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Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II development started in 1995 with the origins of the Joint Strike Fighter program and culminated in the completion of operational testing and start of full-rate production in 2021. The X-35 first flew on 24 October 2000 and the F-35A on 15 December 2006.
|F-35 Lightning II|
|F-35A Lightning II|
|Role||Stealth multirole fighter|
Type of aircraft
|National origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Lockheed Martin Aeronautics|
|First flight||15 December 2006 (F-35A)|
|Introduction||F-35B: 31 July 2015 (USMC) |
F-35A: 2 August 2016 (USAF)
F-35C: 2018 (USN)
|Developed from||Lockheed Martin X-35|
The F-35 was developed to replace most US fighter jets with variants of one design common to all branches of the military. It was developed in cooperation with a number of foreign partners, and unlike the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, is intended to be available for export. Three variants were designed: the F-35A (conventional take off and landing, CTOL), the F-35B (short-take off and vertical-landing, STOVL), and the F-35C (carrier-based catapult assisted take-off (CATOBAR), CV). Despite being intended to share most of their parts to reduce costs and improve maintenance logistics, by 2017 the design commonality was only 20%.
The program received considerable criticism for cost overruns during development and for the total projected cost of the program over the lifetime of the jets. By 2017 the program was expected over its lifetime (until 2070) to cost $406.5 billion for acquisition of the jets and $1.1 trillion for operations and maintenance. A number of design deficiencies were alleged, such as carrying a small internal payload, inferior performance to the aircraft being replaced particularly the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the lack of safety in relying on a single engine, and flaws were noted such as vulnerability of the fuel tank to fire and the propensity for transonic roll-off (TRO or "wing drop"). The possible obsolescence of stealth technology was also criticized.
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