F-35B FCLP

Landing aboard a carrier is much different than a conventional landing ashore, so carrier aviators spend a lot of time practicing. But before they go to sea, they practice ashore, mimicking as closely as possible the carrier environment, in a routine known as Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP), or “bouncing.”

Similarly, the AV-8B and F-35B use a unique approach to landing aboard the Navy’s big deck amphibious warfare ships of the LHD and LHA classes.  The normal routine is to make an approach from astern of the ship, but offset to parallel the port side.  When alongside the desired landing spot, the jet then slides sideways to starboard until it is over the landing spot. Only then does it descend vertically, and then simply taxies out of the way for the next jet.

In order to train for this, MCAS Yuma, AZ actually has an auxiliary field that is shaped and marked like the deck of an LHD, and pilots routinely practice there.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtBeR0FmaHo]

Say what you will about the pros and cons of the program, but it certainly is interesting to watch.

The Future of Army Aviation?

We’ve mentioned the Joint Multi-Role helicopter a couple times in the past, primarily in the sense that we aren’t getting a warm fuzzy feeling. If the program was strictly to develop new technologies that could be used in a series of new designs for separate roles, that would be one thing. But in spite of protestations to the contrary, it’s shaping up more and more that the Technology  Demonstrator (TD) will be leveraged into a one size fits all program that will try to make one helo do more than one job. That’s the same approach that has so badly compromised the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The program is still moving along, with the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) recently awarding contracts to four companies to move ahead with the demonstrators. One such concept is here:

Now, at first glance, I don’t see anything that is outside the realm of aerodynamic possibility.  But I do note that the design is proffered by AVX Aircraft, a brand new company that hasn’t built anything before. I’m not even sure they really have the physical plant to build a TD. Plus, it’s just ugly.

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I’ll admit I was a bit surprised when the AMRDEC Public Affairs Officer reached out to me (especially during the shutdown. Civilian PAO’s are essential for a non-tactical command?).  The PAO kindly forwarded some public information on the Future Vertical Lift initiative.*

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*to be fair, JMR and FVL are technically two separate programs, but I have a crystal ball that tells me we’re only going to get one airframe out of this.