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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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Your Missing The Point.
By AllexxisF1 on 12/19/2006 8:24:54 AM , Rating: 3
You guys are missing the most important point of this aircraft program.

If a war were to break out against the Allies from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, or more importantly all of them at once, having a "standard" one platform multi role aircraft saves time and money.

God forbid we should ever hit the depths like we did in WW2, but if we had to manufacture aircraft for a major conflict in large numbers, having this one standard platform gives us an amazing edge.

Factories can tool up and continually modify and improve output efficiency. Not to mention all the forces receiving the same flight, maintenance training and parts.

All the Allies pilots can be trained not only for the same flight platform but now for different roles all together. A pilot on the F-35 can easily learn air to air combat along with ASW operations and or tank busting. The only difference will be the tactics and weapon systems. In a sense all your pilots become a multi function tool just like your aircraft.

It might not be an A-10 at tank busting, but if you could produce more numbers, have stealth capability, and at the same time take your aircraft to any theater where the parts will be there and the aircraft instantly turned around for a completely different's a better platform.

RE: Your Missing The Point.
By Fnoob on 12/19/2006 11:14:42 PM , Rating: 2
Very valid. We can only hope the core advantages of such a unified platform aren't exported to our enemies. When that ultimately happens, unfortunately, our level of refinement will hopefully exceed that of our foes.

Of course, at some point, we must wonder if society will ever evolve to the point where the one with the better argument wins.

Compare the US Senate to the forums of the Socratic age... deep sigh. Amazing that we insist upon "evolving" to learn to implement common sense discussed thousands of years ago.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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