Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters undergoing final development and testing by the United States. The fifth generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attack, aerial reconnaissance, and air defense missions. The F-35 has three main models: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant. On 31 July 2015, the first squadron was declared ready for deployment after intensive testing by the United States.

The F-35 is descended from the X-35, which was the winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. It is being designed and built by an aerospace industry team led by Lockheed Martin. Other major F-35 industry partners include Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems. The F-35 took its first flight on 15 December 2006. The United States plans to buy 2,457 aircraft. The F-35 variants are intended to provide the bulk of the manned tactical airpower of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps over the coming decades. Deliveries of the F-35 for the U.S. military are scheduled to be completed in 2037.

F-35 JSF development is being principally funded by the United States with additional funding from partners. The partner nations are either NATO members or close U.S. allies. The United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Turkey are part of the active development program; several additional countries have ordered, or are considering ordering, the F-35.

The program is the most expensive military weapons system in history, and it has been the object of much criticism from those inside and outside government — in the US and in allied countries. Critics argue that the plane is "plagued with design flaws," with many blaming the procurement process in which Lockheed was allowed "to design, test, and produce the F-35 all at the same time, instead of ... defects before firing up its production line." By 2014, the program was "$163 billion over budget  seven years behind schedule." Critics further contend that the program's high sunk costs and political momentum make it "too big to kill."

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin Astronautics Co. Denver
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 2006
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Canada View
Israel View
Italy View
Japan View
Netherlands View
South Korea View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
United States of America 2015 View
Norway View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Lockheed Martin Astronautics Co. Denver 2006 114 View

Acquisition deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. Mark D. "Shack" Shackelford has said that the F-35 is designed to be America's "premier surface-to-air missile killer and is uniquely equipped for this mission with cutting edge processing power, synthetic aperture radar integration techniques, and advanced target recognition." Lockheed Martin states the F-35 is intended to have close- and long-range air-to-air capability second only to that of the F-22 Raptor. Lockheed Martin has said that the F-35 has the advantage over the F-22 in basing flexibility and "advanced sensors and information fusion". Lockheed Martin has suggested that the F-35 could replace the USAF's F-15C/D fighters in the air superiority role and the F-15E Strike Eagle in the ground attack role.

Some improvements over current-generation fighter aircraft are:

Durable, low-maintenance stealth technology, using structural fiber mat instead of the high-maintenance coatings of legacy stealth platforms;

Integrated avionics and sensor fusion that combine information from off- and on-board sensors to increase the pilot's situational awareness and improve target identification and weapon delivery, and to relay information quickly to other command and control (C2) nodes;

High speed data networking including IEEE 1394b and Fibre Channel. (Fibre Channel is also used on Boeing's Super Hornet.)

The Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment (ALGS), Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) and Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) are to help ensure aircraft uptime with minimal maintenance manpower. The Pentagon has moved to open up the competitive bidding by other companies. This was after Lockheed Martin stated that instead of costing twenty percent less than the F-16 per flight hour, the F-35 would actually cost twelve percent more. Though the ALGS is intended to reduce maintenance costs, the company disagrees with including the cost of this system in the aircraft ownership calculations. The USMC have implemented a workaround for a cyber vulnerability in the system.

Electro-hydrostatic actuators run by a power-by-wire flight-control system.

A modern and updated flight simulator, which may be used for a greater fraction of pilot training in order to reduce the costly flight hours of the actual aircraft.

Lightweight, powerful and volatile Lithium-ion batteries similar to those that have grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet. These are required to provide power to run the control surfaces in an emergency, and have been strenuously tested.

Structural composites in the F-35 are 35% of the airframe weight (up from 25% in the F-22). The majority of these are bismaleimide (BMI) and composite epoxy material. The F-35 will be the first mass produced aircraft to include structural nanocomposites, namely carbon nanotube reinforced epoxy. Experience of the F-22's problems with corrosion lead to the F-35 using a gap filler that causes less galvanic corrosion to the airframe's skin, designed with fewer gaps requiring filler and implementing better drainage. The relatively short 35-foot wingspan of the A and B variants is set by the F-35B's requirement to fit inside the Navy's current amphibious assault ship parking area and elevators; the F-35C's longer wing is considered to be more fuel efficient.

