|F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with CFT's to improve range.|
The Joint Strike Fighter, which is being built by Lockheed Martin as the F35 Lightning II, will be known in UK service as the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) and will replace the RAF and RN’s Harriers from 2012. Although Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, the UK is a Level 1 partner with the US and a number of British companies, including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, will have extensive involvement in building and developing the aircraft.
The UK version will be a multirole fighter/attack aircraft designed to operate as a STOVL aircraft from land bases and from the next generation of aircraft carriers being built for the RN. This will give the UK a world-beating land-based and sea-based joint expeditionary air power capability well into the middle of the Century. When the JCA enters service, it will be able to operate in all weathers, by day and by night, for defence of the fleet and for the offensive air support of ground forces. This support will range from close air support to long-range interdiction, as well as anti-surface warfare and tactical reconnaissance. The aircraft will offer several advantages over the Harrier: supersonic flight, improved survivability, internal and external weapons carriage, an increased range and easier supply and maintenance.
|External weapons carriage by F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.|
The JCA design applies stealth technology techniques and, to minimise its radar signature, the airframe has identical sweep angles for the leading and trailing edges of the wing and tail, and incorporates sloping sides for the fuselage and the canopy. As a further signature reduction measure, the seam of the canopy and the weapon-bay doors are saw-toothed and the vertical tails are canted at an angle. To achieve the smallest signature possible the aircraft will have the ability to carry a range
of weapons internally, rather than carried underneath the aircraft as in current fighters.
The main radar system will be a newly developed, electronically scanned array multi-function radar with synthetic aperture capabilities. Targeting information will be supplied by an electro-optical system, which will provide long-range detection and precision targeting by employing thermal imaging, laser tracking and marking, and a forward-looking Infrared system. The aircraft’s systems will also provide navigation, missile warning and Infrared search and track capability.