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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: US should fund this as well...
By skyyspam on 12/18/2006 9:55:52 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares about agility.

Airplanes do two things:

1) drop bombs
2) shoot missiles

Yeah, the Su-27 series is a great bunch of airplanes, but the basic airframe has some flaws:

1) it's ungodly huge!!
2) the engines have to be replaced often
3) it's not very stealthy
4) it's only cheap until you add a good radar, IRST, etc...

Stick some weapons on the thing and then see how well it turns. Put some decent avionics on it, and see what happens to the price tag. Load it down with bombs or missiles, and it becomes a flying pig, like every other jet in existence.

By Martin Blank on 12/19/2006 12:51:08 AM , Rating: 2
Airplanes also get involved in dogfights. It happened over Iraq in 1991, and it happened over Yugoslavia in the 1990s. If we get involved with China at some point, it will happen there, too.

You're among the group that has declared the dogfight dead since the 1950s, and you've been wrong every time since.

RE: US should fund this as well...
By harshw on 12/19/2006 4:33:02 PM , Rating: 2
Flying pig ? At the 1994 Farnbourough airshow the Su-30MK did its airshow routine with ordnance on all 12 pylons - a total of 7,000 kgs. This was sanctioned by Sukhoi designer Mikhail Simonov to counter criticisms that the Sukhois could only do their TVC enhanced aerobatics without stores.

RE: US should fund this as well...
By FITCamaro on 12/20/2006 4:15:22 PM , Rating: 1
Airplanes do 3 things:

1) drop bombs
2) shoot missiles
3) dodge missiles and bullets other planes or AA installations fire at them.

What do you need for that? Manueverability.

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