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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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By otispunkmeyer on 12/19/2006 4:12:52 AM , Rating: 2
that is one sweet looking machine. i wish our gov would spend money on stuff like this, stuff we can be proud of, instead of wasting it on themselves and asylum seekers.

i know were involved with the eurofighter but fuck that, this looks soo much better. there is a dismantled eurofighter at my university and its a horrible looking thing. wrinkly panels with exposed rivet and screw heads... im guessing its only an early-ish prototype though since its been there a few years.

RE: wow
By probedb on 12/19/2006 4:58:33 AM , Rating: 2
...and it's the looks of the aircraft that are important in warfare...<shakes head>...but you're right, i doubt Eurofighter will ever be finished which is a pity as it was pretty advanced initially but probably out of date now it's taken so long to develop and it's still not in service.

RE: wow
By Dribble on 12/19/2006 4:59:27 AM , Rating: 2
You are British right? So you are aware that Britain footed a sizable part of the development costs - the VTOL version is intended for use on British carriers, and the VTOL engine is a British design.
The Eurofighter (now Typhoon - Eurofighter is a terrible name if you want to sell it outside of Europe) looks 10 times prettier then this thing and has great potential - it's big problem is it's being built by a euro committee, which means it'll end up costing too much and not working as well as it could have :(

RE: wow
By rcc on 12/19/2006 11:53:45 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, well. You know what a camel is, yes? It's a horse build by a commitee. And an elephant? A milspec horse.

Old joke, but a lot of truth.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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