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F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jet

By

Two F-35's in flight

Two F-35's in flight

Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

General

The F-35 Lightning II (also called the Joint Strike Fighter) is America’s next generation fighter jet. It is being built by Lockheed Martin. It is a multiple role fighter so one base version can be used for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps purposes. The common platform means lower maintenance costs and lower spare parts inventory.

Lockheed’s development partners include Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Pratt & Whitney. Northrop Grumman provides modeling and simulation and mission planning services as well as the multi-function radar and infrared sensor thermal imaging system. BAE Systems builds the fuel, crew escape, life support and health management system. BAE is also the system integrator for the UK carrier F-35. Pratt & Whitney builds the engine for the fighter which is the same engine for all three plane variations. The head mounted displays are built by Vision Systems International. Snader/Litton Amecon is providing the electronic countermeasures capability.

Plans are to build 3,000 planes for the US and other countries. The plane is in testing now and has flown over 1500 times. About 23 jets have been built to date for flight testing purposes. Purchases of long lead time parts have begun for over 90 planes. The Air Force plans to purchase 1,763 F-35’s and the Navy and Marine Corps plans to purchase 680 planes.

There are three variations of the F-35:

  • F-35A – normal takeoff design for the Air Force
  • F-35B – short and vertical takeoff design for the Marine Corp
  • F-35C – carrier takeoff/landing variation for the Navy

Capabilities

The F-35 is the most agile fighter jet developed with advanced acceleration and stealth.

The F-35 is stealthy with almost no radar signature due to antennas being hidden under the plane’s skin, special coatings to reduce radar reflection, edges designed to be hidden and weapons and fuel internal to the plane to further avoid detection.

Electronic warfare capabilities including false targets, network attack, advanced jamming and algorithm-packed data streams. The planes systems are monitored by the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). This system collects data from all over the plane, supports decisions and provides maintenance crews with health information. All of this data collected and analyzed will mean more time in the air and less time in maintenance.

Integrated sensors collect data that can be shared with other planes, ships and ground forces to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information.

Weapons On Board

The F-35A can carry up to 18,000 pounds of weaponry including 25 mm GAU-22/A cannon, two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles and two 2,000 pound GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs. The F-35B carries two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles and two 1,000 pound GBU-32 JDAM guided bombs. The F-35C carries two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles and two 2,000 pound GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs. Other weapons of similar size could also be used.

Specifications

  • Engines = Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engine with 40,000 pounds maximum thrust (same engine as the F-22 Raptor)
  • Range = 1200 nautical miles using just internal fuel
  • Fuel = carries 18,250 pounds of fuel and can be refueled while in flight
  • Length = 51.4 feet
  • Height = 14.4 feet
  • Wingspan = 35 feet
  • Crew size = one
  • Weight = over 29,300 pounds empty and 70,000 pounds fully loaded
  • Maximum speed = Mach 1.6 or 1200 miles per hour
  • Approximate cost = $65 million each (Lockheed Martin estimate once in full production)

Production and Exports

Planned international purchases:
  • UK = 138
  • Italy = 131
  • Netherlands = 85
  • Turkey = 100
  • Australia = 100
  • Norway = 48
  • Denmark = 30
  • Canada = 65
  • Israel has decided on the F-35
  • Japan has selected the F-35 for their next fighter jet.
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