These features put the F-35 head and shoulders above its fighter jet counterparts.
Developed from the Lockheed Martin X-35, the F-35 fighter is probably the most sensational military jet of the 21st century. In 2006, the production of the F-35 began with Lockheed Martin being the contractor and manufacturer. Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems were both contracted to supply components for the project. The F-35 project is funded by the United States and some of its allies, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
Since the project’s inception in 2006, Lockheed Martin has built about 730 F-35 fighter jets. However, the project is still well behind schedule. Billions of dollars have been expended on the development of the F-35, and sometimes, the jet gets on the news for being overly expensive. Apart from being too expensive, the F-35 is also technologically advanced and is currently the pinnacle of aircraft technology. We think the F-35 is the coolest fighter jet ever to take flight, and here’s why.
10. Armed To The Teeth
The F-35 is equipped with loads of internal weapons for operations, and unlike most combat aircraft, the F-35 doesn’t require extra equipment. These weapons do not interfere with the fighter jet’s stealth.
Some of the ammunition in the F-35 includes 180 rounds of the 1×25 4-barred rotary cannon, air-to-air missiles (AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, MBDA meteor), air-to-surface missiles (AGM-88G AARGM-ER, AGM-158 JASSM), air-to-ship missiles (AGM-158C LRASM), bombs (joint direct attack munitions series, laser-guided bombs, AGM-154 JSOW), avionics, and more.
9. The Most Versatile Fighter
Most combat aircraft are specified in their functions and operations. There are aircraft made mainly for a ground attack like the Sukhoi Su-25, Ilyushin II-2, Grumman A-6 Intruder, and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Other fighter jet classifications include bombers, heavy fighters, light fighters, interceptors, reconnaissance fighters, and all-weather fighters.
The F-35 is not specified in its functions and can perform multiple roles, including ground attack, strike missions, and aerial surveillance. Also, the F-35 is an all-weather fighter. Sounds good, but some defense critics are wary about the F-35 being a jack of all trades.
8. The Stealthiest Jet Yet
The F-35 has an empty weight of 29,300lbs, but its weight doesn’t interfere with its supersonic speed and stealth. From the beginning of the project, the F-35 has been designed as a stealth fighter. Currently, the fighter is in its fifth generation, and the stealth technology keeps getting more advanced.
With a nearly invisible radar, the F-35 evades enemy aircraft and can use its electronic warfare system to jam radars of opposing fighters. The F-35 is in service with the United States Air Force and has proven its stealth in six combat operations.
7. Built With A Threat Library
The F-35 has an intricate system that helps it identify threats like enemy aircraft and incoming fire. There’s a ‘threat library,’ and this repository helps the fighter identify threats in major parts of the world where a threat is expected.
The F-35 also has ‘mission data files’ where data like already known threats, potential threats, geography, enemy aircraft, and potential combat sites are stored. If the F-35 detects other aircraft sensors, it compares it with registered data in the mission data files and takes action based on the results.
6. Advanced Data Collection And Sharing Method
Another point in the F-35 fighter’s scoreboard is its advanced data collection and sharing methods. The F-35 uses the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) to securely transfer large amounts of data collected by sensors.
The F-22 fighter uses an intra-flight data link for data sharing, so communication between these two fighters is quite difficult. However, during a data sharing demonstration, the F-35 and F-22 could share data airborne through gatewayONE technology. Of course, other fighter jets can share but not the same extent as the F-35.
5. System Response Capabilities
The F-35 uses an advanced electronic warfare suite– AN/ASQ-239 built by BAE Systems to identify, monitor, analyze, and respond to threats. BAE Systems electronic warfare suite also provides the F-35 with a 360° view of the combat space and surroundings.
The system supports both airborne and ground-based threat monitoring. With the AN/ASQ-239, the F-35 pilot is afforded defensive and offensive actions against threats. Like most sense on the F-35, the AN/ASQ-239 has an architecture that allows it to be updated with new capabilities over time.
4. Amazing Detection Range
While the F-35 is nearly invisible to other aircraft, it can detect other fighters with its amazing detection range. For context, the F-15 has a range of 415km with the APG-62 radar, F-16 has a range of 280km with the ABR radar, F-22 has a range of 500km with the APG-77 F-35, while the F-35 has a range above 500km with the AESA radar.
Apart from radars, the F-35 can use passive sensors, sensors from other jets, and infrared sensors for detection. The Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar is very sensitive to signals and can detect signals emitted from far away enemy aircraft.
3. Mission Capability Rate
Mission capability rate is the percentage of time an aircraft can take flight and perform for at least one mission. An aircraft is mission-capable when it has a high mission capability rate. This calculation is considered vital in the Air Forces and is sometimes mandated as it helps assess the fleet health.
In 2019, the mission capable rate of the F-35A was 61.6%, and the percentage increased to 76.07% in 2020. The F-35A was actually on top of the mission-capable list of the United States Air Force in 2020.
2. Less Expensive Than Its Peers
Notorious for being very expensive, what many people do not know about the F-35 is that it’s less expensive than most of its peers. An estimate carried out by the Congressional research service in 2018 marked the price of an F-35 fighter produced in 2020 at $87.1 million.
However, the actual price of an F-35 fighter produced in 2020 cost $79.2 million. The production price is expected to fall to $77.2 million in 2022. Also, rivals like the F-15 EX and the Eurofighter require additional equipment, which the F-35 does not. When you factor in yearly operational costs differences, a fully combat-ready F-15 EX costs $19 million more than the F-35.
1. HMDS Technology
The F-35 fighter’s Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS) provides pilots with an unrivaled level of situational awareness. Also, the HMDS displays important flight and weapon system data in the pilot’s helmet visor. Images from the night vision camera and the Distributed Aperture System (DAS) are projected on the visor.
With the DAS, friendly and enemy aircraft locations cues are tracked and made available to the pilot. However, the HMDS is not yet perfect, so it might take a while to get to the Air Force for service.