Pentagon Considers Showcasing F-35 at Farnborough Air Show

Pentagon leaders are deciding whether to allow the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to make its international air show debut this summer outside London at the Farnborough Air Show and the Royal International Air Tattoo, according to a Reuters report.

Defense analysts expect Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to green light a summer trip to London for the F-35 in order to demonstrate to allies the potential capabilities of the stealth jet. South Korea is expected to sign a $6.8 billion contract to buy 40 F-35s.

Allowing Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor building the F-35, to showcase the fifth generation fighter outside London could build support for the coalition of nations already on track to buy F-35s. Canada and Denmark are reported re-evaluating how many F-35s, if any, these U.S. allies might buy, according to the Reuters report.

The F-35B is the likely model that would be displayed. Three F-35Bs have already been built for the British.

The F-35’s performance at Farnborough would be a boon to the international air show circuit. Last year, the U.S. left their fighter jets at home during the Paris Air Show because of budget cuts connected to sequestration. America’s absence allowed Russia to steal the show as Su-35 performances dominated the headlines for the week.

Farnborough and Paris are the top European air shows. The shows rotate every other year so neither one falls on the same year. This year’s Farnborough Air Show will be July 14-20. will have a team on site to witness the potential F-35 performances first hand for Defense Tech and the rest of’s properties.

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Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Uncle Bill

    Showcase them in Ukraine.

  • Lance

    Good now the world can laugh at this pathetic piece of garbage if we want to show American missile why not the F-22? ohh that’s right Obama eliminated permanently production of the 5th gen fighter that works.

  • JohnB

    The F-35B STOVL Lightning II was always going to be a great plane for airshows. At least that’s what USAF has always maintained.

  • Tiger

    You don’t sell plans by not showing up to the top air shows. Result? Last year we stayed home from the big shows and lost some deals.

    • Dfens

      You mean Dubai?

  • Superraptor

    With a cold war with Russia in the making we need more of everything including new F 22s and new tactical nukes of which Russia keeps thousands on their ships versus 0 for US warships. And we need a bigger defense budget even if it means raising taxes. Stop the GOP from destroying our military through sequestration

  • oblatt22

    They will have to put the F-35 after the C-130 display so it can wow the crowds with those 4G turns and poor transonic acceleration. They should at least be able to fit in a few passes before a major system failure.

    In the static display people can marvel at the small payload capability bad visibility and shoddy all round workmanship. Let s hope they have the full range weapons for it there to - including the 40 odd ones that will be obsolete by the time they manage to integrate them.

    I bet Sukhoi would even pay to bring it over for the show.

  • syntaxerror9

    F-35B STOVL for an airshow: The only F-35 version usefull for the only mission it can perform!

  • BlackOwl18E

    I’m pretty sure the Russians think the F-35 is a joke, especially compared to the Su-35.

  • hibeam

    The F-35 Compromise. Hopefully we can learn from it. If you need a sports car and a pickup truck you need a two car garage.

  • d. kellogg

    “…in order to demonstrate to allies the potential capabilities of the stealth jet…”

    potential capabilities?

    Somehow I’m seeing that GEICO commercial about Pinnochio being a bad motivational speaker…
    “I look around this room and I see a lot of potential! YOU have potential, and… (nose grows)…Oh dear….”

  • Big-Dean

    “to demonstrate to allies the potential capabilities”????
    they must be bringing a giant screen for the power point presentation LOL

  • Rob C.

    I’m glad their going to show off the F-35, I saw a mockup of the plane on the last cruise of the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). They need keep the plane out there so they keep people seeing it works, even if it trying too many things at once.

    F-35 should strictly have been VTOL and they should either kept the F-18E/F/G in production until real combatant could be produced. Multifunction fighters aren’t as good as advertised.

    • blight_

      They are pretty good until you get ahead of yourself. DAS and new electronics are probably putting us over in cost versus some kind of initial capability that would probably have to be extensively reworked to begin with. Those costs are sunk and cutting the build won’t get rid of those costs.

  • mpower6428

    I am all for the US repeating the success of the F-16 ( hell, id settle for the F-5 at this point) but, it would help if we could make a jet that actually worked.

  • Hialpha

    I’m sure it will get the “green light” and I’m equally sure it will be a boring demo, showing a short takeoff and flying by with it’s bay doors open. Then it will land vertically and taxi to the line. HOO-ray.

    In any event, the point of all this is too drum up interest, which even it’s announcement already has.

