F-35 fighter added to Melbourne Air & Space Show lineup
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds to headline event
MELBOURNE, Fla. – An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will soar above the city as one of the headline attractions during the upcoming Melbourne Air & Space Show — and the rarely seen stealth jet will taxi within 300 feet of the crowd line before and after takeoff.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are the feature performers at the air show, which takes place April 1-2 at Orlando Melbourne International Airport, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
The aerobatic lineup also features the French Air Force Patrouille de France demonstration team's first U.S. performance in more than 30 years. Other aircraft include the GEICO Skytypers and a Royal Air Force Sea Harrier, Navy F-18F Super Hornet, T-33 jet fighter, B-25 "Panchito" and various civilian performers.
Bryan Lilley, air show chairman, labeled the upcoming event “the Super Bowl of air shows.”
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a single-seat, single-engine stealth fighter that is entering service after more than two decades of development. The controversial fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attack, aerial intelligence and air defense missions.
"I think it's really big for us. That aircraft really has been rarely seen to this point. This is almost like a sneak peek, or a preview opportunity, for the public to see it," Lilley said.
The F-35 will also fly alongside a P-51 Mustang during a "heritage flight" showcasing the past and future of Air Force technology. On the tarmac, a 17-acre area will host an array of parked military and civilian aircraft on static display.
President Donald Trump blasted the $400 billion F-35 program in a December tweet: "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" he wrote.
In January, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered the Pentagon to launch a review on how to cut costs from the F-35 program — the Pentagon’s costliest weapons-buying effort in history, USA Today reported.
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