The F-35 is set to become the dominant fighter plane of the U.S. and its allies in the 21st century.
A conglomerate of aerospace industry leaders (Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Pratt & Whitney) have combined manufacturing, engineering and technological capabilities to develop the F-35 Lightning.
While the Joint Strike Fighter program has been incredibly expensive, here is a look at the final product-- and 10 reasons why it is a true fifth generation multi-role air superiority fighter.
1) Mission Flexibility
The Basic F-35 design is multi-role, but in addition, there are three variants that add mission specific capabilities. The three models are CTOL: conventional takeoff and landing, STOVL: short takeoff vertical landing, CATOBAR: catapult Assisted Take Off Barrier Arrested Recover (aircraft carrier launched).
As Lockheed Martin writes, "attack any target, any time, with the freedom to operate anywhere on Day One of a conflict. By integrating different capabilities, the fighter brings a "quantum leap in lethality and survivability."
2) Travel In Packs
The Air Force will buy 1,763 conventional models and the Navy will take 680 short takeoff and carrier models, according to Business Insider. So the U.S. can put a lot of these hyper-advanced planes in the sky at one time.
3) Silent But Deadly
With embedded antennas, aligned edges, internal weapons and fuel, and special coatings and materials, the F-35 uses stealth to pick and choose engagements without getting pinged by enemy defense systems.
4) All Our Friends Want Them
Britain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, and Austria will contribute $4.8 billion apiece to development and intend to purchase 700 aircraft. Other interested countries include Singapore, South Korea, Finland, Spain, Greece, and Belgium, and Israel.
5) Packs a Punch
The F-35 can handle up to 18,000 lbs of ordnance, which means plenty of missiles, bombs, and other kinetic tools to use agains the enemy.
6) Can See The Bad Guys Coming
The F-35 features the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history.
7) They Call it "Lightning II" For a Reason
The F-35 can go a blazing mach 1.6 and has a range of 1200 nautical miles. It's named after the World War II twin-prop Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
8) Relatively Cheap to Maintain
To keep the F-35 up in the sky and flying will cost about half the amount of older fighter planes, according to Lockheed officials.
9) But No Expense Spared in Development
With Research and development costs included, the total cost of each F-35 will be about $300 million.
10) Uncle Sam Wants To Get His Money's Worth
The Pentagon says over the next 50-years the F-35 program will cost about a $trillion dollars. Yikes.
They are going to continue to hammer out kinks and try minor tweaks of the design until at least 2018.
Sorry Blaze readers, no civilian versions yet available.
(h/t Business Insider)