The F-35 Lightning II aircraft brings new capability to the
US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It will also serve as a
centerpiece for the leading international air forces. In addition
to the United States, the F-35 program has eight other partners.
Those partners include the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands,
Turkey, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada. Additionally,
both Israel and Singapore have come aboard as security cooperative
The F-35 will be produced in three variants, including
a standard-take-off-and-landing version (A), a short-take-off-and-landing
version (B) and a carrier variant (C) for use by the Navy. The
F-35 will fly both suppression of enemy air defenses and destruction
of enemy air defenses missions. Additionally, it will be tasked
with counter-air, strategic attack, close air support and defensive
counter-air missions. The US Air Force is expected to start
taking delivery of F-35A aircraft in 2009, with planned deliveries
continuing beyond 2025.
The F-35C will be the US Navy’s first stealth
aircraft. It is designed to replace the F/A-18 Hornet and complement
the newer F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
While it shares its fundamental design with the F-35A (conventional
takeoff and landing) and F-35B (short takeoff/vertical landing),
the F-35C is specialized for the catapult launches and arrested
recoveries of large aircraft carriers. It features 30 percent
more wing area than the other two variants, larger tails and
control surfaces, and wingtip ailerons – all contributing
to the precise slow-speed handling characteristics required
for carrier approaches. The F-35C’s internal structure
is strengthened to withstand the punishment of repeated catapult
launches and arrested recoveries on the carrier deck.
The F-35C – the Carrier Variant (CV) is
also progressing, with Critical Design Review (CDR) completed
in June 2007. According to Terry Harrell, Lockheed Martin director
of F-35 carrier variant development, in the past seven months
the aircraft removed more than 200 pounds of weight while meting
its objectives for detailed design and performance.
Gearing into Production
Funding for the first two production-model Lightning
IIs is approved, parts fabrication for these aircraft is under
way and component assembly will begin later in 2007. The USAF
will be the first service to receive the F-35A. The first of
the service's 1,763 aircraft will be delivered in 2010. The
U.S. Marine Corps and Navy together are planning to operate
680 F-35Bs and F-35Cs, and the United Kingdom plans to place
138 F-35Bs into service with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
The remaining F-35 participant countries plan to acquire from
600 to 700 aircraft, and further international sales are expected
to create a demand for hundreds more aircraft.
2007 all the multinational program members (except Denmark)
have reinstated their support of the program by committing to
the next phases of development. Canada, the United Kingdom and
Australia have committed to the project’s Production,
Sustainment and Follow-on Development (PSFD) phase, allocating
additional funding for the program. On April 19, 2007 the US
Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics)
released full funding for two Conventional Take-Off and Landing
Variant (CTOL) F-35 aircraft in Low Rate Iinitial Production
(LRIP) Lot 1, and long lead funding for the six CTOL and six
Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variants in Lot
As of July 2007 one aircraft in flight testing,
and 11 in various phases of production. The first F-35A Conventional
Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) aircraft continues flight testing
(sofar 19 test flights were conducted) and the second F-35B,
short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version is nearing completion.
It will begin flight testing in 2008. By the end of 2007, some
20 aircraft are expected to be in different phases of production.
The initial Joint Strike Fighter locations will include Nellis
AFB, Nev., and Edwards AFB, Calif., will provide flight-testing.
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will provide primary maintenance
and flight training with 33rd Fighter Wing assigned with the
training of new Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and allied F-35
Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilots and maintainers. The
first F-35 is scheduled to arrive at Eglin by 2010. Operational
squadrons will be located at Hill AFB, Utah, Kadena Air Base,
Japan, and Shaw AFB/McEntire Air National Guard Base, S.C. Both
stateside operational bases will combine active duty and Reserve
component members to maximize flexibility and combat capability.
