F-35 Lightning makes airshow debut at AirVenture

F-35 Lightning makes airshow debut at AirVenture

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The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the fighter of the future for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, made its public air show debut at EAA AirVenture. The next generation fighter jet still in development phase.

U.S. Air Force F-35 relies on stealth and advanced sensors to carry out its missions.

“If we have an airplane that’s very hard to find on radar, it’s a game changer,” said Col. Chris Niemi, one the pilots at the show. “If they don’t know you are there, they can’t shoot at you.”

When the new jet roared its way onto the EAA AirVenture grounds this week, Ben Bryce scrambled to get a glimpse.

“We were in a tent when it flew in. We didn’t know it was flying in. By the time we sprinted out there, we got on the flight line. Watched it come in. It did a couple passes, it was an amazing plane,” said Ben Bryce, San Antonio, Texas.

The $104 million Air Force fighter jet made its civilian air show debut at EAA AirVenture. Air Force Colonel Chris Niemi was the pilot.

“We wanted to buy one airplane for all the services,” said Col. Chris Niemi, U.S. Air Force.

Lockheed Martin is building more than 3,100 F-35 jets for the United States and its allies.

“It allows us commonality. Not only between the services, but in the case with this airplane, with our partners as well,” said Niemi.

Neimi says the F-35 is heavily armed, and fully-computerized. But he says stealth technology may be the jet’s best defense.

“So if we have an airplane that’s very hard to find on radar, that’s a game-changer. Because if they don’t know you’re there, they can’t shoot at you,” said Niemi.

Niemi presented a forum on the F-35 to EAA visitors Thursday morning.

“It’s amazing. And that’s why it costs so much money, but it is an absolute phenomenal machine,” said Mike Beck, Chicago, Illinois.

“It makes you feel a little better, that they’re doing all this kind of stuff. And explaining where all the money is going, and what they have done over the years,” said Patricia Larson, Huntington Beach, California.

The F-35 has been in development for 18 years. Niemi says progress on the decades-long initiative takes time.

“It’s taking longer than I would personally like, because I am impatient. And I want to have the best equipment as soon as possible. It’s costing more than I would like, because I am a taxpayer, and I don’t want to have to spend more than I have to, but I’m confident, we’re on the path for success,” he said.

Niemi says the first F-35 should be combat-ready, within a year.

The F-35, a fifth-generation fighter, is the latest wave of fighters that also includes the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. Variants of the plane are expected to serve with the Air Force, Marines and Navy. A number of other countries, including the Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom, have also signed on to operate the aircraft.

The Lightning II will remain on the ground for the rest of AirVenture. It is scheduled to take off Monday.

The F-35 is expected to be in service for the next 40 to 50 years, beginning in the next few weeks when the U.S. Marine Corps starts operational use of the aircraft.

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