F-35 Lightning Fleet Rapidly Catching Up to F-16s, Components Delivery Picks Up the Pace

At the time of writing, the largest fleet of fighter aircraft deployed by the American military is the F-16 Fighting Falcon one. It took this particular airplane almost half a century to rise to the status of most widespread of its kind, but the competition is quickly gaining on it.
F-35 Lightning ii 13 photos
F-35A Lightning II at Thunder and Lightning Over ArizonaF-35A Lightning II on vertical ascentF-35 Lightning buzzing the CN TowerF-35A Lighting IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35 LightningF-35A Lightning IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35 Lightning cruising subsonic into the sunsetF-35A Lightning II demo team schedule
Introduced back in 2006, hence much younger than the F-16, the F-35 is making a run for the top spot. As per the numbers of last year, when the F-35 fleet gained 61 units, the fifth-generation aircraft is now rapidly gaining up on the F-16.

The USAF, for instance, plans to have in all over 1,700 F-35A variants, and the rapid pace with which it is moving toward that number can be seen in the size and speed of component deliveries.

British defense contract BAE Systems is the one making several components for the F-35, including some of the most important, like the vehicle management computer (VMC) and active inceptor system (AIS).

Since production began, says the company, 3,000 VMCs and 1,000 AISs have been produced, milestones that were both reached this month. Presently, BAE Systems assembly lines spit out 25 VMC shipsets and 19 AIS shipsets per month.

The VMC is described by its maker as the component that gives F-35s computing power for the digital fly-by-wire flight control and utility systems, including fuel, electrical, and hydraulics.

The AIS is the one responsible with allowing the pilot to maneuver the plane. It comprises the inceptor control unit, active side stick controller, and active quadrant throttle assembly, and it’s capable of providing tactical feedback.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) spends $78 million for each of these airplanes, according to Forbes, while the total estimated lifecycle cost for the family (including operation and maintenance) is estimated at over $1.5 trillion.

The F-35 is expected to remain operational until 2070.

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