Joint Strike Fighter Rolled Out, Named Lightning II
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 7, 2006 The first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will be known as the Lightning II, was unveiled at Lockheed-Martin's facility at Fort Worth, Texas, today.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley announced the fighter's name, which pays homage to two predecessors.
The P-38 Lightning was a Lockheed fighter that fought in all theaters during World War II. The aircraft had the legs to go long distances, and it was fast. Army Air Forces Maj. Dick Bong, the leading U.S. ace of the war with 40 kills, flew P-38s in the Pacific. Army Air Force Maj. Thomas McGuire, who had 38 kills in the Pacific, also flew Lightnings.
The name also remembers the Lightning jet the British developed in the mid-1950s. The aircraft was the first British aircraft to pass Mach 2, and it remained in the inventory until the late 1980s. Britain has been part of the Joint Strike Fighter program since the beginning.
The Lightning II is designed to meet the needs of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-35A version is designed for conventional takeoffs and landings, and will be used by the Air Force. It will replace the F-15, F-16 and A-10. The B variant has vertical lift capability, and will be used by the Marines as a replacement for the AV-8B Harrier. The C variant will be for carrier launches and will ultimately replace the Navy's F-18s.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England congratulated the team that built the stealth-technology fighter, and said the aircraft will serve far into the future. "The F-35 Lightning II will be the centerpiece of airpower in the 21st century for America and our allies," England said.
In addition to Britain, the consortium of countries that will field the aircraft includes Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada.
The first flight for the aircraft is set for later this year. Some 15 F-35s will undergo testing in the next few years.