The military combat aircraft F-35 has been under development since 2001 by the Americam aviation company Lookheed Martin under a project originally named Joint Field Striker (JFS) headed by the American ministry of defence with some contribution from allies. Even though it si generally called a fighter plane, it is actually a mulitirole vehicle intended to be used as an air to air feighter, air to ground fighter and bomber, air to ship fighter and bomber, as a platform for communication jamming, for reconessaince and for combat lead. It is not intended to be used as a long range bomber though.
During the early phaces of the project Lookheed Marin and Boing were each engaged in developing their own prototype version of JFS, and eventually the version from Lookhee Martin was chosen and got the name F-35. It was intended to be fully developed by 2008, but the project is so far 7 years behind the schedule, and is not expected to be combat ready before 2015-2018. The project is working however under a philosophy of beginning the production and test of the planes before fully developed with new details installed on existing planes as they get ready. The plane is therefore by 2013 under test in several squdrons in USA and UK, and pilots are under training.
The plane which is intended to replace most existing fighter planes now in use by USA and allies, is produced in three versions, all only manned by one pilot. The simplest and cheapest one is for use by land based forces. It takes off and land in ordinary mode. Another is for use by the US marines and similar corpses. This can take off vertically by low load and after short run by heavy load, and it can land vertically. The third is for use on greater aircraft carriers. It can take off by the help of a catapult and stop after landing by the help of a hook and wire.
The plane has stealth capabilities, which means that it is little visble on radar and thermal detectors and is thus supposed to be able to approch near to a goal without being detected. These properties are achieved with a coating that absorbs much of the radar waves, with a shape that reflects the remaining radar waves in other angles than stright back to the radar, by shielding of hot spots in the plane and by hiding weapons in intarnal bays. But by full weapom load, much of the weapons must be mounted under the wings and then much of the stealth properties are lost.
The plane is powered by one single motor especially constructed by Pratt and Whitney for this plane. This motor is the most powerful in the world of its size, but yet this heavy plane is concidered somewhat underpowered and the motor is concidered somwhat ineconomical. A new motor is therefore under construction for future versions of F-35 and other planes, that wil exploit the fuel better, and therefore allow higher speed and longer range.
The plane has a top speed of around 1.6 mach fully loaded, which is below the top speed of many of the planes it shall replace. It is however capable of flying in a supercruice mode during a limited time, which is flying above the speed of sound without using the afterburner. It is capable of swing radiuses that excert a centripetal force of 4.5-6 G which is also below the capabilities of the planes it shall replace, and below the original requirements for the plane. It has a mission range of 1200 nml (2200 km) or combat radious of 584 nmi (1,080 km) on internal fuel, but that can be extended with outer tanks and by fuel refilling during flight.
The plane has only one single seat. The stearing functions of F-35 are easy to use and highly utomated, which allow the pilot to use more of his skill on strategy and use of weapons. The plane is also equipped with highly efficient and long reaching capabilities of keeping overview, detecting targets and threats and aiming at the targets.
Also functions like aiming and fireing are easy to use and higly automated. he system can detect possible targets automatically, and hold aim at these until the pilot decides to fire. A key component of the pilot's equipment is a helmet with a vizire that gives him a 360 degree overview and which allows to aiming at a target by merely moving his head. These functions can also be controlled with voice. The plane is also equipped with advanced functions to take down information from satelites and sharing information with ground based command and other aircrafts in the air.
The plane has internal bays for up to 8 missiles, or bombs, depending of the size of each unit. It also has an internal gatling gun with 4 barrels. Further loads of bombs or missiles must be mounted under the wings, and for that it has 12 pylons. all types of missiles and bombs up to a certain size can be mounted in or on the plane, including nuclear weapons.
The fairly low dynamic properties like acceleration, speed and turning radius are a direct consequence of the construction properties needed to make a stealth plane. One does not yet know if the stealth properties are worth sacrifising top dynamic perfomance, and one will not know before the plane has been proven in real combat situations.
The plane is constructed to be easy to maintain and key komponents can be replace within an hour. The estimated cost of each plane is $137 million which is an doubling since 2001. this is high, but the project claims that ease of pilot training and maintenance, and the fact that on single plane can perform several tasks, will spare overall money throughout the plane's lifetime.
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