F-35 Lightning II is a fifth generation stealth multirole fighter aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin.

The result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, the F-35 comes in three variants, F-35A, B and C, all of them being single-seat and single-engine aircrafts.

The F-35A is the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, F-35B is the short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant while the F-35C is the catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR), carrier-based version.

Author: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen
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The F-35s development history

In the early 90s, USAF launched an ambitious program for the development of a new multirole stealth fighter with multiple capabilities to replace various aircrafts like the iconic F-16, the original F/A-18 Hornet, the AV-8B and the ground attack A-10 aircraft.

More than that, an important requirement wast that the new aircraft to be able to take-off on short distances and to land vertically, thus being able to operate from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships, fulfilling the requirements of both the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps.

The program was a very ambitious one, hoping to find a common denominator in a single type of aircraft that will be operated by all the three main US category of forces.

It was considered that the variant of a single aircraft that can accomplish every task would have been cheaper to implement than the development of two or more types of aircrafts for the USAF and the US Navy. This happened in the past when the USN operated the F-14 Tomcat while the USAF had F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Two companies battled for this historical program which was estimated to have a life cycle cost of $1.1 trillion. In 1996, Boeing and Lockheed Martin received $750 million each to develop a prototype.

Lockheed Martin witch already won the ATF competition with its F-22 Raptor, developed the X-35 prototype while Boeing developed the X-32.

Once again, Lockeed Martin won, and the X-35 was chosen to be further developed into a three variant aircraft that will fullfill the requirements of all the US Armed Forces branches.

The united states was the main funder of this ambitious project with other many allies that planned to purchase this aircraft contributing to the funding of the program.

Depending on the amounts invested by the international partners, they were grouped into different levels, the Level 1 Partner being the most important.

Depending on these levels, the partners benefited from technology transfer and involvement in the aircraft production and also established the order in which the aircraft will be delivered to international customers.

Thus, the United Kingdom was Level 1 partner, while Italy and the Netherlands were Level 2 partners.

The Level 3 partners were Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

Turkey also was a Level 3 partner but was expelled from the program in 2019 following the purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

Besides the foreign participans in the development program other close allies of the United States chose to buy the F-35 like Israel, Japan or Singapore.

The ammount of the international partners contributions was as follows:

- Level 1: United Kingdom: US$2.5 billion, approx. 10% of the planned development costs.

- Level 2: Italy: US$1 billion
Netherlands: US$800 million

- Level 3 Turkey: US$195 million
Canada: US$160 million
Australia: US$144 million
Norway: US$122 million
Denmark: US$110 million

The eight participant nations have contributed to the development phase with a total of US$4.375 billion.

The F-35 Variants


The F-35A is the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, being the simplest and the cheapest of the three versions. It will be the most numerous production variant entering service with the US Air Force and many other allies.

The F-35A is the only variant equiped with an onboard cannon, the 25 mm GAU-22/A. GAU-22 is a very powerful gun, designed expecially to be effective against ground targets, because it was supposed that the F-35 will also replace the dedicated ground-attack A-10 Warthog plane.


F-35B is the short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B (STOVL) variant and is the most technically complex and the most expensive version of the F-35 Lightning II. Being capable of taking-off from short runways and also vertically landing, the F-35B is ideal for operations on smaller aircraft carriers or different types of amphibious assault ship. It can also take-off vertically like the Harrier aircrafts.

The F-35B is similar in size with the A variant but unlike the F-35A and F-35B it has a vertical flight system.

This variant will enter service with the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom, all of them having aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships in their fleets.


The F-35C is the carrier-based catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) variant. Designed for carrier-operations it will equip exclusivelly the US Navy.

The F-35C being a carrier-based version has larger foldable wings that decreases the landing speed in order to make it easier for the pilot to land on the ships deck. Also the F-35C has larger wing and tail control surfaces which makes it more maneuverable at low speeds, a needed capability for a carrier-based aircraft.

The landing gear is strenghten so the aircraft can easily support the highly-stressed arrested landings. The landing gear also has a front twin-wheel that ensures more stability on landing.

And as any other carrier based fighter it is equiped with a tailhook for use with the decks arrestor cables.

The F-35 Engines

The F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing variant is powered by the F135-PW-100 while the F-35C carrier variant is powered by the F135-PW-400 which is manufactured with salt-corrosion resistant materials since the F-35C is used by the Navy.

The F-35B which is the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant, uses the Integrated Lift Fan Propulsion System (ILFPS). ILFPS consists of the F135-PW-600 engine and the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem.

F-35B hovers by using a 2-stage lift fan and three nozzles: the main vectoring exhaust nozzle and a nozzle in each wing. The nozzles in the wings and are known as roll posts.

The hovering power is distributed as follows: 46% from the two-stage lift fan the main vectoring exhaust nozzle each, and 8% from the nozzles in the wings which use fan air from the bypass duct.

