The demands of modern warfare are such that a nation’s military tech must constantly evolve, lest rival forces outdo it. As a consequence, various weapons and vehicles spawn multiple iterations, with time, to stay relevant in the present scenario. The F-35 group of fighter jets is one such military commodity that has evolved to become an aerial force to be reckoned with.
The F-35 fighter plane family, aka F-35 Lightning II, is manufactured by the renowned American firm Lockheed Martin. It soared into the sky for its first test flight in December 2006 and was first used by the military in July 2015.
Among its various technical features, a strikingly impressive one is its ability to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter. This means it can fly off or touch down without a runway and in significantly less amount of time than conventional jets. Here’s a video that shows the plane in action.
Lockheed Martin F-35: Origins and evolution
Lockheed Martin F-35 is the full realization of the company’s concept aircraft, X-35. It came to be a reality after the X-35 won a contract for further development in 2001. To secure this deal, it beat Boeing’s X-32 concept fighter jet in the Joint Strike Fighter program.
Over the next 5 years or so, the prototype plane transitioned into the F-35 jet, which is one of the world’s most advanced fighter planes today. This single-engine supersonic aircraft is as versatile as it is terrifyingly powerful. That’s because it can take down enemy planes, neutralize air defense systems, and also conduct recon.
Moreover, the F-35 class consists of three major types: F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C. While the F-35A is the standard variant, the F-35B comes with short take-off and vertical landing capabilities. Moreover, the F-35C variant is curated for aircraft carriers. Coming to their price, an F-35A costs about $148 million, an F-35B is worth $251 million, and an F-35C emerges as the costliest variant at $337 million.
Interestingly, the F-35 program’s estimated acquisition cost was around $200 billion back when it got the green light for further development. However, the costs have ballooned since then because of multiple delays. In 2017, the expected expenditure for F-35 was reported to be $406.5 billion. Additionally, the program’s lifetime budget (till 2070), which takes into account use and maintenance costs, is close to $1.5 trillion.
While the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy are the primary users of the F-35 Lightning II, other nations have also purchased the plane for their military. This list includes the U.K., Norway, Israel, Netherlands, Italy, and Australia. Also, several more nations are preparing to acquire it in the future. As of 2022, Lockheed Martin has manufactured more than 820 F-35 fighter jets.
Do you think that the F-35 is a prized possession despite its extortionate costs? Comment down below. Apart from Lockheed Martin, Boeing also plays a big role in the military with planes such as the C-17 Globemaster III.