F35 Joint Strike Fighter
By Steve Morris, 23 Feb 2013
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the most advanced fighter plane in the world. At a cost of $400 billion, it's also the most expensive weapons programme ever.
Whether or not you think this is money well spent, it's hard not to be impressed by the F35, although it's generated more than its fair share of controversy.
At S21 we say, yes it's expensive, yes it's got problems, yes it's a machine for killing people. But read this article, watch the video and judge for yourself whether it's truly "awesome".
5th generation fighter
The F35 is a fighter bomber designed to perform a range of roles including air support, air defence and strategic bombing. It can carry a variety of weapons, including cannon, air-to-air missiles and bombs.
It's a 5th generation fighter, meaning that it has stealth capability, high manoeuvrability and highly advanced computer systems.
The stealth capability enables the plane to enter enemy airspace safely, attack its target and leave, all while staying safe. Stealth is achieved through the shape of the aircraft, the fact that all weapons and fuel are carried internally, plus modifications to the engine.
The attention to detail involved in creating an aircraft with such extraordinary capabilities is mind-boggling. For example, the fuselage and tails require 6,000 holes to be drilled to a positional accuracy less than the width of a human hair.
Not convinced yet? Watch it in action here.
Vertical take off and landing
There are three variants of the F-35, the Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL), the Carrier Variant (CV) and the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL). The UK is buying the F35 to replace the Harrier jet for its future aircraft carriers.
The supersonic F35 is a far more capable aircraft than the Harrier, with a top speed of 1,200 mph (Mach 1.6), almost twice that of the Harrier, and greater range too.
The first production version of the F35 completed its first flight in February 2011 and the UK took delivery of its first F35 in 2012.
Virtual reality helmet
Instead of a head-up display, the F35 pilot has information projected inside the helmet, giving the pilot a projected 3D view of the world, as if the aircraft body wasn't there. That means that the pilot can look down and literally see the ground below, projected into the helmet. Both visual and infrared views are available, enabling night vision. It's what Lockheed Martin call "360 degree situational awareness." A speech-recognition system is used to assist the pilot.
The data collected from one F-35 is shared with other F-35 aircraft across a high bandwidth stealthy data link, ensuring every pilot in a flight of F-35 aircraft has the same tactical view of the battlespace.
Apart from its sheer cost, the aircraft has been at the centre of controversy due to a series of faults and problems in its development. It has also been criticised for not being a true 5th generation fighter. The United States has grounded the F35 several times because of problems. They are not planned to be in operation in the UK until 2018.
Some people have suggested that this will be the last manned fighter aircraft to be built by the United States. Future aircraft will be unmanned drones.
Got a question? This is the place to ask it!
Please don't ask a question that has already been asked. Duplicates will be removed.
Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!
Comment by Teppin from UK on 8th Aug 2013
I want one!