Security Conflict Defense

LHD and STOVL – An Engineer’s View

F-35 Lightning

This article was originally published on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute‘s blog, The Strategist, on June 20, 2014.

As a military aircraft engineer, I’ve been associated with STOVL aircraft operations for around 30 years, and have worked on the F-35 program. So I’ve followed the current discussions around potential use of F-35B from the Canberra-class LHDs with interest.

In my view, it’s remarkable how much the debate focuses on the problems that the aircraft would face in operating from those ships rather than the potential benefits to be gained. Assertions abound about the ‘limited’ nature of F-35B operations from an LHD, and the ‘severe challenges’ involved in generating a militarily ‘decisive impact’ from ‘small’ platforms. And yet for 30 years or more the UK and US (using AV-8Bs and Sea Harriers) have delivered
significant operational effect from similar platforms. Clearly, STOVL at sea can work. So I’d like to offer a few observations that might assist and inform the debate.