The reputation of the F-35 Lightning as a stealthy and versatile strike fighter is due in part to its ability to operate at supersonic speeds in all weather conditions. Because of its sophisticated design and technology, the F-35 Lightning II represents the future of military aircraft for manufacturers in the United States and other countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Most military aircraft experts anticipate that the F-35 will replace several airplanes in the current inventory of aircraft manufacturers in the United States.
There are three variants of the F-35: the CTOL or Conventional Takeoff and Landing F-35A, the STOVL or Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing F-35B, and the CV or Carrier Variant F-35C. All versions are stealth aircraft and fly at a maximum speed of more than Mach 1.6. Each of the F-35 jets is powered by one P&W F135 or GE F136 engine with 25,000 lbs of dry engine thrust. Their armament includes two air-to-air missiles and two precision air-to-surface weapons. The F-35 can carry up to 60,000 pounds. Beyond those similarities, the three versions of the F-35 serve very different mission needs.
The F-35A will replace the U.S. Air Force’s F-16, while the F-35B will replace the AV-8B Harrier flown by the U.S. Marine Corps, and the F-35C will replace the F/A-18 currently used by the U.S. Navy. Versions of the F-35 will also join the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to replace several of their own aging aircraft. Lockheed Martin is expecting orders from additional approved countries and estimates that the total number of F-35s to be manufactured is likely to exceed 4,500 units.
Maximum speed: Mach 1.6 plus
Length: 51.5 feet (F-35A), 51.3 feet (F-35B), 51.5 feet (F-35C)
Wingspan: 35 feet (F-35A), 35 feet (F-35B), 43 feet (F-35C)
Height: 14.2 feet (F-35A), 14.1 feet (F-35B), 14.7 feet (F-35C)
Maximum weight: 60,000 lbs
Empty weight: 26,500 lb (F-35A), 30,000 lb (F-35B), 30,000 lb (F-35C)
Engine(s): One P&W F135 or GE F136 engine with 25,000 lbs of dry engine thrust
Armament: Two air-to-air missiles and two precision air-to-surface weapons
Contractor: Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor. Subcontractors include Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems.