The closer the better

The closer the better

Tactical aviation has one main purpose – to support ground troops. But getting air support where it’s needed is easier said than done. Troops are often operating far from the nearest airbase, and when speed of response is critical, deploying aircraft carriers is often impractical.

The closer the better


Tactical aviation has one main purpose – to support ground troops. But getting air support where it’s needed is easier said than done. Troops are often operating far from the nearest airbase, and when speed of response is critical, deploying aircraft carriers is often impractical.

The closer the better

The solution is simple – remove the need for a long runway and an aircraft can be based almost anywhere. STOVL (short take off and vertical landing) capable aircraft provide just that, but engineering the systems that power them presents a whole host of challenges. Add in the need for aircraft to have supersonic capability, improved controls, stealth and synchronisation with other Joint Strike Fighters, and the solution requires technology unlike anything else you’ll see in the world.

The closer the better

Power to weight ratio

STOVL flight requires thrust to be greater than, or equal to, an aircraft’s overall weight: minimizing weight while ensuring structural integrity and durability is critical to achieving this thrust to weight ratio.

This means


horsepower is transmitted from the main engine to the LiftFan via a spiral bevel gear system

That’s the equivalent thrust needed to power


Bugatti Veyrons

Challenge is designing gears light enough for


but strong enough to handle this power

The closer the better


To achieve STOVL, the LiftFan component of LiftSystem operates perpendicular to the flow of air over the aircraft: this has a huge impact on fan dynamics and performance which need to be overcome to achieve stability in even the harshest conditions.

The LiftFan operates in


Knot crosswinds

That’s equivalent to taking off winds of


Miles per hour

Which is


Miles per hour
more than the strongest hurricane ever recorded

The closer the better


Ease of use is vital to improving a pilot’s situational awareness, especially during operational situations. As LiftSystem’s actuation systems are primary flight controls, the accuracy and reliability requirements are more stringent than for almost any other aviation system.

Nowhere is


more important than in operational situations

LiftSystem’s actuations systems are part of the


aircraft controls, responsible for control and movement

This means they face some of the


accuracy and reliability requirements of any aviation system in the world

60 years at the top

We’ve been the world leader in STOVL capabilities for over six decades. Our expertise goes all the way back to the 1950s when the first Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig took to the skies. Better known as the ‘Flying Bedstead’, successful trials of the rig paved the way for the development of our RB.108 direct-lift turbojet; the engine which powered the first British vertical take-off and landing aircraft, the Short SC.1.

Record-breaking power

This was just the beginning. Data from the SC.1 influenced the development of our legendary Pegasus engine, the world’s first STOVL engine. It was the Pegasus that powered the Hawker P.1127 and the Hawker Siddeley Kestral, two vital stepping stones to the development of the Harrier, one of the most successful aircraft families ever. Having broken time-to-height records at 3,000m and 9,000m and still in operation today, each Harrier is powered by a single Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine. We’re now taking that success to the next level with LiftSystem.

Nothing else like it

LiftSystem isn’t about making something new, it’s about making something better.

Our Pegasus engine is a world-leader in STOVL, but for us, that’s not just an achievement: it’s a challenge. When it came to developing a solution for the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II, increasing power while reducing weight, improving stability and simplifying controls, and being able to achieve STOVL and supersonic flight – something not possible with the Harrier platform – were critical.

The only STOVL technology for fighter jets in production anywhere in the world, LiftSystem comprises of four key elements: the LiftFan, driveshaft and clutch, a 3-bearing swivel module and roll posts. With a combined STOVL capability of 40,000 lb of thrust, 29,000 horsepower is delivered to the LiftFan via the driveshaft and clutch. That’s enough to raise ten elephants to the top of the Empire State Building in just 7 seconds. And thanks to the use of the latest in fan system technology, this is achieved with minimal impact on total airframe weight.

But LiftSystem doesn’t just punch above its weight in terms of power. It also features the latest in digital control, with the processing power equivalent to playing a PlayStation straight for 14 years. The digital flight controls reduce pilots’ workloads, with the STOVL operated by a single button, allowing them to focus on the mission in hand.

Which engine would you like to view?


Power to weight ratio


Over a 60% increase in power compared to the most-powerful Harrier


Delivers responsive, precise and powerful STOVL capability enabling the F-35 to land and take-off in austere forward deployed environments and on amphibious ships/navy carriers, providing a huge tactical advantage


Ease of use


Digital controls and automation, with conventional flight to STOVL capability achieved through a single button


Hugely improved ease of landing in comparison to the Harrier, improving pilots’ situational awareness and enabling them to focus on concurrent tasks.


Supersonic speed


Capable of supersonic flight


By redirecting the engine exhaust through the 3BSM, rear lift is provided while the design of the 3BSM can also withstand the use of afterburners in conventional flight, allowing supersonic speeds to be achieved.

Better ground support


Increased payload compared to the Harrier platform


The F-35B STOVL has a higher payload thanks to higher power density achieved with the LiftSystem, meaning it can carry more ordinance in missions making it more effective in supporting troops on the ground.

Shared intelligence


Synchronisation of data and electronics


The on-board electronics of the F-35B STOVL allow the aircraft to synchronize with Air Force and Navy variants of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, allowing the sharing of information and battlefield intelligence.

STOVL performance


The only system capable of performing a short take off, supersonic flight and a vertical landing


The unique abilities of the F-35B STOVL gives a huge tactical advantage to troops on the ground and in the air, and allows the aircraft to be deployed from almost anywhere.


A world of difference

The LiftSystem is truly revolutionary: you won’t currently see this technology anywhere else in the world. Used on the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and managed from our Indianapolis site, pilots and maintenance crews have been singing its praises.

The U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II aircraft reached initial operational capability in July 2015 and is now ready for world-wide deployment. As we come to the end of 15+ years of development activity, production is ramping up on all modules and maintenance, overhaul, repair and support capability is being developed on bases in the US and UK as well as within our depots.

LiftWorks, our LiftSystem Depot Facility at Plainfield, Indiana, is now operational with full capability. It’s been designed as a dedicated, scalable repair facility capable of supporting the LiftSystem. Thanks to shareing facility overheads with the adjacent LiftSystem Production Facility, flexible allocation of resources, and modern working practices, it’s also a cost effective solution. The MCAS Cherry Point / FRCE Depot is planned to be fully capable by 2022.

“The capability you will have with the F-35 [compared to the Harrier], it’s an immeasurable difference between the two.”

Marine Corps Capt Jack “Norm” Cronan.