LAST UPDATE: June 14, 2014
SPECIFICATIONS PHOTOGRAPHS (Click on the pictures for an enlarged photo)

Crew: 1
Length: 51.4 ft (15.67 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft[N 5] (10.7 m)
Height: 14.2 ft[N 6] (4.33 m)
Wing area: 460 ft (42.7 m)
Empty weight: 29,300 lb (13,300 kg)
Loaded weight: 49,540 lb (22,470 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 70,000 lb (31,800 kg)
Powerplant: 1 PW F135 afterburning turbofan
Dry thrust: 28,000 lbf (125 kN)
Thrust with afterburner: 43,000 lbf (191 kN)
Internal fuel capacity: 18,480 lb (8,382 kg)
Maximum speed: Mach 1.6+ (1,200 mph)
Range: 1,200 nmi (2,220 km) on internal fuel
Combat radius: 590 nmi (1,090 km) on internal fuel
Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,288 m)
- With full fuel: 0.87
- With 50% fuel: 1.07
g-Limits: 9 g
Weapons payload: 18,000 lb (8,100 kg)
Guns: 1 GD GAU-22/A 25 mm 4-barreled gatling cannon
Hardpoints: 6 external & 2 internal bays w/2 pylons ea
- AIM-9X Sidewinder
- JDRADM (after 2020)
- AGM-154 JSOW
- Mark 84, 83 and 82 GP bombs
- Mk.20 Rockeye II cluster bomb
- Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser
- Paveway-series laser-guided bombs
- Small Diameter Bomb (SDB)
- JDAM-series
- B61 nuclear bomb[214]

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

LATST NEWS The F-35C is undergoing carrier testing at the land based Lakehurst facility where it is being tested for EMAL and Steam catapaul launches, arrested landings, an jet blast deflector tests as shopwn in the F-35C pictures on this page. The F-35C will begin testing aboard a US nuclear powered aircraft carrier later this summer and this fall (2014).

The F-35B is moving towards initial operational capability in 2015. Weapons testing is continuing. Most recently the successful test of firing two AMRAMM missiles in quick succession from the arcraft were performed.

The 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida, became the US Air Force's first complete F-35A Lightning II squadron on 28 May 2014 with a full group of twenty-six aircraft.

The first Australian F-35A rolled off the assembly line in early June.

The 150th overall F-35 was on the assembly line in June 2014l.

INTRODUCTION The Joint Strike Fighter, or Lightning II, being built by Lockheed Martin is the realization of a long held dream of building a military fighter/attack aircraft that was common amonsgt all branches of service. As such, this will be the large aircraft acquisition and military defense program in American history with the US Airforc, the US Marines, and the US Navy all taking part, as well as numerous allied nations.

The three versions of the Joint Strike fighter will be:

  • The F-35A US Airforce version to replace F-16 and F-15 aircraft.
  • The F-35B US Marines version as a VSTOL jump fighter/bomber to replace the Harriers.
  • The J-35C US Navy version for use on carriers to replace F-18 aircraft.
For the purposes of this site about the 21st Century US Navy, only versions "B" and "C" are shown as they will be flying off US Navy amphibious assaut ships and US Aircraft Carriers.

There are some obvious difference between the three with the Marine version having an additional hover capabibilty and hover fan and directional nozzel to accomodate, and the US Navy version having a ;larger wing area and strengthened landing gear to withstand its Catapault assisted take-off and barrier landing (CATOBAR) capabilities on the carrier decks.

The aircraft is a 5th generation, very stealthy, very manueverable fighter bomber that is envisioned to join the US Airforce F-22 Raptor as the premier modern aircraft providing US forces with day one air dominance over the battlefield.

DESIGN The F-35 in many ways is a smaller, slightly more conventional, single-engine sibling of the sleeker, twin-engine F-22 Raptor. The exhaust duct design was inspired by the General Dynamics Model 200 design, which was proposed for a 1972 supersonic VTOL fighter requirement for the Sea Control Ship. For specialized development of the F-35B STOVL variant, Lockheed consulted with the Yakovlev Design Bureau, purchasing design data from their development of the Yakovlev Yak-141 "Freestyle". Although several experimental designs have been built and tested since the 1960s including the Navy's unsuccessful Rockwell XFV-12, the F-35B is to be the first operational supersonic, STOVL fighter.

