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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

F-35 Lightning II - last of the manned fighters?

F-35C Lightning IIWith the US Marine Corps set to declare initial operating capability for its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) before the end of July, many are again asking if there will ever be another manned fighter, or if the JSF truly is the last of its kind.

The history of military aviation is littered with false predictions pertaining to the demise of the traditional notion of the fighter aircraft. In the United States the Vought F-8 Crusader developed in the mid-1950s was nicknamed 'the last gunslinger' in the mistaken belief that all fighters to follow would carry missiles only.

The United Kingdom went one step further in 1957 when its Defence White Paper boldly stated that manned fighters would be replaced completely in the coming years by surface-to-air missiles; an erroneous projection that ultimately proved disastrous for the UK's defence aerospace sector.

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