F-35 Lightning: The US military's frontline fighter jet

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“With a single F-35 and the capability that it brings to the pilot, you can identify almost anything that’s out there.”

F-35 Lightning: The US military's frontline fighter jet

Story by Straight Arrow News

In this episode of Weapons and Warfare, buckle up to explore the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Lightning, the United States’ newest fifth-generation fighter. Built by Lockheed Martin and operated by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, the F-35 is poised to be the frontline fighter for the next quarter-century.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook

Since its induction into service in 2015, the F-35 has secured its position as a crucial component of the United States’ primary line of defense.

Beyond its role in national security, the advanced avionics of the F-35 have proven instrumental in enhancing pilot capabilities, enabling them to achieve heightened proficiency at an accelerated pace.

Straight Arrow News’ Ryan Robertson spoke with Tony “Brick” Wilson, a retired Navy aviator and current Lockheed Martin F-35 test pilot, to understand what makes the jet such a formidable force.

“With a single F-35 and the capability that it brings to the pilot, you can identify almost anything that’s out there,” Wilson said.

F-35 pilots now benefit significantly from advanced technology that provides them with a clearer understanding of the battlefield. This advancement renders traditional dogfights essentially obsolete.

“If I have the capability to find, fix and track an aircraft to include what its identification is, then I can pick the best tactic to solve that tactical challenge, long before this threat ever knows that I’m even there,” Wilson said.

The aircraft itself isn’t the sole technological leap making life in the cockpit more manageable. Helmets, too, play a crucial role.

“If you’d asked me or told me when I first started flying about this helmet, I would have been like, ‘This is something out of Star Wars,'” Wilson said. “The capability I see today, I can only imagine and get excited about what’s in the future with this helmet.”

In the realm of movies, when asked about the most unrealistic pilot depiction in Hollywood, Wilson pointed to “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“When they said we couldn’t send in fifth-gen. Right, because of X, Y, or Z. It was completely fake news,” he said. “The reason Maverick Top Gun didn’t use the F-35 was because it would have made the movie boring. They would have launched off the carrier, they would have picked their way through the threat, they would have put the bomb on the target and come back undetected.”

Access the full episode here.