The F-35 has a maximum speed of over Mach 1.6. With a maximum takeoff weight of 60,000 lb (27,000 kg),the Lightning II is considerably heavier than the lightweight fighters it replaces. In empty and maximum gross weights, it more closely resembles the single-seat, single-engine Republic F-105 Thunderchief, which was the largest single-engine fighter of the Vietnam war era. However the F-35's modern engine delivers over 60 percent more thrust in an aircraft of the same weight so that in thrust to weight and wing loading it is much closer to a comparably equipped F-16.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark D. "Shack" Shackelford said that the F-35 is designed to be America's "premier surface-to-air missile killer and is uniquely equipped for this mission with cutting edge processing power, synthetic aperture radar integration techniques, and advanced target recognition." Lockheed Martin has suggested that the F-35 could also replace the USAF's F-15C/D fighters in the air superiority role and the F-15E Strike Eagle in the ground attack role, but it does not have the range or payload of either F-15 model. However the F-35A carries a similar air-to-air armament as the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle when both aircraft are configured for low observable operations and has over 80 percent of the larger aircraft's combat radius.

Some improvements over current-generation fighter aircraft are:

  • Durable, low-maintenance stealth technology, using structural fiber mat instead of the high-maintenance coatings of legacy stealth platforms
  • Integrated avionics and sensor fusion that combine information from off- and on board sensors to increase the pilot's situational awareness and improve target identification and weapon delivery, and to relay information quickly to other command and control (C2) node
  • High speed data networking including IEEE 1394b and Fibre Channel.
  • Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment (ALGS), Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) and Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) help ensure aircraft uptime with minimal maintenance manpower.
  • Electrohydrostatic actuators run by a power-by-wire flight-control system.
  • The majority of the structural composites in the F-35 are made out of bismaleimide (BMI) and composite epoxy material.[63]
ENGINES The F-35's main engine is the Pratt & Whitney F135. The General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 is being developed as an alternative engine.[65] The F135/F136 engines are not designed to supercruise in the F-35. The STOVL versions of both power plants use the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem, patented by Lockheed Martin and built by Rolls-Royce. This system is more like the Russian Yak-141 and German VJ 101D/E than the preceding generation of STOVL designs, such as the Harrier Jump Jet in which all of the lifting air went through the main fan of the Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine.

The Lift System is composed of a lift fan, drive shaft, two roll posts and a "Three Bearing Swivel Module" (3BSM).[69] The 3BSM is a thrust vectoring nozzle which allows the main engine exhaust to be deflected downward at the tail of the aircraft. The lift fan near the front of the aircraft provides a counter-balancing thrust. Somewhat like a vertically mounted turbofan within the forward fuselage, the lift fan is powered by the engine's low-pressure (LP) turbine via a drive shaft and gearbox. Roll control during slow flight is achieved by diverting engine bypass air through wing mounted thrust nozzles called Roll Posts.

The F-35B's lift fan achieves the same 'flow multiplier' effect as the Harrier's huge, but supersonically impractical, main fan. Like lift engines, this added machinery is just dead weight during horizontal flight but provides a net increase in payload capacity during vertical flight. The cool exhaust of the fan also reduces the amount of hot, high-velocity air that is projected downward during vertical take off (which can damage runways and aircraft carrier decks). Though complicated and risky, the lift system has been made to work to the satisfaction of DOD officials

ARMAMENT The F-35A includes a GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm cannon. The cannon will be mounted internally with 180 rounds in the F-35A and fitted as an external pod with 220 rounds in the F-35B and F-35C. The gun pod for the B and C variants will have stealth features. This pod could be used for different equipment in the future, such as EW, reconnaissance equipment, or possibly a rearward facing radar.

Internally (current planned weapons for integration), up to two air-to-air missiles and two air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons (up to two 2,000 lb (910 kg) bombs in A and C models (BRU-68); Lockheed Martin have suggested a Block 5 version will be fitted with six internal air-to-air weapons.[84] Two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs in the B model (BRU-67)) can be carried in the bomb bays.[85][86] These could be AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-132 ASRAAM, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) up to 2,000 lb (910 kg), the Joint Stand off Weapon (JSOW), Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) a maximum of four in each bay (Three per bay in F-35B,[87] or four GBU-53/B in each bay for all F-35 variants.[88]), the Brimstone anti-armor missiles, and Cluster Munitions (WCMD). The MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile is currently being adapted to fit four internally in the missile spots and may be integrated into the F-35. A modified Meteor design with smaller tailfins for the F-35 was revealed in September 2010. The United Kingdom had originally planned to put up to four AIM-132 ASRAAM internally but this has been changed to carry 2 internal and 2 external ASRAAMs.

