F-35 Joint Strike Fighter


F-35 Joint Strike fighter






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F-35A in flight refuel

The Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA is far superior to the F-35

The Su-35S, the primary adversary to the F-35

New photo gallery




F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Design Features


The F-35 has a low radar cross section primarily due to the materials used in construction, including fibre-mat. The F-35 also has a more stealthy shape than past fighters, including a zigzag-shape weapons bay and landing gear door.

In spite of being smaller than the F-22, the F-35 has a larger radar cross section. It is said to be roughly equal to a metal golf ball rather than the F-22's metal marble.


The F-35's main engine is the Pratt & Whitney F135. The General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 has been developed as an alternate engine. The STOVL versions of both power plants use the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem, patented by Lockheed Martin but built by Rolls-Royce.

The Lift System is composed of a lift fan, drive shaft, two roll posts and a "Three Bearing Swivel Module" (3BSM). The 3BSM is a thrust vectoring nozzle which allows the main engine exhaust to be deflected downward at the tail of the aircraft. The lift fan near the front of the aircraft provides a counter-balancing thrust. Somewhat like a vertically mounted turbofan within the forward fuselage, the lift fan is powered by the engine's low-pressure (LP) turbine via a drive shaft and gearbox. Roll control during slow flight is achieved by diverting pressurized air from the LP turbine through wing mounted thrust nozzles called Roll Posts.

The F-35B's lift fan achieves the same 'flow multiplier' effect as the Harrier's huge, but supersonically impractical, main fan. Like lift engines, this added machinery is just dead weight during horizontal flight but provides a net increase in payload capacity during vertical flight. The cool exhaust of the fan also reduces the amount of hot, high-velocity air that is projected downward during vertical take off (which can damage runways and aircraft carrier decks). Though complicated and risky, the lift system has been made to work to the satisfaction of DOD officials.

To date, F-136 funding has come at the expense of other parts of the program, reducing the number of aircraft built and increasing their costs. The F-136 team has claimed that their engine has a greater temperature margin which may prove critical for VTOL operations in hot, high altitude conditions.

The F135/F136 engines are not designed to supercruise in the F-35.

In late 2008 the Air Force revealed that the F-35 would be about twice as loud at takeoff as the F-15 Eagle and up to four times as loud upon landing. As a result, residents near Luke Air Force Base, Arizona and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, possible homes of the jet, have requested that the Air Force conduct environmental impact studies concerning the F-35's noise levels.The city of Valparaiso, Florida, adjacent to Eglin AFB, threatened in February 2009 to sue the Air Force over the impending arrival of the F-35s, but this lawsuit was settled in March 2010. Moreover, it was reported in March 2009 that testing by Lockheed Martin and the Royal Australian Air Force revealed that the F-35 was not as loud as first reported, being "only about as noisy as an F-16 fitted with a Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 engine" and "quieter than the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet."


The F-35 includes a GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm cannon. The cannon will be mounted internally with 180 rounds in the F-35A and fitted as an external pod with 220 rounds in the F-35B and F-35C. The gun pod for the B and C variants will have stealth features. This pod could be used for different equipment in the future, such as EW, reconnaissance equipment, or possibly a rearward facing radar.

Internally (current planned weapons for integration), up to two air-to-air missiles and two air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons (up to two 2,000 lb bombs in A and C models (BRU-68); two 1,000 lb bombs in the B model (BRU-67) can be carried in the bomb bays.These could be AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-132 ASRAAM, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) – up to 2,000 lb (910 kg), the Joint Stand off Weapon (JSOW), Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) – a maximum of four in each bay (Three per bay in F-35B, the Brimstone anti-armor missiles, and Cluster Munitions (WCMD). The MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile is currently being adapted to fit internally in the missile spots and may be integrated into the F-35. The UK had originally planned to put up to four AIM-132 ASRAAM internally but this has been changed to carry 2 internal and 2 external ASRAAMs.It has also been stated by a Lockheed executive that the internal bay will eventually be modified to accept up to 6 AMRAAMs.

At the expense of being more detectable by radar, many more missiles, bombs and fuel tanks can be attached on four wing pylons and two near wingtip positions. The two wingtip locations can only carry AIM-9X Sidewinder. The other pylons can carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, Storm Shadow, AGM-158 Joint Air to Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM) cruise missiles, guided bombs, 480-gallon and 600-gallon fuel tanks. An air-to-air load of eight AIM-120s and two AIM-9s is conceivable using internal and external weapons stations, as well as a configuration of six 2,000 lb bombs, two AIM-120s and two AIM-9s.With its payload capability, the F-35 can carry more weapons payload than legacy fighters it is to replace as well as the F-22 Raptor.Solid-state lasers were being developed as optional weapons for the F-35 as of 2002.


The F-35 utilizes a new substance called fiber mat embedded in the composite skin. This avoids the need to use stealthy appliqués and coatings that come off in flight. Fiber mat is also part of the aircraft's load bearing structure.

The Teen Series of fighters (F-15, F-16, F/A-18) were notable for always carrying large external fuel tanks, but as a stealth aircraft the F-35 must fly most missions on internal fuel. Unlike the F-16 and F/A-18, the F-35 lacks leading edge extensions (LEX) and instead uses stealth-friendly chines for vortex lift in the same fashion as the SR-71 Blackbird. The small bumps just forward of the engine air intakes form part of the diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) which is a simpler, lighter and stealthier means to ensure high-quality airflow to the engine over a wide range of conditions
[edit] Cockpit

The F-35 features a full-panel-width "panoramic cockpit display" (PCD) glass cockpit, with dimensions of 20 by 8 inches (50 by 20 centimeters). A cockpit speech-recognition system (Direct Voice Input) provided by Adacel is planned to improve the pilot's ability to operate the aircraft over the current-generation interface. The F-35 will be the first US operational fixed-wing aircraft to use this system, although similar systems have been used in AV-8B and trialled in previous US jets, particularly the F-16 VISTA. In development the system has been integrated by Adacel Systems Inc with the speech recognition module supplied by SRI International.The pilot flies the aircraft by means of a right-hand side stick and left-hand throttle.

A helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) will be fitted to all models of the F-35. A helmet-mounted cueing system is already in service with the F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s. While some fighters have offered HMDS along with a head up display (HUD), this will be the first time in several decades that a front-line tactical jet fighter has been designed to not carry a HUD.

The Martin-Baker US16E ejection seat is used in all F-35 variants. The US16E seat design balances major performance requirements, including safe-terrain-clearance limits, pilot-load limits, and pilot size. It uses a twin-catapult system that is housed in side rails.

Sensors and avionics

The F-35's sensor and communications suite provides situational awareness, command-and-control and network-centric warfare capability. The main sensor on board the F-35 is its AN/APG-81 AESA-radar, designed by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. It is augmented by the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) mounted under the nose of the aircraft, designed by Lockheed Martin. This gives the same capabilities as the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR without compromising the aircraft's stealth.

Six additional passive infrared sensors are distributed over the aircraft as part of Northrop Grumman's AN/AAQ-37 distributed aperture system (DAS), which acts as a missile warning system, reports missile launch locations, detects and tracks approaching aircraft spherically around the F-35, and replaces traditional night vision goggles for night operations and navigation. All DAS functions are performed simultaneously, in every direction, at all times. The F-35's AN/ASQ-239 (Barracuda) Electronic Warfare systems are designed by BAE Systems and include Northrop Grumman components. The communications, navigation and identification (CNI) suite is designed by Northrop Grumman and includes the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL). The F-35 will be the first jet fighter that has sensor fusion that combines both radio frequency and IR tracking for continuous target detection and identification in all directions which is shared via MADL to other platforms without compromising their low observability.[88]

Unlike older generations of aircraft, such as the F-22, all software for the F-35 is written in C++ for faster code development. The Integrity DO-178B real-time operating system (RTOS) from Green Hills Software runs on COTS Freescale PowerPC processors.[89]

The final Block 3 software for the F-35 is planned to have 8.6 million lines of software code.

Helmet-Mounted Display System

Rather than maneuvering with thrust vectoring, or canards to line up the target directly ahead of the aircraft, like 4.5 Generation jet fighters, the F-35 does not need to point at the target to hit it. It uses combined radio frequency and infra red (SAIRST) "situational awareness" to continually track all nearby aircraft, the pilot's helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) for displaying and selecting targets, and High Off-Boresight (HOBS) weapons. The helmet system replaces the display suite-mounted head-up display used in previous generation fighters. Because of this, Northrop Grumman claims that "maneuvering is irrelevant".

The F-35's systems provide the edge in the "observe, orient, decide, and act" OODA loop; Stealth and advanced sensors aid in observation, automated target tracking helps in orientation, sensor fusion simplifies decision making, and the aircraft's controls allow action against targets without having to look away from them.

The Su-30MK, another improvment on the Sukhoi thoroughbred


F-35A Landing

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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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The PAK-FA T-50



F-35A's in formation

The F-35 Cockpit Simulator




©2003 Kerry Plowright