Despite concerns over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the plane is proving to be the fastest, smartest and most advanced plane to ever fly through the sky. Here’s why The Daily Caller thinks it won’t be long until the plane takes off.
1. The planes will be cheaper … eventually
In lieu of the growing $1.5 trillion price tag on the Joint Strike Fighter, officials at Lockheed Martin, the plane’s developer, say the price tag will come down as time goes on. While many in the media have jumped at the chance to criticize the growing cost, the company’s projections take inflation, raising gas prices and other factors into account. Plus, it would cost the Pentagon more than three times that to update the most current fleet of fourth-generation fighters.
The hefty price tag hasn’t deterred international buyers from jumping on the F-35 bandwagon. So far, more than 25 countries have expressed interest in buying the planes. In the United States, the planes are expected to replace others in three services — Air Force, Navy and Marines. Experts have predicted by the time the most common variant of the plane is in its tenth production lot, the price per plane will have dropped to a cool $100 million — and will continue to fall. Granted, this price is for the standard model. Buyers will have to fork over additional dough in order to outfit the planes with more weapons and spare parts.
2. It’s stealthier than any other plane on the planet
While many of the planes in the sky have stealth capabilities, the F-35 takes flying under the radar to a new level. It’s more than just adding a coat of paint to the nose and underbelly, said Bob Rubino, director of the F-35 project at Lockheed Martin’s Washington, D.C., office. This plane camouflages its weapons and fuel tanks, incorporating them in the body of the plane. On the fourth-generation fighters, the fuel tanks, missiles and guns are visible on the underbelly of the plane. But on the F-35, all are undetectable by radar, allowing the plane to get closer to enemies without being seen.
These super-stealth capabilities allow pilots to engage at a closer range, increasing the odds of firing the first shot. And with countries like China and Russia pursuing fifth generation fighters, a plane as covert as the F-35 is invaluable. According to Business Insider, China is pursuing the J-20 Mighty Dragon and Russia the T-50, making two countries planes, the F-22 and the F-35 the only ones in the world with fifth generation designation.
3. Its infrared tracking is so precise, it picks up its own shadow … from 45,000 feet in the air
The infrared tracking available on the F-35 is the most advanced on the market, and it’s only available on the F-35. When soaring above the earth, the tracking is so detailed and specific that it picks up planes, structures and people on the ground below, just as modern infrared does. But this system actually picked up the plane’s own shadow.
The system is designed for a couple different things, Rubino said. It finds targets on the ground so the pilot gets a visual, does damage assessment after dropping a bomb and can determine what kinds of threats are present in a close-air support mission — missions involving plane-to-plane combat. The infrared tracking system has the ability to look for air-to-air targets, too, without using radar — a component that is vital in maintaining stealth capabilities. Eventually, the electro-optical tracking system will be available on other planes, but for now, the system is only available on the Joint Strike Fighters.
4. It comes with an awesome helmet
Pilots flying the F-35 not only get to command the most advanced aircraft in the world, but they also wear one advanced piece of head gear. The helmet, designed by Vision Systems International, gives pilots a 360-degree view of the world they soar above. Look to the left and pilots don’t have a view of the cockpit, but of planes flying next them. Look down, and there’s a view of the ground. The helmets provide pilots with a view of the world above, below, to the left and right, all within the scope of the visor.
“No matter where pilots look, they have all the flight information right in front of their eyes,” Dave Perkins, lead engineer of the HMDS integration, told CodeOne magazine. “The helmet displays airspeed, altitude, rate of climb, and the aiming information for all the weapons. The helmet even displays all the information needed should something go wrong. For example, it provides an alert and directs the pilot’s attention if there’s something nasty coming from the nose of the airplane while the pilot is looking somewhere else.”
5. It smokes the competition
It’s no surprise that the Joint Strike Fighter is the most technologically advanced plane available, but add that it performs a wide range of missions, and can be tricked out with weapons, and you’re looking at the fiercest plane on the market.
“I don’t think either aircraft can really compete with the F-35,” said Dr. Richard Bitzinger, defense specialist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore in an interview with Sun News Network, of other fifth generation fighters.
The plane has the ability to perform electronic attack missions, command and control missions, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, all while holding multiple weapons and missiles. The planes come standard with built in arms capabilities, but more than 13,000 pounds of weapons can be added. In addition, the plane’s sensors allow for pilots to collect data from satellites or allied planes, a capability that far exceeds that of China and Russia’s jets.