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A Plane for All Missions
The F-35 Lightning is an introductory-level Metal Earth model with just 13 pieces on one sheet of metal. All of the instructions fit in one picture. A shrunken-down picture of the instructions is provided here so you can see what you're getting into. The Lightning comes in different versions for each US armed service.
Each Metal Earth model is laser etched in meticulous detail on one, two, or three 11 cm (4.33") metal sheets. Pop out the pieces by hand (or use wire cutters to get especially crisp lines), bend the tabs using needle-nose pliers, and fit them together as shown in the simple pictorial instructions. Metal Earth models are a little less challenging than our 3D wooden puzzles, but you do need some patience and dexterity because they're also much smaller. For maximum dramatic effect, display your model on the LED Display Base or the Solar Spinner (sold separately, see below).
Please note that Metal Earth models have sharp edges and are not suitable for children under 14.
Are you curious...?
Currently finishing up its testing and design phases, the F-35 Lightning will come in three main flavors: The F-35A (our model) is a conventional takeoff and landing aircraft; the F-35B will be short-takeoff and vertical landing; and the F-35C will be a carrier-based variant that uses a catapult-assisted takeoff and arrested landing. The US expects to save a lot money by adapting the same airframe for a wide range of missions, as well as for export versions. Unlike its predecessor the F-22 Raptor, this fifth-generation stealth fighter is intended primarily for ground attack, air defense, and aerial reconnaissance missions rather than dogfights. The F-35 first flew in 2006.
The F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in US history and has come in for a lot of criticism. By 2014 it was $163 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule. That might be acceptable if everybody admired its capabilities, but those are controversial, too. Critics say that the flexible design parameters prevent it from exceling at any one mission. A 2013 report listed flaws including inadequate software, poor feedback on the touchscreen controls, dysfunctional radar, failed ejection seats, and replacing its single engine takes 52 hours instead of the specified two hours. What's worse, in 2014 China deployed a portable radar system specifically designed to defeat the F-35's stealth. Not only can't the plane fight very well, it can't hide, either. Despite all of these setbacks and controversy, the US still plans to buy 2,457 F-35s between now and 2037. So much time and money and political effort has been spent that the F-35 program is "too big to kill."
Since the F-35 replaces the F-22, why isn't it designated the F-23? Because the F-35's design is based on the X-35 prototype that won the Joint Strike Fighter competition.