May 18, 2006 (by Jeff Hollenbeck) - Wild speculation still surrounds the official name to be given to the world's newest stealth fighter jet, but not for long. While the options are still closely guarded secrets, the F-35 should have it's official name by the end of June 2006.
JSF AA-1 back in the main hangar. [LMTAS photo]
Unlike the F-111 which only received its official name, "Aardvark", after its final flight, the Pentagon wants to name the F-35 before the first flight of the first production representative prototype, aircraft AA-1 later this year.
The F-35 has some big shoes to fill when it enters service later this decade. Replacing such aircraft for different nations as the Sea Harrier for Great Britain and the venerable F-16 Fighting Falcon, the F-35's name will likely be a point of contention among many aviation enthusiasts for several years to come.
In a name suggestion poll on F-16.net
, "Phoenix" is the leading choice with "Kestral" and "Griffon" following closely behind.
While the Air Force may announce an official name before the first flight, the name the pilots and maintainers bestow upon the aircraft will take a while longer to surface. The F-16 is known by its pilots and crews as the "Viper
", the F-14 is the "Turkey
", and the F-4 was the "Rhino", "Double Ugly" or "Flying Brick."
While I voted for "Cougar," only time will tell what name the F-35 will carry into battle for the next three to five decades.