The Experimental Aircraft Association‘s yearly Airventure Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin had some special guests this year, as the astronomically expensive, often-delayed, and much-hyped F-35A Lightning II made its commercial airshow debut.
The F-35 sped past crowds during several extremely low flybys. The F-35’s agility was on display as it slowed into its approach with landing gear lowered. Then, as if the pilot had a sudden change of heart, the engines roared back to life, the gear retracted, and the F-35 rapidly climbed again.
The Air Force’s F-35A may have impressed its civilian audience this summer. But the epicly expensive new weapons platform still has a ways to go before it’s combat ready. The estimated $US1.5 trillion weapons project has been rife with cost overruns and delays. As the plane nears completion it still isn’t clear that the F-35 is really an improvement over existing fighter jets, some of which were designed in the 1970s.
Several features of the plane have come in for criticism, including its overly complicated and not-particularly useful $US400,000 helmet, which is oversized and limits visibility; and its onboard cannon, which doesn’t hold much ammunition compared to earlier close-air support aircraft. The F-35 apparently can’t outmaneuver the much older F-16 in a dogfight, either.
Despite the F-35’s shortcomings, it looks like the plane will soon become a reality for the Air Force.
Here’s video of the F-35’s appearance in Oshkosh:
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