The resulting product is the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a stealth fighter jet executed in three variants – the F-35A for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B, and U.S. Navy’s F-35C. It is designed to replace a wide range of aging tactical aircraft and expand on traditional fighter aircraft roles with new competencies that expand mission utility. Each variant has also been adopted for use by various branches of the aforementioned allies’ defense structures.
The DoD chose the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter design in 2001 via an eight year concept, design, and development process involving competitions between leading U.S. aircraft companies. Lockheed Martin developed the chosen airframe concept and remains the prime manufacturer of the aircraft, engaging contract partners for integral systems. In addition to its low observable stealth design, the F-35 incorporates supersonic speed, extended range, flexible weapons capacity, highly advanced integrated sensors, a cutting-edge electronic warfare (EW) system, and other classified state-of-the-art capabilities to carry out its air superiority mission. Production began in 2006.
From the outset, core drivers of the JSF Program were to reinforce air superiority of coalition nations while containing fleet development costs by channeling efforts into one highly advanced design and sharing costs across the program’s member nations. Standardization of parts and systems is projected to make the F-35 variants more affordable for defense budgets in the long term. The F-35’s advanced capabilities as a force multiplier in both traditional combat roles and new types of missions fulfill performance metrics. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is currently being implemented or planned for use by the U.S. and its allies Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
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