The F-35 Lightning II, allegedly the most advanced fighter in the world, has been tried for the first time by a military service pilot. Lt. Col. James "Flipper" Kromberg of the U.S. Air Force, who can be seen in the video wearing one of those scary demon helmets, took off from Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant, flying the wonderplane through different altitudes and situations. His verdict:
"The aircraft flew very well, exceeding my expectations," Kromberg said. "I was surprised by the amount of power on the takeoff roll. And the handling, particularly with the gear up, was phenomenal. The aircraft was very stable flying in formation with another aeroplane. It was really a joy to fly."
So there you go: two thumbs up from Señor Flipper. I don't know about you, but I'm happy that the US$40 billion total development costs have resulted in a plane that handles phenomenally well with the gear up (which is more than you can say about the Strategic Defence Initiative).
The F-35, nicknamed Lightning II in honour of the WW2 fighter P-38 Lightning, has flown only 28 times, all of them except this one commanded by Lockheed Martin's own test pilots, Jon Beesley and Jeff Knowles. The last flight happened on March 12th, for its first aerial refueling test shown here:
The F-35 Lightning II is scheduled to debut in 2011, after its maiden flight back in 2006. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburning turbofan capable of delivering 40,000 pounds of force, with an additional Rolls-Royce Lift System for the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant, the F-35 has been designed to be the número uno strike fighter in the world until around 2040.