F-35 Lightning II
Technology

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, a technological marvel or the waste of resources

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is an air superiority fighter aircraft that can also be used for deep strike missions. It is a lethal network-centric and survivable 5th-generation fighter jet. 

The F-35 Lightning II is developed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin under the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) program. 

In 2001, Boeing and Lockheed Martin competed for the next-generation fighter jet contract in the JSF program. Boeing brought the X-32 fighter jet model while Lockheed Martin presented the X-35. In the competition, Lockheed Martin’s X-35 knocked out the X-32 model presented by Boeing and won the contract to develop the 5th-generation fighter aircraft under the JSF program. 

The F-35 took to the skies for the first time in 2006. A total of 3000+ aircraft were planned to be manufactured in the JSF program.

The program funding came from the NATO countries and the USA allies including the United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Netherland, and Denmark. The total F-35 program cost was estimated in 2012 at more than $1.5 trillion over 50 years. The overall cost is more than a trillion dollars making this program the most expensive in US history. 

F-35 cost:

The F-35 is divided into three variants. The F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C. The per-unit cost of F-35As is around $77.9 million. F-35B unit cost is around $101 million and F-35C per unit cost is $94 million. 

The total flight hours of F-35 until now is about 317,000 hours and more than 555 fighter aircraft are manufactured and delivered by Lockheed Martin. 26 airbases from around the globe are currently operating the F-35 jets, having more than 1145 pilots available to fly the aircraft. 

F-35 design

The design of the F-35 focused on new generation avionics and sensor fusion technology that provides a high level of situational awareness and long-range hit to kill capability. 

The F-35 Lightning II is considered as the USAF’s primary strike fighter for defeating the enemy air defenses and performing the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions. 

F-35 variants

The F-35As have the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) capability. It is operated by Air Forces on conventional runways. 

The F-35Bs have short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities. It is designed to be operated from short field bases and air capable ships operating near the combat zones. 

The F-35Cs are the carrier-based variant (CV). It is specifically designed for the Navy. The aircraft is the Navy’s first stealth jet and the world’s only fighter aircraft that is specially designed and built to perform aircraft carrier operations. 

Technologies integrated into F-35

Sensors include AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) AN/APG-81 radar and the CNI (Communication, Navigation, Identification) suit AN/ASQ-242 developed by Northrop Grumman. Barracuda Electronic Warfare System manufactured by BAE Systems. 

The software of the F-35 aircraft is mostly written in C and C++ programming languages while some modules are also taken from F-22 written in Ada83 language. The new version of the F-35’s software Block 3F has about 8.6 million lines of code. The F-35’s operating system is DO-178B, developed by Green Hill Software Integrity that runs on Integrated Core Processor (ICP). The F-35 uses Fiber Channel busses for faster communication between sensors and other equipment on board. 

The Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the F-35 is as low as a metal golf ball. The RCS is reduced to the minimum level possible by careful shaping of the air-frame and by using Radar Absorbing Materials (RAM). The design of the aircraft is in a way to avoid detection from high-frequency X-band wavelength. While the low-frequency radars can detect the fighter jet but they have less precision. 

The F-35 has a glass cockpit and a 20-by-8 panoramic touch screen along with the stand-by small display below the main touch screen panel. The cockpit also has a feature of speech recognition developed by Adacel. 

The Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) is developed by Vision System International, which is a key part of the human-machine interface. The basic aim of the HMDS is to provide flight and combat information and allow the pilot to see in any direction using sensor data displayed on the HMDS no matter which direction the pilot is facing. 

F-35 Lightning II uses the F135 Prat & Whitney’s low bypass augmented turbofan engine with a rated thrust of more than 40,000 lbs. The P&W engine used in F-35 is the world’s most advanced jet engine with best-in-class single-engine reliability. The engine also has advanced prognostics and health management systems. 

F-35 features the computerized maintenance management system which is termed as Autonomic Logistic Information System. 

The F-35 has the best-in-class equipment, and sensors technology onboard. It has unmatched stealth capabilities and can counter any threat from its adversaries in any hostile environment.

 

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