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Lockheed's F-35 in flight -- image courtesy Lockheed Martin
The F-35 Lightning II makes its maiden flight

Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II single-seat fighter made its maiden flight this past Friday. The F-35 is the production version of the X-35 Joint Strike Fighter prototype which was selected over the competing Boeing X-32.

The flight marked the culmination of a five-year gestation period and was for the most part successful. "The Lightning II performed beautifully," said F-35 Chief Pilot Jon Beesley. The flight was scheduled to last an hour, but was ended after just 38 minutes. An in-flight glitch took place in which an air data probe flashed a warning in the cockpit. As a result, “gear-up" testing was not performed during the flight. "We designed the aircraft with redundancy so if one of the sensors is out we can fly with the other one. That part worked just fine," said Beesley.

There will be three distinct versions of the plane in the $276.6 billion USD program. Prices will range from $45 million USD per plane for the F-35A to $60 million per plane for the F-35C.

The F-35A is the smallest/lightest of the bunch and will be put into service by the US Air Force. It is destined to replace the F-16 and A-10 (oh how we will miss the GAU-8/A Avenger). The F-35B is the STOVL variant which will replace the AV-8 Harrier currently in service with the US Marine Corps. The F-35C will be used by the US Navy where it will replace the F-18A/B/C/D.

The United States is currently partnered with Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey on the F-35 program. Other countries including Israel and Singapore are also interested in the F-35 program.

Given all the news surrounding the success of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), it would be interesting to see if Lockheed's proposed pilot-less variant of the F-35 will ever see the light of day -- if only in prototype form.

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Landing gear
By OrSin on 12/18/2006 12:44:57 PM , Rating: 2
Can't we replace it some thing more eye pleasing.
Wheels on metal can look better. Yeah yeah a small thing, but after over 50 years of flight its the only thing thats still looks the same.

RE: Landing gear
By dice1111 on 12/18/2006 12:55:59 PM , Rating: 2
You serious? Style over function? Come on, you'd think the military would care for even a second? Besides, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

RE: Landing gear
By Brandon Hill on 12/18/2006 1:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
Would you prefer chrome spinners and low-profile tires?

RE: Landing gear
By BladeVenom on 12/18/2006 1:45:27 PM , Rating: 2
Pimp my F-35.

RE: Landing gear
By Aikouka on 12/18/2006 1:49:08 PM , Rating: 2
Shush, Brandon, you're going to give MTV ideas!

Xzibit on his new show, "Pimp My Plane" with the tagline, "Our Boy, X to the Z, will take your expectations sky high!"

Sadly enough, as much as I make fun of it, I have every episode of Pimp My Ride on my Multimedia server and that includes the UK version with Westwood. No idea why, but I like watching it :P.

Oh and it seems during my time trying to evade the Oops bug, BladeVenom stole my Thunder (or Lightning II ;)).

RE: Landing gear
By Jedi2155 on 12/18/2006 1:10:38 PM , Rating: 2
I never thought wheels on metal were not eye pleasing, and I always loved the look of wheels on metal :).

Also why replace a system that is known to work so well.

RE: Landing gear
By TimberJon on 12/18/2006 2:40:08 PM , Rating: 2
How about repulsorlift generators.

-Rolls eyes-

RE: Landing gear
By Mclendo06 on 12/18/2006 7:12:05 PM , Rating: 2
If you are that concerned about aesthetics, just be glad that DOD didn't go with the X-38. And to anyone from Boeing who reads this post - sorry. I love your airliners but your JSF prototype looked kind of like a sick frog!

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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