  • Kostas

    F35B is the only F35 variant we should be developing. The VSTOL capability is currently highly underrated. However the newer strike weapons highly challenge the survivability of the airfields and the large aircraft carriers. A saturation attack is feasible by more than one countries and can overcome even the most advanced air defence systems. The air manouverability and speed performance (at the mach 0.8-1.7 range)is on the other hand highly overrated at the current era of highly capable BVR weapons and JHMCS for the merge. The runways of the large airports and the aircraft carriers are as vulnerable and outdated as the big cruisers in WWII.

    • d. kellogg

      The capabilities of V/STOL aircraft ARE underrated (provided we actually develop the correct designs to exploit/maximize the potential….there’s that word again).

      But in the form of the F-35B, STOVL (or whatever format you want that acronym in) is highly OVERrated.
      The aircraft’s current design configuration is nowhere near optimized on par with what a Harrier could do, the “viffing” it made famous (thrust Vectoring In Forward Flight).
      Not in the hands of the USMC, as has been popular belief, but by British pilots who first used it against Argentinan Mirages in the Falklands Conflict back in 1982 before the USMC even developed the tactic further with the AV-8A or later -B…did the Marines ever score air-to-air Harrier kills other than against slow helicopters?

      Prior to the F-35B, there have been many other V/STOL types contemplated that would’ve exploited thrust vectoring far better than any F-35B ever will. Lack of funding killed all of them beyond the wind tunnel.

    • JohnB

      One individual feature of an aircraft does not by and of itself yield any capabilities. Capabilities come from the combination of all pieces and parts of an aircraft. According to the air force, the F-35A cannot perform the air-to-air mission. With respect to the close-air-support mission, the F-35 has been written off since more than a decade. It will probably be able to perform the air-to-ground mission, though, presuming it is carrying range-extending under-wing drop tanks, has tanker support and preferably some fighter escort.

      However, in every regard the capabilities of the F-35B are vastly inferior to those of the F-35A. It is carrying greater empty weight, has less endurance, less payload, worse kinematic performance, reduced reliability, the list goes on and on. In addition, it is way more expensive to develop, manufacture and maintain. That’s why the air force feel that the B-variant is an indefensible waste of the precious resources of the DoD. But, as the saying goes, “Nobody wants to say no to the Marines.”

  • Mitch S.

    The airshow is in England and the Brits have bet their entire carrier capability on the F35B.
    If I were Cameron I’d be calling Washington and telling them they better send over some “B”s to do demos so his people have some sense that the multi-billion pound (currency) carrier programme will have a plane to fly off the decks.
    (And Rolls Royce makes that neat articulating rear nozzle so there’s some local pride too).

    • d. kellogg

      Ever seen the now-defunct Yak-141 “Freestyle” aircraft, the hoped-for successor the Russians developed as potential replacement for the Yak-38 “Forger” carrier aircraft?

      It featured “that neat articulating rear nozzle” that F-35B fans are so proud of, PRIOR TO the F-35B being developed. The design was ~acquired~ by the F-35B’s engine manufacturers (legally through license, at least we’re told); it wasn’t their own original idea, even though they did further improve upon its operation.

    • Kostas

      I need the references for what you write in the first paragraph. Regarding the second paragraph, I cannot find somebody that would call the range difference of 590 vs 450 a “vast” difference. Neither the internal carriage of a 1000 lb weapon vs a 2000.

    • Kostas

      the F35B would allow us to deploy small refueling/rearmament stations much closer to the area of interest, which would be hidden or mobile, therefore much safer than the current airfields. This would also lead to much shorter turn over times and fewer planes would be needed for the same mission. Similarly, a small aircraft carrier (300-450ft long vessel) could be deployed much closer to the enemy because it would not be as a prominent target as an aircraft carrier is. The main problem is that we would realize after that that we don’t need the USN air branch or a separate USAF, but a combined air branch operating with the same plane. We need some strong political will to enforce logic over the interest of the various branches. It should be much stronger than the political will that enforced the SOCOM over the military bureaucracy.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Mitch S.’ post is dead on. The plane needs to be seen as widely as possible to support those national executives who still intend to buy the thing. Canada and Denmark are “reconsidering” how many they will buy? Not good at all. The fact that the Koreans are on the edge of purchase, with all the problems the program has suffered, is the best news about the program’s future that there is.

    The last time we tried this hard for a jack-of-all-trades airframe was the F-111. The memory does not comfort me.

  • Nate

    Do it i’m gonna be there at RIAT!!

  • guest

    And you all get your info. from?


    It is time to put up and show up. Although it seems those for the jet will heap praise and those against will scorn, despite how the F-35 performs. The plane has been in development too long which gives the complainers plenty of time to grouse about problems that have already been fixed. Seems similar to 787 development, but that is another story.

  • demata

    How much the stubbornness of Monti’s government to fund the F-35 factories damaged Italy and Eurozone?…