How The World's Most Expensive Piece Of Military Hardware Got Its Name

F-35Lockheed MartinAn F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft flies behind a tanker on a mission over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in September 2013.

The world’s most expensive piece of military equipment, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, is edging towards operability after two decades of research and design. In 2006, the first F-35 rolled out of a high-security plant in Fort Worth, Texas, although the plane is still far from battle-ready.

F35 factoryLockheed MartinF-35 assembly plant.

“Spitfire II,” “Black Mamba,” and “Cyclone” were just a few of the rumoured names for the trillion-dollar plane.

In July of 2006, Lockheed, alongside the US Air Force, announced the new F-35 jets would be named “Lightning II” in homage to the aerial combat legacy of two former fighter jets.

“This aircraft represents the fruits of lessons learned over a hundred years of flight and aerial combat. We’re excited about bringing it into our inventory, and warfighters around the globe are excited about flying it in defence of freedom,” then-US Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley said at the naming ceremony.

The World War II-era Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the UK’s Electric Lightning are the two specific systems credited for the name.

P38 lockheed martinLockheed MartinLockheed Martin’s P-38 Lightning.

According to Lockheed the P-38 “shot down more Japanese aircraft than any other fighter and, as a reconnaissance aircraft, obtained 90 per cent of the aerial film captured over Europe.”

Approximately 10,000 were built during World War II, flying more than 130,000 missions around the globe.

English electric lightning jetWikipediaEnglish Electric’s Lightning.

The UK’s English Electric, a company now called BAE Systems, developed “The Lightning” in the mid-1950s. It was the world’s first aircraft to “supercruise,” orbreak the sound barrier without employing its afterburners. The jet’s top-speed was estimated at 1,500 miles per hour.

Currently, there are three variants of the F-35 fighter jet. The first version of the aircraft is expected to be combat-ready by mid-2015, Reuters reports. But the program has been beset with delays and cost overruns, and the plane’s debut has been pushed back several times before.

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