• The R1.7 billion F-35 is the most advanced fighter jet put in the air as yet, but it has been plagued with delays, cost overruns and questions about its fitness for modern warfare.
  • The US Navy gave journalists a rare chance to see what it can do.
  • A report found almost a thousand technical issues to be fixed, including a helmet that may hinder a pilot's vision to a stealth-coating that might melt in the heat of supersonic flight.
  • In May, Israel became the first country to use the stealth fighter in combat.


The F-35 is the most advanced fighter jet ever put in the air, but it has been the Pentagon’s trillion dollar trouble child – following years of delay, cost overruns and questions about its fitness for modern warfare.

Now, the next-generation plane is finally getting the chance to show what it can do with a test, in real world conditions.

The US Navy gave journalists a rare chance to see its version of the single-seat F-35 being tested for battle.

This round of tests, called "fleet integration", is designed to prove these F35s - priced at $120 million (around R1.7 billion) each- will work well with other jets in the thick of battle.

Lockheed Martin won the chance to develop the plane, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, in the early 2000s, imagining a radar-evading craft - combining unparalleled firepower with advanced electronics to meet the growing threat from China and Russia.

But the project has been plagued with obstacles. A watchdog report found almost a thousand technical issues to be fixed, including a helmet that may hinder a pilot's vision to a stealth-coating that might melt in the heat of supersonic flight.

But the Navy is hoping the years spent fixing these problems will finally pay off.

In May, Israel became the first country to use the stealth fighter in combat.

40 F-35s are due to land in Norway, Britain and Italy by the end of the year, with the first Dutch jets by 2019 and the first US jets by 2021.

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