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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 WhiteBoyFunk on 12/19/2006 12:23:22 PM , Rating: 2
US Misconduct? I sure hope this guy doesn't physically live in the US.

RE: A-10 RIP
By WhiteBoyFunk on 12/19/2006 12:32:48 PM , Rating: 2
Rescrolled and noticed Chillin is from Israel. Cool how when things go wrong it's our fault. I suppose the Cole's downfall is fault of those from Yemen, and bombing of the Khobar Towers fault of the Saudi's. Sometimes I don't understand why we help anyone when all they do is whine about certain things and conveniently overlook the overall good we do.

RE: A-10 RIP
By mindless1 on 12/24/2006 7:02:36 PM , Rating: 2
Without question some things are the US' fault. You don't get to be a superpower without stepping on some toes.

There is no innocent government and finger pointing based on the past, only perpetuates the mistakes of the past. Only when governments stop taking the "us" and "them" attitude, will this change. Remember that particularly in the US, it's all about media spin, special interest groups, big money. Oppose something if it garners you supporters, then move on finding the next thing to point your finger at, hoping that by making others look bad, you make yourself look better. Unfortunately this behavior is intermixed with sincere and legitimate efforts.

That is not to imply the US is bad, or worse, only that nationalism is contradictory to humanism across borders.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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