowing a coherent build-up toward delivering a carrier strike capability for the United Kingdom from 2020.
Construction presented a significant engineering challenge. Due to standard concrete not being suitable, the design team had to source special materials from Germany to make a concrete that has the ability to withstand the high temperatures created by aircraft engines. Without this there would be a risk of cracking that, in turn, could present significant risk to the aircraft. This was the first time this material has been used outside the United States and required a rigorous testing process to ensure the landing pads were fit for purpose.
“Vertical landing is a really exciting military capability and from an infrastructure perspective it’s been fascinating to be involved in the design and construction process,” said Lt. Col. Ian Jenkins, Defence Infrastructure Organisation project manager for the VLPs. “It was really exciting and rewarding to see an F-35 landing on the first vertical landing pad to be finished and I look forward to seeing more as we continue to work on other infrastructure upgrades required for the F-35s.”
Each landing pad measures 67 meters long and 67 meters wide, with a central landing area of 30.5 meters by 30.5 meters. Four F-35B Lightning aircraft arrived at their new home at RAF Marham on June 6, starting the build-up of the newly reformed 617 Squadron in the United Kingdom. The successful first use of these new VLPs is another step closer towards successfully reaching initial operating capability for the United Kingdom by the end of the year.