Building Quality & Realistic Models Since 1969
|A U.S. Air Force F-35A.|
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, stealth multirole combat aircraft, designed for ground-attack and air-superiority missions. The aircraft was developed and is built by Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors, which include Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems. The F-35 has three main variants: the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A (CTOL), the short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B (STOVL), and the carrier-based F-35C (CV).
The aircraft descends from the Lockheed Martin X-35, which in 2001 beat the Boeing X-32 to win the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. Its development is principally funded by the United States, with additional funding coming from program partners from NATO and close U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and formerly Turkey. The partners generally receive subcontracts to manufacture F-35 components.[N 1] Several other countries have ordered, or are considering ordering, the aircraft.
The program has drawn much scrutiny and criticism for its unprecedented size, complexity, ballooning costs, and much-delayed deliveries. The decision to start buying the plane while it was still in development and testing led to expensive design changes and retrofits. By 2014, the program was "US$163 billion over budget [and] seven years behind schedule". Critics contended that the high sunk costs and politics made the F-35 "too big to kill".
The F-35 entered service in July 2015, when the U.S. Marine Corps declared its first F-35B squadron ready for deployment. The U.S. Air Force declared its F-35A ready in August 2016 and the U.S. Navy its F-35C in February 2019. The F-35 was first used in combat in 2018, by the Israeli Air Force. In service, some USAF pilots have nicknamed the aircraft "Panther" in lieu of the official "Lightning II". The U.S. plans to buy 2,663 F-35s through 2037, which will represent the bulk of the crewed tactical airpower of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades. The aircraft is projected to operate until 2070.