A ceremony yesterday at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant marked the rollout of the U.S. Navy’s first-ever stealth fighter, the F-35C Lightning II. The aircraft will enable the Navy to possess 5th generation fighter capabilities at sea, extending America’s reach and reducing the timeline from threat to response.
Top Navy leadership, signal flags and a crowd of employees, including reserve and retired Navy personnel, were on hand to celebrate the strike fighter’s unveiling. Adm. Gary Roughead, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, welcomed the new aircraft to the fleet.
The first F-35C, known as CF-1, will undergo a wide-ranging series of ground tests before its first flight, scheduled for late 2009. CF-1 is the ninth F-35 test aircraft to be rolled out, and joins a fleet of F-35A (conventional takeoff and landing) and F-35B (short takeoff/vertical landing) variants that have logged more than 100 flights.
The F-35C is on schedule to meet the Navy’s Initial Operational Capability in 2015, and represents a leap in technology and capability over existing fighters, combining stealth with supersonic speed and high agility. The Lightning II employs the most powerful and comprehensive sensor package ever incorporated into a fighter.
As per Lockheed Martin, the Lightning II’s operational and support costs are forecast to be lower than those of the fighters it will replace.
The F-35 and F-22 are the world’s only 5th generation fighters, uniquely characterized by a combination of advanced stealth with supersonic speed and high agility, sensor fusion, network-enabled capabilities and advanced sustainment. The F-35 is a supersonic, multi-role, 5th generation strike fighter. Three F-35 variants derived from a common design, developed together and using the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide, will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially.