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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 jarman on 12/21/2006 4:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also, it's not that hard for an expert pilot to dodge a missile when you can manuever at slow speeds better than a F/A-18


Please do not comment on things you do not understand. What you have seen in movies does not apply to the real world of air combat. There is no "dodging" of missiles as they try to hit your aircraft. The sensor load, speed, and armament of modern air-to-air missiles (or even surface and sea-to-air variants) negates a pilots ability to out fly the missile. If a modern missile has engaged a target and the target does not have effective electro-mag or stand-off counter measures, the target WILL be hit.


By stromgald on 1/1/2007 11:16:53 AM , Rating: 2
You're making bad assumptions about what I know/understand. I'm not basing this on movies or TV, but on fact and what I know from work.

When I said 'dodge' a missle, I meant using chaff or flares. Just having these items doesn't allow you to avoid a missle, it involves throwing the distracting material one way and running as fast as possible in another. That involves turning in short distances at high speeds. The Su-47's design allows it to do that a lot better than the F/A-22.

If dodging and manueverability isn't an issue like you say, then why would thrust vectoring be such a big deal on the F/A-22? The fact is that even with the advanced electronic jamming (radar and IR) on the F/A-22, the way to survive an missle lock is still to dodge and use things like chaff or flares.


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