20 Inspiring Photos That Prove The F-35 Is The Most Powerful Fighter on Earth


Yes, the F-35 surely is one controversial stealth fighter, even after countless successful milestones met and nations lining up all over the world to purchase it. Yes, the program will cost over $1 trillion over its entire multi-decade operational service lifespan. But there is a clear reason for that. The plan is to build roughly 2,500 of these stealth fighters, making them the backbone of the U.S. military, and many other air forces around the planet. The era of the fourth-generation fighter is over, and the F-35 fills a very clear need for the U.S. and its allies.

I for one have been on the record for several years now supporting this critical program. We don’t live in a world anymore where U.S. air power will always fight unopposed in the sky. We are used to – and have been spoiled by, in a sense –  seeing U.S. warplanes fight enemies like ISIS where we can dominate and attack at will from above.

That won’t always be the war we fight, in fact, that era is coming to an end. In a world where great power competition is the reality for U.S. warfighters, Russia and China surely will make sure that their air-defense capabilities are robust and dangerous. The war in Ukraine surely proves that point.

With that said, here is what I would like to call a visual tour that is all things F-35. While we can surely debate like reasonable people the capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, no one can argue against its sheer beauty.

During my decade-plus career in journalism and in national security think tanks, I have edited and written countless pieces on this warplane. Here is a collection of 30 great photos that I have always been inspired by that detail the sophistication and technological savvy that has made this stealth fighter truly special.

The F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, pictured during the Inauguration, held at Lockheed Martin Corporation Facility at Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base (NAS/JRB) Fort Worth, Texas (TX). Expected to be the largest military aircraft procurement in modern times, the stealth, supersonic F-35 (JSF) is a fifth generation, supersonic, multi-role stealth fighter designed to replace aging aircraft.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), also known as the “Green Knights”, is a United States Marine Corps aircraft squadron operating the F-35B Lightning II. The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW). Their tail code is VK and their radio call sign is “Combat”.

An F-35A Lightning II fighter jet takes off from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 11, 2018. Night flying training operations are conducted to ensure F-35 pilots can fully operate in a night time setting. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Wongwai).

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a high-speed pass during the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto, Sept. 1, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook)

A British Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning (s/n ZM148) of No. 617 Squadron RAF lands aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) in the Atlantic Ocean on 17 October 2019. HMS Queen Elizbeth was deployed in support of exercise “WESTLANT 19”, which involved mission planning, arming the aircraft using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, flying missions and debriefing on completion. The first operational deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth with No. 617 Squadron RAF and a squadron of U.S. Marine Corps Lightnings is planned for 2021.

Capt. Andrew Olson, F-35 Demonstration Team commander, climbs out of an F-35A Lightning II following an aerial performance during the 2019 Wings Over Wayne Airshow April 27, 2019, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. During the two-day event, more than 200,000 air show guests attended the WOW Airshow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook).

The sun sets behind an Australian F-35A Lighting II at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., June 27, 2018. The first Australian F-35 arrived at Luke in December, 2014. Currently six Australian F-35’s are assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron where their pilots train alongside U.S. Air Force pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham) Note: This image was created by placing a reflective surface in front of the the camera lens.

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares to join formation while en route to Turku, Finland, June 13, 2019. The F-35A flew alongside two Finnish F-18 Hornet aircraft as part of a Theater Security Package. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jovante Johnson)

F-35 Lockheed Martin photo by Mandie Harwell, Damien Guarnieri and David Key.

BF-18, Flt, Major Raven “Rost” LeClair, First External ASRAAM Flight, Edwards AFB, Ca., 8 July 2016

F-35 Air-2-Air Super Scenario, AF-3 Marine Beast, AF-182, Amber, AF-184 Scar, LCL/ISB with three F-16s from Skulls(A/C-169 Worm, A/c-391 Cuda/Kim, A/C-392 Case) F-35 ITF Edwards AFB, Ca., 29 January 2020

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company – Fort Worth – Chris Hanoch; Subject: PHOTO Only: Denmark F-35 Delivery Ceremony_Aircraft Build/Assembly/Flight Documentation; FP#: 20-08147; POC:Anthony Salvo; Other info: AP-1 high power engine run in RS 13, 3-3-21, APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE BY ANGEL DELCUETO

Lockheed Martin Fort Worth Texas Photo by Angel DelCueto.

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