Lightning Rod: F-35 Fighter Family Capabilities and Controversies

Grim Reapers F-35C(click to view full) The $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. This article will serve as DID’s central repository explaining and contrasting all 3 F-35 variants, detailing the fighter family’s core technologies and features, and laying out the core industrial framework whose “political engineering” has made the program almost impossible to kill. It will also summarize the core arguments that swirl around the fighter’s future capability, and provide useful background links regarding the program and its key technologies. The F-35 Lightning II Fighter Family F-35 Family Variants: Door A, B, or C? F-35 AA-1(click to view full) The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. This table illustrates the key differences between the baseline F-35A, the Short Take-Off, Vertical … Continue reading Lightning Rod: F-35 Fighter Family Capabilities and Controversies