The Skunk Works design for what became the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter evolved over a decade. A very early sketch showing an F-117-like faceted airframe had changed radically by 1990.
The “GhostHawk STOVL Strike Fighter” sported a configuration that included canards and a wing with a forward-swept trailing edge.
Unfortunately, Skunk Works destroyed the documentation for the classified GhostHawk concept after the DARPA-sponsored program terminated. When the US Marine Corps and US Air Force launched the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program a few years later, Skunk Works was forced design a whole new airframe. This time, the configuration would be based on the F-22, which had recently entered development.
F-35 “inventor” Paul Bevilaqua shared these details and images yesterday evening during an F-35 history lecture hosted at the Johns Hopkins applied physics laboratory in Laurel, Md. The public event provided a whole new look at the genesis and evolution of Skunk Works’ various concepts, ultimately leading to the X-35 prototypes and the three F-35 variants itself. Bevilaqua proved an engaging speaker, sprinkling his lecture with fascinating anecdotes and even a few pointed jokes, such as this one:
“There are three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter now. Several people have asked for additional variants. And the marines have asked if we could take out the lift fan and put in a seat for a congressman.”
I will be posting a three-part video recording of Bevilaqua’s lecture later today or early tomorrow.