Setting the Bar for
5th Generation Fighters

F-35 5th Gen

For more than a decade, the world has witnessed the F-35 Lightning II mature into an unmatched 5th Generation aircraft, combining advanced stealth, fighter speed and agility, fully-fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment into a world-class air superiority machine. In the process, it has set the bar as the most flexible, technologically sophisticated multirole fighter in the world that meets the needs of both U.S. and allied military forces.

Every material, component and stage in the F-35 manufacturing process contributes to its stealth capabilities. When the F-35 was first conceptualized in the mid-1990s, Lockheed Martin engineers knew that to outsmart the evolving threats of today and tomorrow stealth had to be designed and built in from the beginning – a lesson first learned in the early 1980s. From the angles of the wings to the placement of the lights, the F-35 is engineered for near invisibility.

F-35 Stealth

Pulling from technologies and advancements used to produce the three generations of stealth before it, the F-35 team began working on a design to meet operators’ needs for a new multirole fighter. The aircraft went through multiple design iterations until it fulfilled all the requirements our customers requested – and then some. While the F-35 is not the first Lockheed Martin-built stealth aircraft (that accolade belongs to the A-12 and SR-71), it is the first to combine radar-evading technology with short takeoff, hover and vertical landing capabilities.

The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is a unique aircraft. Designed to allow the U.S. Marine Corps and several allies the ability to operate from austere bases and a range of aircraft-capable ships, the F-35B is an aircraft many would have thought unimaginable even 40 years ago. Using a lift fan just behind the cockpit that produces nearly 20,000 pounds of thrust and an engine nozzle that swivels 90 degrees when turned to STOVL mode, the F-35B can land and take off with ease on the shortest of runways and closest of quarters.

The F-35 is also the first aircraft to allow its pilot to see 360 degrees around the aircraft through their helmet visor. Yes, that means they can even see through the floor of the cockpit if they needed to. How is that possible? The Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, also allows the pilot to “look through” the aircraft’s fuselage.

An interlinked system of six infrared cameras, the DAS is the pilot’s eyes on all sides of the aircraft. A simple turn of the head allows the pilot see the real-time landscape behind, above, or below him or her through the helmet visor. All the information pilots need for their mission – airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings – is projected on the visor, instead of on a traditional Head-up Display. It is truly a breakthrough technology that is redefining flight.

Still in the development stage of its operational career, the F-35 is setting new standards for military aviation and air superiority every day. From stealth to situational awareness to landing flexibility, it is unmatched by any other aircraft.

September 9, 2014