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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 dubldwn on 12/18/2006 5:38:41 PM , Rating: 2
If Israel would quit U.S. FMS right now then Egypt and Saudia Arabia would then have numerous arms not available to Israel.

I'm not suggesting Israel quit the U.S. FMS, I'm suggesting that Israel not transfer sensitive technology (I recognize you're disputing that) or make decisions without considering the negative affects they could have on our standing in the region.

If the U.S. would moderate some more its weapon expenditures in the region then there may be a chance for more independence from FMS, but then again that would weaken U.S. in the region.

That's right - others using our weapons definitly gives us leverage. But engaging in an arms race is a decision the region makes. Others are willing to sell weapons, it's just that ours (and yours) are very competive. Come on man, Saudi Arabia could have F-22's, F-35's, F-100's whatever your pilots would blow them out of the sky. Military balance. Please.

I will see if I can find the list again showing an idea of what Egypt gets from the U.S. on a average year, list is accurate down to the amount of empty clips shipped.

My only response to this is I'm glad the U.S. continues to meet the defence needs of Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

RE: A-10 RIP
By Chillin1248 on 12/18/2006 6:02:44 PM , Rating: 2
Here is the list I promised you:


RE: A-10 RIP
By dubldwn on 12/18/2006 6:15:36 PM , Rating: 2
um, you sent me the one for Israel by mistake. Oh, and by the way, do you really need 52 more F-16's?

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