When we look at the F-35B, how it operates, how it looks, it should ring a small bell in our heads. Although it is based on a common JSF airframe once upon a time… there was something that looked very much like it.
It was called Yakovlev Yak-141, and was designed by the famous Yakovlev design bureau which also made the Yak-38 – something similar to the Harrier. At that time the glory days of Yakovlev were long over. The fighter realm was divided between Sukhoi and Mikoyan and a successful Yak-38 successor could mean a great comeback.
It was supposed to be a fleet defense aircraft and fly with supersonic speeds as opposed to Yak-38. The armament, radar etc. should be in par with the latest front-line fighters. First flight was in march 1987 but the program was canceled in august 1991 because of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
F-35B isn’t a copy of Yak-141 – that is for sure but it has a few similarities. For instance the main engine in Yak-141 gives lift thanks to the nozzle which can be redirected downwards.
Here comes a difference to the F-35B – Yak had two additional engines serving as lift generators in the front of the aircraft. The F-35B has a huge ventilator powered by the same engine which redirects the thrust downwards.
The Yak-141 also generated a huge amount of heat while making a Vertical Landing – it could stay in that position only for 150 seconds. This was and still partially is a problem for today’s aircraft carrier decks which have to be prepared for F-35B operations.
Both aircraft can’t carry that much firepower as their air force counterparts because of the complex landing system takes up precious space. With the F-35B there is also the stealth factor which the Yak-141 couldn’t dream off. The F-35B pushed the limits further but compared to the F-35A it can deliver a smaller punch. For instance it’s cannon is suspended under it’s belly in a pod. Besides the stealthy weapon bays it can also carry ordnance on six hard points under it’s wings. This is a huge step forward compared with the Yak-141.
All in all the F-35B has a bright future in front of it. How can I tell? Well, the Marines have to have a new aircraft and sooner or later the “B” will be perfected and further enhanced giving the soldiers a new technological advantage. Even today with the declared IOC they fly in Japan straightening the USA military presence in the region.