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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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A10 RIP? Good idea.
By HaZaRd2K6 on 12/18/2006 2:24:30 PM , Rating: 2
The A-10 Warthog, for all it may be a powerful plane, in the hands of inexperienced (or even experienced, for that matter) pilots can do much more harm that anyone anticipated. I'm a Canadian and a few months ago some of our soldiers were on a raid in Afghanistan with US air support in the form of 2 A-10 Warthogs. One of the pilots opened fire on Canadian troops and ended up killing four and wounding numerous others. The pilot opened fire for only two seconds and did horrendous damage. These planes aren't designed to be discriminating. They kill anything that's in their path. It's a damned good thing they're being decommissioned.




RE: A10 RIP? Good idea.
By Aikouka on 12/18/2006 2:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
They aren't being decommissioned. As mentioned in a comment above, they're still being kept up-to-date for use by Lockheed Martin until 2028.


RE: A10 RIP? Good idea.
By ChronoReverse on 12/18/2006 2:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
Erm, any weapon being fired on friendlies will cause massive damage. What on earth does that have anything to do with how worthy the A-10 is?

I'm Canadian too and at least I have the sense to see where the fault lies (not the plane) in that situation.


RE: A10 RIP? Good idea.
By dubldwn on 12/18/2006 6:09:30 PM , Rating: 2
I sure he's being sarcastic, and that he doesn't want the plane to be decommissioned.


RE: A10 RIP? Good idea.
By rcc on 12/18/2006 2:53:22 PM , Rating: 2
That's horrible, I agree. But what about the next time, when you are about to be overrun and you only get a couple of seconds of support. Do you really want it to be less lethal????

This is the first time I've heard a complaint for a weapon system that does it's job too well. In your case the weapon isn't at fault. But control and comms hosed up somewhere.


RE: A10 RIP? Good idea.
By HammerZ on 12/18/2006 7:48:27 PM , Rating: 2
Would you prefer that the A-10 does no damage when its weapons are engaged? Then, would you want it for air support?


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