Back in May of 2015, these F-35B Lightning IIs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma perform field carrier landing practice (FCLP) on mock flight decks set up in the Arizona desert. While also designed to operate from decks with “ski jumps,” these Lightnings show that flat deck takeoffs are also possible, albeit by using every inch of the deck. The Marines plan to operate the F-35B from “unimproved surfaces at austere bases” but with “special, high-temperature concrete designed to handle the heat.” So, it seems that they still need some sort of improved surface to land on. The Marines declared the Lightning II had met initial operational capability on 31 July 2015, and they plan to purchase 340 F-35B and 80 F-35C (naval variant) fighters.

All that said, it’s still quite impressive to see these birds transition to hover and slide sideways for landing. It almost looks like something out of Star Wars.