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U.S. Navy version of Lockheed Martin F-35 makes first flight

The most advanced aircraft in the history of the United States Navy made its inaugural flight today, assuring a future of long-range, first-day-of-the-war stealth striking capability from the Navy's big-deck carriers. The first Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) F-35C Lightning II carrier variant took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base at 11:46 a.m. and logged a 57 min flight.

"I am thrilled the F-35C has attained this milestone," said Vice Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline, Commander of Naval Air Forces. "This flight marks the beginning of a new chapter in Naval Aviation. The mission systems in this aircraft will provide the Carrier Strike Group Commander with an unprecedented ability to counter a broad spectrum of threats and win in operational scenarios that our legacy aircraft cannot address.

"As a long-range, stealthy, carrier-based aircraft, the F-35C will provide Naval Aviators a fifth-generation fighter with the most advanced technology possible to perform our nation's missions. I look forward to the F-35C's continued progress, and observing developmental flight testing at Patuxent River later this summer," Kilcline said.

The F-35C is unique in its uncompromised carrier suitability, with a larger wing and control surfaces for safe, precise handling and low approach speeds to the carrier, excellent over-the-nose visibility, and additional structural strength for at-sea operations. The aircraft's stealth materials are designed to withstand harsh carrier conditions with minimal maintenance.

"For the first time ever, and from now on, wherever on the world's oceans we position a 98,000-ton nuclear carrier, we can launch a long-range, lethal, stealth strike fighter with the ability to defeat the most sophisticated air defenses," said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of F-35 Program Integration. "Today's flight marks the beginning of the true introduction of a next-generation weapon system capable of providing joint, coalition striking power on Day One, from both land and sea bases."

Today's mission was flown by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Jeff Knowles, a retired Naval Aviator and test pilot who flew F-14As and F-14Ds operationally, and who served as chief test pilot on the F-117 stealth fighter program.

Press release issued by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company on June 7, 2010


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