MIRAMAR, Calif-San Diego is home to some of the nation’s best pilots, and in the next few years, the Pentagon’s most elite plane will be stationed here. It’s called the F-35 and very few people, including those in the military, have seen the jet first hand.
FOX-5 was granted an exclusive look at the plane before the Miramar Airshow in October. The plane flew in from Arizona and was only in San Diego for a few hours. It never returned because the Airshow was cancelled due to the government shutdown.
The F-35 is faster than speed of sound and the most technologically advanced aircraft ever, according to the military.
“With its mission systems, flight controls and stealth technology, it’s a step above anything else out there,” said Captain Jack Kronan, USMC.
Capt. Kronan is one of a dozen pilots who fly the F-35 in the entire country. He is based out of Yuma, AZ, the site of the only operational squadron in the U.S.
“Sitting on the ground, the plane is cool, but the abilities that the F-35 brings to the Marine Corp and Department of Defense allow us much better capabilities as far as supporting marines on the ground,” said Capt. Kronan.
The F-35 is really three planes in one. It combines the F-18 Hornet, the Harrier and the Prowler.
“This plane brings the air-to-air role with the F-18, the air to surface that the Harrier provides and the electronic attack capabilities of the Prowler,” explained Capt. Kronan.
The Pentagon recently closed a deal with the jet’s maker, Lockheed Martin, for 71 more F-35’s worth an estimated $8B. There are three versions of the plane for each branch of the military. The F-35A is the Air Force, the F-35B is the Marines and the F-35C is for the Navy.
The United States isn’t the only country acquiring the jet. South Korea will likely be the eighth nation to commit to buying the aircraft, joining the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Australia, Norway, Israel and Japan.
The marines at M-C-A-S Miramar are expected to be in the cockpit by 2017, according to the military.