For the industry team led by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, developing a single three-variant fighter design to meet the differing requirements of multiple customers was a Herculean effort. Throughout the program, one variant—the short-takeoff-and-landing (STOVL) F-35B with its unique shaft-driven lift fan—drove the defining challenges. The F-35B exists today because of its commonality with the conventional (CTOL) F-35A and carrier-based (CV) F-35C, but all ...

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