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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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RE: A-10 RIP
By KristopherKubicki on 12/18/2006 4:36:19 PM , Rating: 2
Please do not confuse my personal opinion in the comments with what is reported in the article.

I think you raise interesting points - the U.S. shouldn't be selling technology in the region either. However, the thing that still concerns me is that some of these weapon systems being sold to China, then later to Iran, have the possibility of being used against Israel. China isn't the only backdoor either: recently weapons sold to Eastern Europe have ended up in the Middle East, weapons sold to Russia have ended up in Libya, weapons sold to Argentina have ended up in Colombia. None of these are particularly U.S. OR Israeli-friendly places right now and such propagation should be a unilateral concern.

I have been moderating you up by the way: you have strong arguments even though they are not popular.

RE: A-10 RIP
By Chillin1248 on 12/18/2006 5:11:22 PM , Rating: 5
Of course.

I also agree with you that the weapons have a interesting way of being used against us, and I personally do not advocate selling these weapons to questionable countries. However from a political viewpoint I do not see how to condemn Israel for doing so.

Best example I can figure for American supplied, Israeli weapons being used against Israel is when during the "Road Map" period Israel, under a U.S. request, gave the PA roughly 10,000 M-16 rifles and over 3 Million rounds of M1193 5.56mm NATO round ammunition that was supposed to go the PA security forces. Not two weeks later the guns were already responsible for a attack on a Israeli civilian which severely wounded him.

I also thank you for the moderation of course, but I would hope people would take arguements at face value sometimes without bias.


RE: A-10 RIP
By Fnoob on 12/19/2006 10:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
Osama Bin Laden ? We created that weapons system...

"propagation should be a unilateral concern."

RE: A-10 RIP
By Martin Blank on 12/20/2006 6:30:46 PM , Rating: 2
No, we didn't. I wish people would learn this point. Osama bin Laden financed his own network entirely with his own money that he inherited as a member of one of the wealthiest families in the Middle East. He despised even suggestions of taking help from the West, and was known to execute Westerners on-sight. Hence, he was barely known during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,

The mujahideen was made up of several groups fighting the Soviets. Don't think that providing assistance to a few means providing assistance to all.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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