A United States Navy study found that the F-35 will cost 30 to 40 percent more to maintain than current jet fighters; not accounting for inflation over the F-35's operational lifetime. A Pentagon study concluded a $1 trillion maintenance cost for the entire fleet over its lifespan, not accounting for inflation. The F-35 program office found that as of January 2014, costs for the F-35 fleet over a 53-year life cycle was $857 billion. Costs for the fighter have been dropping and accounted for the 22 percent life cycle drop since 2010. Lockheed claims that by 2019, pricing for the fifth-generation aircraft will be less than fourth-generation fighters. An F-35A in 2019 is expected to cost $85 million per unit complete with engines and full mission systems, inflation adjusted from $75 million in December 2013.

Role Stealth multirole fighter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
First flight 15 December 2006
Introduction July 2015 (USMC F-35B)
Q3 2016 (USAF F-35A)
2018 (USN F-35C)
Status In initial production and testing, used for training by US and UK
Primary users United States Air Force
United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
Royal Air Force
Produced 2006–present
Number built 115 as of November 2014
Program cost $59.2B for development, $261B for procurement, $590B for operations & sustainment in 2012
Unit cost F-35A: US$98M (low rate initial production, full production in 2018 to be $85M)
F-35B: US$104M (low rate initial production)
F-35C: US$116M (low rate initial production)
Developed from Lockheed Martin X-35

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1

  • Length: 50.5 ft (15.67 m)

  • Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)

  • Height: 14.2 ft (4.33 m)

  • Wing area: 460 ft² (42.7 m²)

  • Empty weight: 29,098 lb (13,199 kg)

  • Loaded weight: 49,540 lb (22,470 kg)

  • Max. takeoff weight: 70,000 lb (31,800 kg)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburning turbofan

    • Dry thrust: 28,000 lbf (125 kN)

    • Thrust with afterburner: 43,000 lbf (191 kN)

  • Internal fuel capacity: 18,498 lb (8,382 kg)


  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.6+ (1,200 mph, 1,930 km/h) (tested to Mach 1.61)

  • Range: 1,200 nmi (2,220 km) on internal fuel

  • Combat radius: 613 nmi (1,135 km) on internal fuel

  • Wing loading: 107.7 lb/ft² (526 kg/m²; 745 kg/m² max loaded)

  • Thrust/weight:

    • With full fuel: 0.87

    • With 50% fuel: 1.07

  • Maximum g-load: 9 g


  • Guns: 1 × General Dynamics 25 mm (0.984 in) GAU-22/A 4-barrel Gatling gun, internally mounted with 180 rounds

  • Hardpoints: 6 × external pylons on wings with a capacity of 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) and two internal bays with two pylons with a capacity of 3,000 (1,360 kg) for a total weapons payload of 18,000 lb (8,100 kg) and provisions to carry combinations of:

  • Missiles:

    • Air-to-air missiles:

      • AIM-120 AMRAAM

      • AIM-9X Sidewinder

      • IRIS-T

      • MBDA Meteor (pending further funding)

    • Air-to-surface missiles:

      • AGM-88 AARGM

      • AGM-158 JASSM

      • Brimstone missile / MBDA SPEAR

      • Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM)

      • Storm Shadow missile

      • SOM

    • Anti-ship missiles:

      • Joint Strike Missile (JSM)

      • Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM)

    • Bombs:

      • Mark 84 or Mark 83 or Mark 82 GP bombs

      • Mk.20 Rockeye II cluster bomb

      • Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) capable

      • Paveway series laser-guided bombs

      • Small Diameter Bomb (SDB)

      • Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) series

      • AGM-154 JSOW

      • B61 mod 12 nuclear bomb


  •  Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems AN/APG-81 AESA radar

  • Lockheed Martin AAQ-40 E/O Targeting System (EOTS)

  • Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) missile warning system

  • BAE Systems AN/ASQ-239 (Barracuda) electronic warfare system

  • Northrop Grumman AN/ASQ-242 CNI system, which includes

    • The Harris Corporation Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) communication system

    • The legacy Link 16 data link


    • An IFF interrogator and transponder


    • AM, VHF, UHF AM, and UHF FM Radio

    • GUARD survival radio

    • A radar altimeter

    • An instrument landing system

    • A TACAN system

    • An instrument carrier landing system

    • A JPALS


End notes