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Looking Under the Hood: Understanding STOVL Technology

Written by on Monday, February 20th, 2012

Short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities represent one of the most coveted features of modern aircraft. STOVL aircraft are significantly more versatile than their standard counterparts because they can be deployed from advanced locations closer to conflict, and they do not have to rely so heavily on standard runways.

Typically, STOVL aircraft are built with aircraft carriers in mind, but that is just one potential function of an extremely versatile aircraft. When a conflict arises and rough military bases are established outside of US borders, STOVL aircraft are among the first (and possibly the only aircraft) capable of landing in these forward bases.

STOVL capabilities often come at a cost, as the technology is more expensive and frequently consumes more fuel than standard models, such as in the case of the F-35B. Still, in a time when versatility and multi-role competence is heavily valued, a STOVL aircraft that consumes more fuel or has a weaker-than-average frame is more tempting than a normal model.

STOVL and VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft come in a variety of forms. Helicopters dominate the field with perfect vertical landings and take-offs, but their comparatively low speed and the fact that they cannot be realistically outfitted with stealth technology makes their uses limited.

There is a type of STOVL plane that is something of a cross between a helicopter and a jet. These aircraft, such as the V-22 Osprey, provide the maneuverability of a helicopter, yet allow for greater top speeds.

Perhaps the most stunning examples of STOVL technology are stealth and fighter aircraft that use vertical cheap valium turbines. STOVL aircraft was first popularized by the British Harrier Jump Jet, but controlling the vertical capabilities of the Harrier proved to be a headache for many pilots. Since the advancements of the Harrier, however, STOVL technology has become so intuitive that even inexperienced pilots can achieve vertical landings.

The F-35B, for example, uses a central lift fan behind the cockpit to counterbalance the engine in the back, which points downward during vertical landings. Additionally, two smaller fans on the wing keep the F-35B level. A pilot is able to control an F-35B in a vertical landing in roughly the same way that he would control the aircraft if it were travelling hundreds of miles per hour. He moves the control stick downward to lose altitude and moves it upward to gain altitude. Even if the pilot completely lets go of the controls, the F-35B will maintain its position in the air.

This is all made possible by thrust vectoring, which enables a pilot to change the direction of thrust from an engine or turbine.   While STOVL technology currently only allows for STOVL and VOTL maneuverability, it is entirely possible that we could eventually see a jet that is as precise in its movements as a hummingbird, capable of moving forwards and backwards with equal ease based on the angles of thrust vectoring. One thing is certain: with the undisputed success of thrust STOVL aircraft, thrust vectoring technology is here to stay, and engineers will continue to make improvements to this versatile technology for decades to come.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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