F-35 Lightning Makes Public Airshow Debut at AirVenture // July 24, 2015

With a guttural roar, the newest fighter plane in the United States military’s inventory made its entrance at AirVenture 2015.

The visit by a pair of F-35 Lightning IIs, a stealthy multi-role fighter, is hailed as the first appearance at a public airshow by an aircraft that has been been both lauded and questioned during its development. The U.S. Marine Corps is on the verge of using the aircraft operationally in the coming weeks.

The pair of U.S. Air Force F-35s from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida arrived at AirVenture 2015 mid-day Wednesday and is making appearances throughout the convention.

The aircraft relies on stealth and advanced sensors to carryout 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.”

Pilots and program backers said the F-35 represents the cutting-edge of aerial combat technology and is reshaping the way strategists think about air power. But the program has faced a prolonged development and been the subject of criticism for issues ranging from reliability of some parts and systems to procurement and projected operational costs.

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 Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom, have also signed on to operate the aircraft.

It’s not the first time Bob DuLaney has seen the transition from one generation of fighter to another. The retired U.S. Air Force Major General witnessed the change from the F-4 Phantom to the F-16, a plane he said had its share of critics initially but has become ubiquitous over its service life.

“It’s a quantum leap in capability … It’s almost like going from props to jets. It’s that big of a change,” said DuLaney, who now carries the title of F-35 Customer Engagement for Lockheed Martin. “We designed this airplane so software changes are going to be easy to keep this plane relevant for the next 50 years.

Read the full article from the Oshkosh Northwestern.