July 29, 2009 (by Eric L. Palmer) - A ceremony today at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant marked the rollout of the U.S. Navy's first-ever stealth fighter, the F-35C Lightning II.
F-35C rollout ceremony at Lockheed Martin on July 28th, 2009. [Photo by Keith Robinson
The aircraft will enable the Navy to possess 5th generation fighter capabilities at sea, extending America’s reach and reducing the timeline from threat to response.
Top Navy leadership, signal flags and a crowd of employees, including reserve and retired Navy personnel, were on hand to celebrate the strike fighter's unveiling. Adm. Gary Roughead, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, welcomed the new aircraft to the fleet.
will show the world that our Sailors will never be in a fair fight because this airplane will top anything that comes its way," Roughead said of the F-35. “It will give our Sailors and pilots the tactical and technical advantage in the skies, and it will relieve our aircraft as they age out.”
Tom Burbage, a former Navy test pilot and the vice president and general manager of F-35 Program Integration for Lockheed Martin, thanked Navy leadership for being fully engaged in the F-35's development and "actively working to define joint and coalition tactics that will exploit this platform in ways we've never envisioned. We at Lockheed Martin are both proud and humbled by the trust the U.S. Navy has placed with us to lead the development and introduction of the Navy’s newest stealthy, supersonic strike fighter."
The first F-35C, known as CF-1, will undergo a wide-ranging series of ground tests before its first flight, scheduled for late 2009. CF-1 is the ninth F-35 test aircraft to be rolled out, and joins a fleet of F-35A (conventional takeoff and landing) and F-35B (short takeoff/vertical landing) variants that have logged more than 100 flights.
The F-35C is on schedule to meet the Navy's Initial Operational Capability in 2015, and represents a leap in technology and capability over existing fighters, combining stealth with supersonic speed and high agility. The Lightning II employs the most powerful and comprehensive sensor package ever incorporated into a fighter.
The F-35C possesses uncompromised carrier suitability and low-maintenance stealth materials designed for long-term durability in the carrier environment. The Lightning II's operational and support costs are forecast to be lower than those of the fighters it will replace.