The U.S. Marine Corps variant of Lockheed Martin Corp's US$70 Mn a pop F-35B fighter jet, with Pratt and Whitney engines took it's first (44 minute) flight on Wednesday, Taking a conventional take-off and landing, it climbed to 15,000 feet (4,572 metres) for a series of handling, engine and other systems checks.
The US$300Bn program is the world's largest (well costliest) military program and should eventually produce 3 versions Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. The B version will be bought by the Royal Navy at a cost of £1.8Bn. for the two £3Bn (well at least £6Bn because they will overun budgets by 100% and be delayed 5 years) Aircraft Carriers now put into production.
The Pentagon estimates the overall F-35 program, including research and development, will cost $298.8 billion. Each plane is forecast to cost almost $70 million, based on plans for the U.S. military to buy 2,443 F-35 fighter jets through 2034.
The single-seat, single-engine fighter, designed to be based nearer front lines, is expected to be in the field in 2012. Graham Tomlinson, a former British military pilot, was the controls of the jet, guiding up to an altitude of 15,000 feet where he tested the F-35B's handling, engine-power variations and subsystems.