There have been a lot of sketchy claims made about the long-delayed, over-budget F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, history’s most expensive weapon program. But this one takes the cake. According to Stephen O’Bryan, a vice president at F-35-maker Lockheed Martin, the radar-evading jet fighter will actually get stealthier over time — without any upgrades.
To be clear, every other stealth warplane has steadily lost its ability to dodge enemy radars owing to wear and tear on the plane’s special skin coating. Not so the F-35, O’Bryan said.
In the latest issue of Air Force magazine, O’Bryan insisted the single-engine JSF, which is projected to cost a trillion dollars to develop, buy and maintain, is fundamentally different than its predecessors. “The surface material smooths out over time, slightly reducing the F-35’s original radar signature, according to the Lockheed Martin official,” John Tirpak wrote.
With the older F-22, B-2 and F-117 stealth warplanes, the opposite happened. All three of the previous models saw their surfaces gradually degrade and all required expensive upgrades just to maintain their radar-avoiding qualities at the original levels. In light of other empty promises Lockheed has made regarding the F-35, it’s highly unlikely the new jet will buck this historical trend.