It’s official: after years of costly delays, the long-awaited F-35A Lightning fighter jet is ready for take off.
The U.S. Air Force has confirmed that the joint strike fighter passed all preliminary tests and has reached a development stage where it is now ready for combat. The F-35 program is the most expensive in history, at about $4 billion. And the U.S. Air Force will operate with more than 1,700 of these bad boys.
"I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability," said General Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, according to CNN.
"The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield."
So what makes the Lightning so badass? The ace fighter has the ability to detect enemy aircraft and other threats far beyond current ranges, destroy enemy air defenses, and deploy and conduct operational missions using a program of record weapons and missions systems. Carlisle also emphasized the fighter’s stealth, electronic warfare and sensor fusion capabilities.
“The F-35 will form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades and enable warfighters to see adversaries first and take decisive action," he added.
The contract to build the fleet was won by Lockheed Martin 15 years ago. The Air Force is the largest buyer of the aircraft, snatching up 1,763 of the 2,443 aircraft being produced.
The F-35A also represents a huge chunk of Lockheed Martin’s revenue—reportedly 21 percent of the company’s $12.9 billion net sales during the second quarter.
Want to see more of this ultra-expensive beast? Check out the video above: