Thinking of Buying an F-35 Fighter Jet? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Lockheed Martin continues to see orders dropping for its F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the most advanced – and likely the most costly – fighter jet in history. But there’s a silver lining for any keen negotiator as this could be your opportunity to shave tens of millions off the sticker price of a brand new private jet.
However, assuming you pass the clearance check – and the clearance of your cheque – you will have to be mindful of a few pitfalls. As with all aircraft, the purchase cost is not the major hurdle, it’s the operating costs. Let’s call this the after-sales cash-burner or, appropriately, the “after-burner.” So those millions in savings you managed to fast-talk the showroom General out of might just have to be kept in reserve. The experienced pilot knows that the lurking danger is in the fuel costs, hangarage, insurance, and maintenance and inspection costs (oh, and, uh, armaments), which could run a few after-burned million per year.
One of the most celebrated features of the F-35 is its heritage as a Stealth aircraft. While this functions well during combat, it may be self-defeating for the pilot when requesting routine radar traffic services from ATC, which would be of little use. When flying under normal ‘visual flight rules’ it is prohibited to enter any controlled airspace without having radar contact by the tower. Well, you’d be flying under ‘invisible flight rules’ so who’d know?
Many towns nearby to Air Force bases are also protesting against the presence of the F-35 due to its increased noise profile, which will make it more difficult to find parking. To avoid the tedious noise-abatement procedures – and in the good form of Amazon’s cross-selling tactic noting “customers who bought this item also bought this” – you may wish to consider buying a Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier. But be sure to look for the F-35B or F-35C model options which are the vertical takeoff and carrier-landing versions (respectively) of the airplane.
During my time selling jets I came across another ironic problem. The Hawker 4000 was the latest and genuinely most advanced corporate jet on the market, but it was new and therefore nobody had one. This meant that references were hard to come by and parts and maintenance facilities even harder. Cleverly for the F-35 Lockheed Martin has this covered. The aircraft’s very nature as a “joint” strike fighter and future NATO aircraft ensure the easy sharing and cross-warehousing of all parts and components – just don’t keep requisitioning replacement ammunition (go to the Texas distributor for that).
Some civilian modifications would have to be considered by Lockheed Martin first. The allowable baggage space is akin to a micro-light, or a Ryanair flight. But the F-35s two internal weapon bays designed for the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile are conveniently sized to be adapted with sufficient luggage capacity for a surfboard and a spare suit for your executive lunch meeting in Benghazi.
Eventually all military aircraft make their way to the civilian market. The carrier-based bomber I used to work on in the Navy, long ago decommissioned, sits in museums and private collections. The P-51 Mustang is a frequent winner at the Reno Air Races in the USA, and we are all still inspired by the Spitfires that grace the skies at air shows. No doubt the time will come for the F-35 as well. So contact your local Lockheed Martin dealership now because it will likely go into surplus before it hits operational readiness. And always ask if there’s a discount on a demonstrator aircraft with some miles.
Jeff Zaltman is an experienced pilot and aviation entrepreneur who organises international air races and world championships. He was formerly an Air Warfare Specialist and Avionics Engineer in the US Navy and a Sales Director for Hawker Beechcraft in Central and Eastern Europe.
For more info on the F-35, visit the Lockheed Martin website www.lockheedmartin.com.