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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 masher2 on 12/18/2006 6:16:31 PM , Rating: 4
> "Israel has long ago repayed its debt to the U.S..."

So you feel that Israel has repaid over $100 billion in direct aid, plus hundreds more in indirect aid, not to mention priceless access to the most advanced US defense technology...all just by giving the US a few looks inside some outmoded Soviet weaponry?

And my figures are correct. As of 1997, the total cost of US direct aid to Israel has been $134,791,507,200. That doesn't count aid in the decade since then, nor indirect aid or indirect costs incurred from supporting Israeli policiies.

RE: A-10 RIP
By rushfan2006 on 12/19/2006 10:04:55 AM , Rating: 1
Since 1997.....$137 billion to Israel...

Hmm...interesting in a fraction of that time we have DOUBLED that amount spent on Iraq....

And surely THAT is a worthwhile expense to US taxpayers. /sarcasm.

RE: A-10 RIP
By masher2 on 12/19/2006 10:17:19 AM , Rating: 2
As I pointed out, that's only the costs up to 1997, and ignores all charges since then, as well as any and all incidental costs. Given that support for Israel is one of the primary motivators for Middle-East discontent with the US, one could build a case that the cost of entire Afghan and Iraqi military efforts (as well as losses from 9/11 itself) were all indirect costs of our support of Israel.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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