With all the press and acclaim the stealthy, supercruising F-22 Raptor is getting I think it would be a good idea for Raptor-enamored
enthusiasts to take a good look at what I believe will be the main "manned" battlefield air dominance & ground support platform for the US over the
next 20 years... the Lockheed-Martin F-35.
The F-22 is the most expensive air-superiority system ever. Let's face it... "Supercruise" is nice, but not necessary to ensure battlefield
In fact the abilities that the F-22 brings to the table are massive overkill for battlefield support and attack - the US would be ill-advised putting
the most expensive fighter in history in a high risk ground support/attack role.
Better to save that duty for the less expensive workhorse that the F-35 is designed to be.
Originally the Air Force had planned to buy 438 F-22s at a total cost of $71 billion, for an average cost of $159 million
, making it as mentioned above, the most expensive fighter aircraft in history.
The F-35 by contrast is reported to cost between $40-50 million per unit.
(It is important to point out that the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), released in May 1997, recommended reducing the total number of
aircraft purchased to 339 - still the most expensive fighter in history.
Cost Effective Strike Platform:
Cost effective yes...
The F-35 is as stealthy as an F-117 prior to it's most recent upgrade, the B model can do short take-offs, go supersonic once airborne and then land
vertically like a Harrier AV-8. The next few paragraphs will be devoted to further facts and statistics on the F-35.
While I am aware that there are other threads that discuss a variety of issues concerning the F-35, I thought it would be beneficial to provide
factual & consolidated reference information on the F-35.
The Lockheed-Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
The F-35 was declared winner of the US Department of Defense Joint Strike Fighter competition in 2001 when the Lockheed Martin X-35 was judged
superior to the Boeing X-32
F-35 Mission, Conceptual Overview & Development:
The F-35 is a stealthy (radar-evading), supersonic multirole fighter designed to meet the U.S. government's requirements for a new generation of
The single-engine JSF will be manufactured in three versions:
- a conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) variant for the U.S. Air Force
- short-takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version for the U.S. Marine Corps & UK Joint Forces.
- aircraft-carrier version for the U.S. Navy (CV)
The cornerstone of the F-35 is affordability, achieved in large part through a very high level of common parts and systems across the three versions
of the aircraft.
The F-35 is designed to replace aging fighter inventories, including U.S. Air Force A-10s and F-16s, U.S. Navy F/A-18s, U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B
Harriers and F/A-18s, and United Kingdom Harrier GR.7s and Sea Harriers.
Manufacturers of the F-35:
The corporations involved in the development and manufacture of the F-35 are as follows:
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company
manufactures the F-16, the world?s most successful and affordable multi-role aircraft fighter, and is the
prime contractor on the stealthy F-22, the world?s most advanced fighter.
the prime contractor on the B-2 Spirit bomber, the world's most advanced operational stealth aircraft.
pioneered vertical lift in the very first STOVL fighter.
International Partners in F-35 R&D:
The F-35 project has been an international effort from the start, with eight international partners ? the United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey,
Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia.
F-35 - Capabilities & Performance Compared to Others in it's Class:
In comparing the F-35 to the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, F-16C/Block 60 and F/A-18E/F, the F-35 has a decisive advantage due to its advanced
integrated avionic architecture, which is modelled from the F-22A. With a multitude of GigaHertz clock speed processors, high speed digital busses
with around 1,000 times the throughput of the Military-Standard-1553B busses in the teen series and Eurocanard fighters, there is simply no contest.
While updated versions of the teen series and Eurocanard fighters might see a similar integrated avionic architecture in the post 2010 period, this
upgrade will not be cheap and the costs will be passed along to the purchasers of these other aircraft.
Against all of these contenders, the F-35 has a greater survivability advantage thanks to its use of evolved second generation stealth technology,
again derived from the F-22A technology base. With a forward sector radar cross section cited to be `close to the F-22' the F-35 is more than a
challenging target even to the most advanced forward sector radar guided threats.
The F-35 as a "bomb-truck" falls into a similar payload class to these previously mentioned fighters, but with the important distinction that it
carries its bombs or missiles internally, and yet it has an internal fuel capacity similar to that of these competing aircraft loaded up with external
fuel tanks. In practical terms this means that the F-35 can carry a similar load of fuel and bombs without the critical transonic regime drag penalty
and loss of stealthiness external stores cause. Therefore it can carry the same bomb load further using a similar fuel load while remaining nearly
invisible to radar. The F-35 demonstrators have exceeded the Joint Strike Fighter combat radius requirements - the cited figure of 600+ nautical miles
radius has been met and is a distinct gain over the F-16C and F/A-18A/C's combat radius.
The STOVL "B" version of the F-35 is a rather impressive piece of high-tech machinery, it is the first and only operational aircraft in history to
achieve a short-takeoff, level supersonic dash and vertical landing in a single flight; it is also the first aircraft to integrate and fly a
shaft-driven lift-fan propulsion system.
Rivals that the F-35 is likely to meet on the battlefield are the Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum, the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 Flanker, now entering service
with some air forces.
Weapons Systems for the F-35:
Internal weapons-bay systems slated for the F-35 include:
(Joint Direct Attack Munition)
(Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser) for the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon
(Joint StandOff Weapon)
External weapons systems slated (excluding guns) for the F-35 include the following:
(Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile)
Below: F-35 Weapons for Internal Weapons Bays
Below: F-35 Weapons for External Mounting on Wings
F-35: First Fighter to Emply Direct Energy Weapons (DEW)
Lockheed Martin is tailoring a laser DEW for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that could be ready as early as 2010 for demonstration and the start of a
full-scale development program.
Specifically the TRW or Raytheon 100kw solid state laser that is now under development. Placement of this laser system would be in the empty area on
the CTOL & CV F-35 versions where the lift fan would be on the STOVL version.
The area that the lift fan occupies will not only provide more than adequate room for the solid state laser, but it also can make use of the lift
fan's drive shaft, (good for 27,000 horsepower), which is more than adequate to power a 100kw solid state laser.
The laser weapon's function will initially be defensive, destroying any incoming surface to air or air to air munitions as much as 2-3 kilometers
before reaching the DEW armed F-35.
Below: Images from left to right -
1. The solid state laser now being developed for use in the F-35 and AC-130 (and it's successor)
2. The F-35 B STOVL version, showing the area the lift fan occupies
3. A Lockheed Martin provided image of the F-35 using the 100kw laser.
"F-22 ATF - Program Costs", Center for Defense Information, Washington DC
"F-35 Joint Strike Fight - Program Costs", The Cato Institute, Washington DC
"Combat Aircraft: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter", Lockheed-Martin Aeronautics
Co., Fort Worth, TX
"Boeing X-32 JSF Contender", AeroSpaceWeb.Org
"F-35 JSF?s Final Shape Validates Concept-Demonstration
Goals", Lockheed-Martin Press Release - July 23, 2002
"ANALYSIS: Lockheed-Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter", Australian Aviation, May/June 2002
"F-35: The ?F? Stands for 'Future'", PiRep - Maxwell
AFB, "Air & Space Power Journal"
"Weapon Systems for the F-35", AeroSpace Web.Org
"Lasers Being Developed For F-35 and AC-130", Aviation Week & Space
Technology: July 8, 2002
[Edited on 28-2-2004 by intelgurl]
[edit on 7-7-2006 by intelgurl]