The first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was unveiled Friday at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Texas. Although prototypes, like the one shown here, have been tested for years, the first flight of the Lightning II is scheduled for this fall. — Photo by Tom Reynolds
With a nod to Air Force history, the service’s chief of staff has dubbed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter “Lightning II.”
Gen. T. Michael Moseley announced the decision Friday at the Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas, where the stealthy multi-role fighter is made. He based the decision on input received from airmen as well as the other services and coalition partners involved in the JSF program, said Maj. Glen Roberts, a spokesman for the general.
The P-38 Lightning, the JSF’s namesake, was designed in the late 1930s and was used during World War II. The Air Force’s top two aces, Richard Bong and Thomas McGuire, both flew the Lightning, amassing 78 kills between them in the plane, Roberts said.
The name also refers to a supersonic British jet called the Lightning, built in the 1950s by English Electric. English Electric eventually became BAE Systems, an industry partner on the program.
Moseley considered five other names: Mamba, Cyclone, Piasa, Reaper and Spitfire II.
Friday’s ceremony also marked the first public unveiling of the F-35A, the conventional take-off-and-landing variant. The aircraft rolled off the production line in February and has been involved in ground tests since, said Lockheed Martin F-35 spokesman John Kent.
First flight of the aircraft is scheduled for late October or early November, Kent added.