Lockheed Martin Ready to Deliver the 500th F-35 Fighter

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U.S Navy F-35C dwarfed by the C-5M in the background… don’t judge the F-35’s capabilities by its size though!

The 158th Fighter Wing, U.S. Air National Guard, will soon welcome the 500th F-35 Lightning II airframe built by Lockheed Martin. There are three versions of this 5th Generation Fighter, and almost a dozen countries have ordered the single-engined, single seat fighters.

U.S. Air Force F-35A, based at Luke AFB and seen on static display at Airshow London, 2018

The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter, expected to replace older F-16s and possibly the A-10 fleet too. The aircraft contains technology that raises situational awareness to a new level for both the F-35 pilot and others who share the wealth of information that the F-35 can gather and distribute in its’ warfighting arena. Some 354 F-35A airframes for the U.S. and other countries have been delivered. Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway Poland, South Korea and Turkey have all ordered this version.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing shown during a flight demonstration at MCAS Cherry Point.

The F-35B is a short take-off and vertical landing variant already in service with the U.S. Marine Corps and the Royal Navy. The Marines will retire older F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers as the F-35Bs arrive. The Royal Navy will equip their newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, with their jets. So far, 108 aircraft of this model have been produced. Besides the U.S. and Great Britain, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Italy have this version on order.

U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II arrives at the London, Ontario airport, note the twin nose wheels, of which the -C is the only F-35 with this feature.

The F-35C is the conventional take off and landing version, ordered by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. A larger wing and double nose landing gear assembly are added to support aircraft carrier operations. The –C will replace older Legacy Hornets in U.S. Navy and Marine use.

F-35 in the overhead break.

Another recent milestone reached saw the 250,000th flying hour being been logged by the combined test and operational Lightning II fleet around the world. The U.S. alone expects to order slightly more than 2,400 examples of the three versions. According to a media release by Lockheed Martin, “more than 985 pilots and over 8,890 maintainers” have been trained to operate F-35s around the world so far. Nine countries already operate the jets, and four air services have already use Lightning IIs in combat.

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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