By the first week of February 2007 the first F-35 Lightning
II (AA-1) performed seven test flights since its inaugural flight
December 15 and has successfully tested a wide range of aircraft
systems and demonstrated uncommon reliability. The aircraft
so far has flown at 23,000 feet and achieved speeds of Mach
0.8 and a 16-degree angle of attack. The flights also served
to calibrate the air-data system while evaluating basic maneuvering
with the landing gear both retracted and extended. On the fifth
flight, F-35 Chief Test Pilot Jon Beesley lit the afterburner
for the first time and unleashed 40,000 pounds of thrust --
more power than any fighter engine in history. The airborne
tests also have evaluated the speed-brake function, the fuel-dump
process, the approach power compensator (an auto-throttle mode
for landing), and tests of the radio, communication and navigational
systems. Revolutionary internal systems on the aircraft have
performed exceptionally well, including unique actuators that
drive control surfaces primarily using electricity instead of
a hydraulic system. Another device that for the first time combines
the engine starter, the generator, the emergency power supply
and the environmental-control system into a single unit also
has continued to operate successfully. According to Brig. Gen.
C.R. Davis, F-35 program executive officer "early flight
test results show we are on a path to largely validate the design
and aircraft systems -- we are not entering a period of discovery."
By April 23, the aircraft completed 14 test flights, gradually
opening the flight envelope reaching an altitude of 30,000 feet,
speed of 0.8 Mach, and 16 degrees Angle of Attack.
F-35 avionics are being flight tested on the Cooperative Avionics
Test Bed (CATBird), a highly modified 737 designed to validate
that the complex, highly integrated avionics suite has satisfied
all test objectives within its initial flight-clearance envelope.
Sofar "CATBird," completed eight test missions and
logged 24.8 hours, and is now poised to receive additional flight
clearance. CATBird will develop and verify the F-35's capability
to collect data from multiple sensors and fuse it into a coherent
situational awareness display in a dynamic airborne environment.
Testing of the helmet
mounted sight and display (HMDS) is planned to begin soon,
as soon as the new system is certified to fly on the F-35.
Static tests of the different variants of the F-35 are already underway. The first static test aircraft for the STOVL variant was delivered earlier in 2008 and has successfully completed a third of its planned test program in Fort Worth. Construction of the second ground-test aircraft completed on December 08. Currently, the aircraft is being instrumented and will be shipped to the UK by March 09 for testing. The aircraft (called AG-1), is a full-scale static test article for the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant. Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager explained that the AG-1 will be subjected to twisting, bending and pulling forces to validate that the CTOL variant's structure can sustain all the forces and loads exerted during flight, progressing flight testing toward the CTOL's full nine-G performance envelope."
To address th epotential sale of JSF to air forces and countries
which were not part of the original development agreement, the
USAF and Lockheed Martin have launched the 'JSF Delta System
Development and Demonstration' effort (Delta SDD). The purpose
of the Delta SDD is to develop a version of the JSF Air System
that meets U.S. National Disclosure Policy, but remains common
to the U.S. Air System, where possible.
In November 2007 Lockheed Martin was awarded additional $134
million modification to its JSF development contract, to perform
design, development, verification, and testing of JSF versions
designed to address 'Partner Version Air System' requirement.
This program adresses the potential sales of the aircraft to
nations that did not sign the partners agreement, but want to
receive the aircraft and adapt it to their requirements.
Development and testing of the JSF Delta SDD is expected to
complete until October 2013, with first availability of export
aircraft to non-pantner countries.
The first F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter took off on
its initial test flight from Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth,
Texas on 12:44 December
15, 2006 piloted by the program's Chief Pilot Jon Beesley.
The aircraft was airborne 35 minutes on its maiden flight. the
jet lifted off and began a climb-out to 15,000 feet. Beesley
then performed a series of maneuvers to test aircraft handling
and the operation of the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan and
subsystems. Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president
and general manager of the F-35 program, said the aircraft has
continued to meet or exceed expectations during its assembly
and pre-flight checkouts. It has now embarked on a 12,000-hour
flight-test program designed to validate tens of thousands of
hours of testing already completed in F-35 laboratories.