At the expense of being more detectable by radar, many more missiles, bombs and fuel tanks can be attached on four wing pylons and two near wingtip positions. The two wingtip locations can only carry AIM-9X Sidewinder. The other pylons can carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, Storm Shadow, AGM-158 Joint Air to Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM) cruise missiles, guided bombs, 480-gallon and 600-gallon fuel tanks. An air-to-air load of eight AIM-120s and two AIM-9s is conceivable using internal and external weapons stations, as well as a configuration of six 2,000 lb (910 kg) bombs, two AIM-120s and two AIM-9s.[86][92] With its payload capability, the F-35 can carry more weapons payload than the legacy fighters it is to replace as well as the F-22 Raptor. Solid-state lasers were being developed as optional weapons for the F-35.

While the F-35 will take on the Wild Weasel mission, it will lack the ability to carry an anti-radiation missile internally (and therefore stealthily) until the JDRADM is fielded in 2025

STEALTH The F-35 has been designed to have a low radar cross section primarily due to low observable materials used in construction, including fibre-mat. Unlike the previous generation of fighters, the F-35 was designed with a shape for low-observable characteristics.

The Teen Series of fighters (F-15, F-16, F/A-18) were notable for always carrying large external fuel tanks, but in order to avoid negating its stealth characteristics the F-35 must fly most missions without external fuel tanks. Unlike the F-16 and F/A-18, the F-35 lacks leading edge extensions (LEX) and instead uses stealth-friendly chines for vortex lift in the same fashion as the SR-71 Blackbird. The small bumps just forward of the engine air intakes form part of the diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) which is a simpler, lighter means to ensure high-quality airflow to the engine over a wide range of conditions. These inlets also crucially improve the aircraft's low-observable characteristics.

In spite of being smaller than the F-22, the F-35 has a larger radar cross section. It is said to be roughly equal to a metal golf ball rather than the F-22's metal marble. The F-22 was designed to be difficult to detect by all types of radars and from all directions. The F-35 on the other hand manifests its lowest radar signature from the frontal aspect because of compromises in design. Its surfaces are shaped to best defeat radars operating in the X and upper S band, which are typically found in fighters, surface-to-air missiles and their tracking radars. While the aircraft will be less difficult to observe by surveillance radars operating at other frequencies such as the L band, its design is still intended for the aircraft to be difficult to detect, to track, and ultimately to be shot down by air defense systems operating in the X and upper S band.

Ground crews require Repair Verification Radar (RVR) test sets in order to verify the RCS of the aircraft after performing repairs, which was not a concern for previous generations of non-stealth fighters

HELMET MOUNTED DISPLAY The F-35 need not be physically pointing at its target for weapons to be successful. This is possible because of sensors that can track and target a nearby aircraft from any orientation, provide the information to the pilot through his helmet (and therefore visible no matter which way they are looking), and provide the seeker-head of a missile with sufficient information. Recent missile types provide a much greater ability to pursue a target regardless of the launch orientation, called "High Off-Boresight" capability, although the speed and direction in which the munition is launched must physically speaking nonetheless affect the chance of success. Sensors use combined radio frequency and infra red (SAIRST) to continually track nearby aircraft while the pilot's helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) displays and selects targets. The helmet system replaces the display suite-mounted head-up display used in earlier fighters.

The F-35's systems provide the edge in the "observe, orient, decide, and act" OODA loop; stealth and advanced sensors aid in observation (while being difficult to observe), automated target tracking helps in orientation, sensor fusion simplifies decision making, and the aircraft's controls allow action against targets without having to look away from them

TESTING The first F-35A (designated AA-1) was rolled out in Fort Worth, Texas on 19 February 2006. The aircraft underwent extensive ground testing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in late 2006. In September 2006 the first engine run of the F135 afterburner turbofan in an airframe and tests were completed; the first time that the F-35 was completely functional on its own power systems. On 15 December 2006, the F-35A completed its maiden flight. A modified Boeing 737-300, the Lockheed CATBird is used as an avionic test bed inside of which are racks holding all of F-35's avionics, as well as a complete F-35.

