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The F-35B, intended for the Marines, follows in the tradition of other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the most famous being the British Harrier Jump Jet. With the ability to take off from a short — or nonexistent — ramp, VTOL systems like the F-35B offer a degree of flexibility to military planners.

But with such highly specialized requirements for operation, VTOL aircraft come with intrinsic disadvantages. As Pierre Sprey, the co-designer of the F-16, points out, the F-35B’s unique shape is necessary to accommodate the lift fans needed to get the craft off the ground. But this means the wings must be shorter, and this reduces its maneuverability in combat.

Read: The F-35 was born of a "dumb piece of Air Force PR spin"

It also reduces its fuel capacity, which limits its range and ability to loiter to serve as close-air support for ground troops.

 

 

 

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