F-35 Variants

Three Variants, Common Capability

The F-35 family includes three variants – all single-seat jets: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier variant (CV).

The three F-35 variants have similar performance characteristics, and are mainly distinguished by their different basing requirements. As a result, the F-35B and F-35C variants have unique ways to take off and land.

The variation between models allows military forces to achieve service-specific mission capability, while still taking advantage the economies of scale that result from the parts and processes that are common to all three variants. All three variants are supersonic, low observable stealth fighters that all have the same advanced avionics required to execute multirole missions and the support of the F-35 sustainment technologies.


The F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant is designed to operate from conventional runways, and is the only version to carry an internal cannon. The F-35A will be the most prevalent variant of the F-35. The U.S. Air Force as well as the majority of our allied air forces and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) nations will operate the F-35A, replacing their 3rd and 4th generation aircraft.
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The F-35B model short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is designed to operate from austere, short-field bases and a range of air-capable ships operating near front-line combat zones. The F-35B can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways at major bases.
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For the first time in U.S. Naval aviation history, radar-evading stealth capability comes to the carrier deck. The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is the Navy’s first stealth fighter and the world’s only 5th Generation, long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built explicitly for aircraft carrier operations.
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