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Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

Role: multi-role strike fighter
Builder: Lockheed Martin
Variants: F-35A, F-35B, F-35C
Operators: USAF, US Navy, US Marine Corps,
Royal Navy/Royal Air Force (UK)
Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Israel, Australia, Norway, Japan

The F-35 will be the result from the Joint Strike Fighter program. The aim of the program is to develop an affordable next generation stealth strike aircraft for the US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps and the United Kingdom as well as other US allies. The program enables various forms of participation for the candidate export countries, ranging from 'informed partner' to 'major participant'. Boeing and Lockheed Martin were the two competitors in the Concept Development Phase (CDP). The Boeing Corp. designed and built the X-32 prototype and the Lockheed Martin team developed the X-35. The X-35 concept by Lockheed Martin was selected as the winner and the program has now entered the Systems Development Demonstration (SDD) phase of the JSF program.

Lockheed Martin leads a development team including Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Pratt & Whitney. Lockheed Martin brings in advanced technology experience, stealth technology and other technologies and experience which it has gained during F-22 research and development. Northrop Grumman offers tactical aircraft knowledge, stealth technology and carrier suitability. BAE System provides expertise and experience with short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) technology as well as advanced subcontract management. Pratt & Whitney is the builder of the engine which will power the JSF which is based on the F-119 turbojet from the F-22.

To forfill the demands of the main contractors three different variants are developed. All versions will have a common structure and have the same fuselage and internal weapons bay. They will all three be powered by a F-119 modified engine. All variants will carry the standard designation F-35.

The F-35A is the standard variant with conventional take off and landing developed for the US Air Force, the biggest JSF customer. The F-35A will replace the F-16 and the A-10 aircraft currently operated by the USAF. The F-35A will probably also be the most exported variant. Possible export countries for the F-35A include all current F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-4 Phantom, F/A-18 Hornet operators, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Australia, etcetera.

The F-35B is the STOVL variant of the JSF. The F-119 is modified using the experience of BAE Systems based on the Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine from the AV-8 Harrier. Unlike the Air Force variant the F-35B carries no internal gun and the air refuelling probe is located on the right side of the forward fuselage instead of receptacle on the top surface of the aircraft. The main customers for the F-35B will be the USMC to replace the F/A-18 Hornet ands the AV-8B Harrier IIs and the United Kingdom to replace the Royal Air Force/Royal Navy combined Harrier force of Sea Harriers and GR.7s. Other future customers can include Spain and Italy which also operate the Harrier.

The F-35C is a modified design which enables the JSF to operate from aircraft carriers using conventional carrier landings and capapult take off. The F-35C internal structure and landing gear have been strengthened to handle the loads associated with catapult launches and arrested carrier landings. It has a larger wing area than other JSF types with larger control surfaces for better low speed handling. Like the F-35B is has a refuelling probe instead of a receptacle. The US Navy will be the biggest customer of this variant. The F-35C will complement the US Navy fleet of F/A-18E/F fighters by replacing the F/A-18 A+ and C Hornet currently in service.

Future variants might include two seat trainers of each variant and possible modifications for export customers.

Joint Strike Fighter program logo

picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin
X-32 and X-35 prototypes

picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin
First Flight of the X-35

picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin
X-35A ready to refuel

picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin
X-35B STOVL in hover

picture courtesy of Lockheed Martin
Navalized X-35C

Copyright 2002-2003 Niels Hillebrand unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.