December 15, 2006 - The F-35 Lightning II (right) takes off on its first operation flight as part of its systems development testing. Designed by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is the production model of the X-35 prototype that emerged from the Joint Strike Fighter Program of the late 1990s/early 2000s. Competing against the Boeing X-32, the X-35 won the competition and was selected for production. The aircraft will be used by the US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps and is designed to fulfill close air support, tactical bombing, and air-to-air roles. As a result, the F-35 will be replacing a myriad of aircraft such as the F-16, A-10, F-18, and AV-8. Designed in conjunction with the United Kingdom, the F-35 will also see service with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Other nations planning on deploying the F-35 include Italy, Australia, Turkey, and Israel. The aircraft will be produced in three variants including conventional takeoff, short takeoff/vertical landing, and carrier.
Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force