VAAC Harrier test success

Global defence and security company, Qinetiq, has completed successful trials of its T4 Vectored-thrust Aircraft Advanced Control (VAAC) Harrier onboard HMS Illustrious.

Qinetiq’s VAAC Harrier flew a total of 39 sorties between 12-19 November to demonstrate the company’s new Bedford Array visual landing aid system.

The trials were conducted as part of a contract with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) designed to improve the stability of the new F-35B Lightning II Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft in ‘rolling landings’.

Compared to a standard vertical landing, Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landings (SRVL) extend engine life by reducing propulsion system stress and allow heavier payloads to be brought back by the aircraft.

SRVL involves a STOVL aircraft executing a ‘rolling landing’ onto the carrier flight deck, using air speed to provide wingborne lift to complement engine thrust.

The aircraft uses its own brakes to stop, therefore no arrestor gear is deployed.

Qinetiq’s Bedford Array visual landing aid system improves SRVL by collecting data from external passive references and combining it with information in the pilot’s Helmet Mounted Display.

According to Qinetiq, this will allow the pilot to make more accurate decisions on approach to the deck.

Qinetiq’s test pilot, Justin Paines, said: ‘The UK has an incredible heritage of innovation in naval aviation and pioneered many of the things now taken for granted in the conventional carrier world.

‘With the Bedford Array, we’ve done it again and developed an approach aid that has application beyond F-35B to other forms of embarked aircraft recoveries.

‘We have already received interest from other countries involved in naval aviation.’

The MoD plans to operate up to 36 F-35B Joint Striker Fighters from each of its two new future aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth, scheduled to enter service in 2014, and HMS Prince of Wales, which is expected to be ready in 2016.