Tuesday, August 23, 2011

F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

The designation of fighter aircraft by "generations" began with the first subsonic jets toward the end of World War II. While never an official definition, such designations have been widely accepted for more than six decades, with each new generation typically reflecting a major advance in technology or capability. The first generation (mid-1940s through the mid-1950s) included the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (U.S.), de Havilland Vampire (U.K.), Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-9/-15/-17 (USSR), Shenyang J-2/J-5 (PRC), and Dassault Ouragan (France). Aside from speed, they were not significantly different from the last generation of advanced piston-driven fighters from World War II. The second generation (mid-'50s through early-'60s) was defined by supersonic speed and missile armament. Jets of that generation included the McDonnell Aircraft F-101 Voodoo (U.S.), English Electric Lightning (U.K.), Sukhoi Su-7/-9/-ll (USSR), Chengdu J-7 (PRC), and Dassault Mirage 111/5 (France). Third-generation fighters (1960s) focused on improved air-to-air missiles and analog avionics, while air combat over Vietnam showed dogfights were still part of the equation. It also saw a proliferation of nations and companies producing jet fighters, with representative aircraft including the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and Northrop F-5 (U.S.), BAE Harrier (U.K. - the first VSTOL jet), MiG-21/23/25 (USSR), Mitsubishi F-l (Japan), IAI Kfir (Israel), and Mirage Fl (France).