On 31 January 2008 at Fort Worth, Texas, Lt Col James "Flipper" Kromberg of the U.S. Air Force became the first military service pilot to evaluate the F-35, taking the aircraft through a series of maneuvers on its 26th flight. F-35 AA-1, on its 34th test flight, began aerial refueling testing in March 2008. Another milestone was reached on 13 November 2008, when the AA-1 flew at supersonic speeds for the first time, reaching Mach 1.05 at 30,000 ft (9,144 m) making four transitions through the sound barrier, for a total of eight minutes of supersonic flight. By January 2011, a total of 13 F-35As have been produced.

The first F-35B (designated BF-1) made its maiden flight on 11 June 2008. The flight, which featured a conventional takeoff, was piloted by BAE Systems' test pilot Graham Tomlinson. The BF-1 is the second of 19 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) F-35s, and the first to use new weight-optimized design features that will apply to all future F-35s. Testing of the STOVL propulsion system in flight began on 7 January 2010. The STOVL system was used for 14 minutes of the 48 minute test flight while the aircraft slowed from 210 knots (390 km/h) to 180 knots (330 km/h). The F-35B's first hover (full stop in mid-air) happened on 17 March 2010, followed by a STOVL landing, and on 18 March 2010 the first vertical landing was performed. During a test flight on 10 June 2010, the F-35B became the second STOVL aircraft to achieve supersonic speeds,[154] the first being its ancestor, the X-35B, which achieved the same feat on 20 July 2001. In January 2011, Lockheed Martin reported it had solved a problem with the aluminum bulkhead used only on the F-35B which had cracked during ground testing. By January 2011, a total of 4 F-35Bs had been produced. In October of 2011, the first vertical landing aboard a large Amphibious assault ship was made.

The F-35C carrier variant's maiden flight took place on 7 June 2010, also at NAS Fort Worth JRB. The 57 minute flight was executed by Lockheed test pilot Jeff "Slim" Knowles, who was the chief test pilot for the F-117 program. Testing of the F-35C model continues. January 2011, a total of 2 F-35Cs have been produced.

Although many of the initial flight test targets have been accomplished, the F-35 testing program completed "just under 100 sorties and about as many hours in 2.5 years" by June 2009 and was falling behind schedule. A 2008 Pentagon Joint Estimate Team (JET I) estimated that the program was two years behind the latest public schedule, and a 2009 Joint Estimate Team (JET II) revised that estimate to predict a 30-month delay. Due to those delays in the testing program, production numbers will be reduced by 122 aircraft through 2015 in order to provide additional funds for development. Those additional funds will add $2.8 billion to the development funds and internal memos suggest that the official timeline will be extended by 13 months (not the 30 months the JET II team predicted the slip would be). The success of the Joint Estimate Team has led Ashton Carter to call for more such teams for other poorly performing Pentagon projects.

A total of 11 more U.S. Air Force F-35s are to arrive in Fiscal Year 2011

INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPATION While the United States is the primary customer and financial backer, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark have agreed to contribute a total of US$4.375 billion toward the development costs of the program. Total development costs are estimated at more than US$40 billion (underwritten largely by the United States), while the purchase of an estimated 2,400 planes is expected to cost an additional US$200 billion. The nine major partner nations plan to acquire over 3,100 F-35s through 2035. The F-35 is expected to lift the American share of the $16 billion fighter aircraft market from 58 percent to more than 67 percent as European competitors fall further behind.

There are three levels of international participation. The levels generally reflect the financial stake in the program, the amount of technology transfer and subcontracts open for bid by national companies, and the order in which countries can obtain production aircraft. The United Kingdom is the sole "Level 1" partner, contributing US$2.5 billion, which was about 10% of the planned development costs under the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding that brought the UK into the project. Level 2 partners are Italy, which is contributing US$1 billion; and the Netherlands, US$800 million. Level 3 partners are Turkey, US$195 million; Canada, US$160 million; Australia, US$144 million; Norway, US$122 million and Denmark, US$110 million. Israel and Singapore have joined as Security Cooperative Participants (SCP).






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Jeff Head is a member of the US Naval Insitute who has many years experience in the power, defense, and computer industries. He currently works for the federal government helping maintain regional infrastructure. He is the author of a self-published military techno-thriller called, "Dragon's Fury," that projects a fictional third world war arising out of current events. Learn more about that series by clicking on the picture of the novel cover below:

DRAGON'S FURY-World War against America and the West
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