The F-35 Avionics

The F-35 jets are equiped with the state-of-the-art AN/APG-81 AESA radar, derived from F-22s radar and under the nose of the plane is the Electro-optical target system (EOTS).

The Helmet-mounted display system

With the helmet-mounted display system the pilot is aware of any threat no mattler its direction wihtout having to pointing its aircraft towards the threat direction. With this system the pilot receives all the informations through his helmet and it can launch missiles with "off-boresight" capability.

The F-35 Armament

Being a stealthy fighter aircraft, the F-35 has two internal bays with a capacity of up to 5,700 lb (2,590 kg) and six external pylons under its wings. The external pylons have a capacity of 15,000 lb (6,800 kg). In total, the F-35 can carry a weapons payload of 18,000 lb (8,100 kg).

The newest American stealth fighter can use a wide range of weapons. The air-to-air missiles that can be fired by the F-35 are AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM and the new MBDA Meteor.

Like its predecesor, the F-16, F-35 has a great air-to-ground firepower and is capable of using the AGM-88 AARGM, AGM-158 JASSM, SPEAR 3, the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) and the future Joint Strike Missile (JSM) based on Naval Strike Missile.

The F-35 Operators

The F-35 multirole stealth fighter is expected to be produced in large numbers similar to the F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The current F-35 Lightning II operators are:

- Australia: F-35A

- Belgium: F-35A

- Denmark: F-35A

- Israel: F-35A

- Italy: F-35A and F-35B

- Japan: F-35A and F-35B

- the Netherlands: F-35A

- Norway: F-35A

- South Korea: F-35A and F-35B

- Turkey - Expelled from the program

- United Kingdom: F-35B

- United States: F-35A (USAF), F-35B (USMC), F-35C (US Navy)

F-35 Future Operators

- Poland - 32 F-35A ordered

Posted by: Andrei Dcs
F-35 Lightning II - General Data and Specifications:
Type Stealth Multirole Fighter
Place of Origin United States of America
Service Period and Status F-35B:
31 July 2015 (USMC) - present

2 August 2016 (USAF) - present

28 February 2019 (USN) - present
All variants in service
Designer Lockheed Martin
Manufacturer and Builders Lockheed Martin
Program & Unit Cost Program cost:
- US$1.508 trillion (through 2070 in then-year dollars)
- US$55.1B for RDT&E
- $319.1B for procurement
- $4.8B for MILCON
- $1123.8B for operations & sustainment (2015 estimate)

Unit cost:
$89.2M (low rate initial production lot 11 (LRIP 11) including F135 engine, cost in 2020 to be $80M)

US$115.5M (LRIP 11 including engine)

US$107.7M (LRIP 11 including engine)
Production Period 2006–present
Number Built 400+ as of 4 June 2019
Variants - F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL)
- F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL)
- F-35C catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR), carrier-based
Related Projects Lockheed Martin X-35
First Flight 15 December 2006 (F-35A)
Mass / Weight Empty weight:

28,999 lb / 13,154 kg
32,472 lb / 14,729 kg
34,581 lb / 15,686 kg

Gross weight:

49,441 lb / 22,426 kg

Max takeoff weight:

70,000 lb / 31,800 kg
60,000 lb / 27,200 kg
70,000 lb / 31,800 kg
Length F-35A and F-35B:
50.5 ft / 15.4 m

50.8 ft / 15.5 m
Height F-35A:
14.2 ft / 4.33 m

14.3 ft / 4.36 m

14.7 ft / 4.48 m
Payload F-35A:
18,000 pounds / 8,160 kg
Wingspan F-35A and F-35B:
35 ft / 10.7 m

43 ft / 13.1 m
Wing Area F-35A and F-35B:
460 ft2 / 42.7 m2

668 ft2 / 62.1 m2
Powerplant F-35A:
1 × Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 afterburning turbofan

1 × Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-600 afterburning turbofan plus the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem with thrust vectoring nozzle

1 × Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-400 afterburning turbofan
Thrust Dry thrust:
28,000 lbf / 120 kN

Thrust with afterburner:
43,000 lbf / 190 kN
Fuel Capacity F-35A:
18,498 lb / 8,391 kg internal fuel

13,326 lb / 6,045 kg

19,624 lb / 8,901 kg
Speed F-35A:
Mach 1.6 / 1,042 kn / 1,199 mph / 1,930 km/h
Operational Range Range:

>1,200 nmi / 2,200 km
>900 nmi / 1,700 km
>1,200 nmi / 2,200 km

Combat radius (on internal fuel):

669 nmi / 1,239 km
505 nmi / 935 km
670 nmi / 1,241 km
Service Ceiling F-35A:
50,000 ft / 15,000 m / 15 km
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio With full internal fuel:

0.87 lbf/lb (0.0085 kN/kg)
0.90 lbf/lb
0.75 lbf/lb

With 50% fuel:

1.07 lbf/lb (0.0105 kN/kg)
1.04 lbf/lb
0.91 lbf/lb
G-Load Factor F-35A:

F-35B and F-35C: