New military aircraft get their official nicknames and with time they receive an unofficial nickname from the ranks. Some unofficial nicknames like the A-10 Warthog or the B-52 BUFF stick. Others like the B-2 Boomerang don’t catch on quite as well.
Last month, a panel of F-35 pilots were asked at a Navy conference in San Diego if the Joint Strike Fighter has received an unofficial nickname yet. The F-35’s official nickname is the Lightning II.
Recognizing the gravity of the moment, a colonel in the audience yelled out to the panel, “here’s your chance to make history.”
Navy Cmdr. Luke Barradell, the fleet integration team and operations officer for Carrier Air Group Eleven, didn’t flinch. He said the F-35 pilots and aircrews would like the Joint Strike Fighter to be called the Reaper. He said the Lightning II wasn’t intimidating enough. The other three pilots on the panel nodded in approval. None of them disagreed.
Of course, Reaper is the official nickname of the RQ-9, the Air Force’s large scale drone. Not sure how that gets settled.
Considering the attention the F-35 has had received throughout its development, it’s likely there are other underground nicknames being brainstormed for the aircraft.