Last week, a third Lockheed Martin F-35B—the coolest variant of the F-35, with its ability to take off vertically then go supersonic—joined two others already undergoing flight tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. (It's shown here leaving the Lockheed facility in Fort Worth, Texas.)
The F-35B, which will eventually replace the Marines' AV-8B Harriers andF/A-18s, has been racking up the test milestones lately. Last month it engaged its STOVL (short takeoff/vertical landing) propulsion system in flight for the first time, and will now move on to demonstrate actual vertical takeoffs and landings.
The LiftFan system that produces the Lightning II's vertical thrust may look a little Rube Goldberg, but it's a marvel of engineering. Inventor Paul Bevilaqua explains how he came up with it in this Lockheed video: