Eighties pop musician and lion mane hair connoisseur Paul Engemann once instructed listeners to “Push it to the limit, walk along the razor’s edge. But don’t look down, just keep your head, or you’ll be finished.”
And while the words were originally penned to coincide with Tony Montana’s relentless pursuit of a South Florida cocaine empire, their sentiment is no less applicable to a couple harrowing videos of a recent Navy F-35C Joint Strike Fighter test flight.
Shared by Instagram user RCAF_Pilot, the two clips depict the fighter launching under what is believed to be limited catapult power from an aircraft carrier in order to decipher the bare minimum propulsion power needed for the aircraft to avoid plummeting into the ocean.
These pilots aren’t paid enough.
Two different camera angles help convey the intensity of the launch. From one vantage point on the flight deck, the plane can be seen dropping completely out of view before reemerging and beginning its ascent.
In the other video recorded from beneath the ship’s bow, the jet can be seen falling into the frame just above the water before the its exhausts send ripples through the waves.
“That sink is scary, but it was a part of the test plan,” the Instagram user noted.
“The folks at PAX River needed to find the lowest amount of energy that the catapult needed in order to safely launch an F-35C ... they definitely found it!”
There was no mention in the videos as to which carrier the clips were taken from, but the use of a steam-powered launch system rules out the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System equipped carrier Gerald R. Ford.
And as The War Zone first pointed out, the F-35 pilot never engages afterburner, which indicates this was indeed a test instead of a hair-raising mishap.
Watch the multiple angles of the launch below.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.