The F-35A is the smallest and lightest version of the generic F-35 Lightning II
The F-35A is a conventional take-off and landing version of the generic F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighter. The generic F-35 aircraft was proposed in three main variants, including the F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft, F-35B short-rake of and vertical landing aircraft and F-35C carrier-based aircraft. The F-35A was developed for the US Air Force (USAF). It is the smallest and lightest version of the F-35.
It was planned that these 3 variants of the F-35 will share about 80% of their parts to keep development and production costs low. This also would require less logistic support. However it turned out that by 2017 the design commonality was only 20%. Development of this aircraft was principally funded by the United States, while other partner governments provided additional funding.
Development program of the F-35 series was plagued by constant cost overruns. The F-35A will be the most numerous version of the F-35. In the USAFs service the F-35A will replace the A-10 and F-16 warplanes. Initial squadron of F-35As was combat ready in 2016. This conventional take-off and landing version is being exported to a number of countries, including Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Turkey, and possibly, some other countries. However some operators ordered relatively small number of these multi-role fighters due to its impressive price tag.
The generic F-35 has a configuration similar to that of Lockheed Martin’s own F-22 design, however it is slightly smaller and has one engine. Aircraft with a single engine is less expensive to produce and to service, but at a cost of reduced ωεɑρσռ load and performance. The F-35 exploits stealth technology, which reduces its radar cross-section and makes it harder to detect for radars.
Currently it is one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world. Only the F-22 Raptor is more capable. Also the F-35 is the second true 5th generation fighter after the F-22. Latest Chinese and Russian fighters such as Chengdu J-20 or Sukhoi Su-57 can not match the F-35 in terms of technology. Also the F-35A outperforms the F-16 lightweight multi-role fighter in terms of stealthiness, range, payload, avionics, survivability, and matches it in terms of maneuverability.
The F-35A multi-role fighter can perform on air defense missions, close air support and tactical bombing. It has a combined ωεɑρσռ payload of 8 160 kg in two internal ωεɑρσռ bays and on external hardpoints. The F-35A is compatible with AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-132 ASRAAM, JDAM, JSOW, Brimstone, WCMD, MBDA Meteor, and some other missiles.
It can carry a mix of 2 AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and 2 JDAM air-to-ground munitions in its internal ωεɑρσռ bays. For air superiority missions it can carry a mix of 8 AIM-120 AMRAAMs and 4 AIM-9X Sidewinders. Additional missiles, bombs or fuel tanks can be attached to external hardpoints. Wing tip pylons can also carry AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles. However external ωεɑρσռs are carried at the expense of being more detectable by radars. The F-35A is the only version of the F-35 with a built-in GAU-22/A four-barrel 25 mm cannon.
This aircraft is powered by a Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engine. This engine was developed from an F119 engine, used on the F-22 Raptor. It competed against an advanced General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine. Eventually the Pratt & Whitney engine was selected. So far it is the most powerful fighter engine ever developed. A version of this engine is also used on the F-35C carrier-based fighter. Though the F-35B STOVL fighter uses an additional special vertical lift system. The Lightning II is capable of cruising at supersonic speeds. This fighter has an in-flight refueling capability.
The F-35A is stuffed with the most advanced systems. Its key systems include a multi-function Active Electrically-Scanned Array (AESA) that combines radar, electronic ωɑɾʄɑɾε and communications functions and a conformal array imaging infrared sensor. Data from the various sensors is fused on the pilot’s advanced helmet-mounted display system.
F-35I Adir is a version for Israel. Essentially it is a baseline F-35A, but with some Israeli modifications. This multi-role fighter is fitted with Israeli electronic ωɑɾʄɑɾε system. It can use Israeli missiles and bombs. Israel ordered 50 of these fighters out of 75 planned. Deliveries began in 2016. This fighter became operational with the Israel Air Force in 2017. Soon after its introduction the Israeli F-35 fighters were used against targets in Syria.
These attacked targets that were close to Russia’s military bases. However Russia’s most capable air defense systems, including the S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, could not destroy any of the Israeli F-35s. The use of the F-35I in Syria revealed that this multi-role fighter is immune to the Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense system.