F-35 Lightning Gets Vapor Skirt, Still Looks Like a Killer

I know, it’s hard to imagine a machine, especially one meant for killing, wearing a skirt, but that’s exactly the impression one gets when seeing this F-35 Lightning, aggressive yet with its waist covered in a fluffy accumulation of mist.
F-35A Lightning II at Wings over South Texas air show 18 photos
Photo: USAF/Staff Sgt. Codie Trimble
F-35A Lightning II at Wings over South Texas air show42 F-35A Lightning IIs on massive elephant walkF-35 Lightning II on hot pit refueling in JapanF-35A Lightning IIs over the UKF-35A Lightning IIs on an elephant walkF-35A Lightning II with the 495th Fighter SquadronF-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 sunset
The F-35 before your eyes is one we’ve seen before here on autoevolution. It’s flown by Major Kristin Wolfe, the pilot and commander of the special demonstration team for the plane, and it was a constant presence in our Photo of the Day section last year. As the 2022 air show season opened, the pilot and her beast are back at it, promising to bring both the aircraft and its capabilities under the spotlight at air shows across the nation.

As depicted here, the plane was flying for the Wings over South Texas air show at Naval Air Station Kingsville in the same state, at the beginning of April. The vapor skirt that wraps around its rear end is in fact nothing but visible water condensed in a cloud. These things tend to form at times, when the conditions are right and the aircraft moves at very high speeds.

The fifth-generation fighter, in its F-35A Lightning II configuration, like we have it here, is capable of flying at Mach 1.6, which is about 1,200 mph (1,931 kph). True, most of the time demo planes never go past the sound barrier at air shows, but that is not necessarily required for vapor cones to form.

This particular pilot seems to make these occurrences a constant feature of the show, as we’ve seen images of this exact F-35 pulling off such a stunt before, and we’ll probably see it do it some more.

The next appearance of the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team is scheduled for May 7, at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows various F-35s.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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