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USAF names Lockheed Martin's F-35 JSF the Lightning II

You voted for Black Mamba, but the US Air Force decided differently and so Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has now been christened.

No poisonous snakes, man-eating birds or scythe wielders; the F-35 has been given a name at once appropriate and predictable - Lightning II. Formally named at the roll-out of the first F-35 today in Fort Worth, Texas, the multinational JSF has been named after two legendary fighters, one American and one British.

F-35 underneath W445

Lightning II was picked from a shortlist of names that included Black Mamba, Cyclone, Piasa and Spitfire II, and tips the hat to both the US Air Force’s Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the UK Royal Air Force’s English Electric Lightning – aircraft that were among the most advanced of their eras. The UK is the biggest partner in the US-led JSF programme.

First flown in 1939, the Lockheed P-38 was the first US interceptor to exceed 400mph (645km/h). A total of more than 10,000 were built, and the twin-boom, twin-engined Lightning accounted for more Japanese aircraft destroyed in combat than any other US Army Air Force fighter.

Lockheed P-38

The Flight Collection

Built in far fewer numbers, and never used in anger, the English Electric Lightning first flew in 1954, exceeding Mach 2 in 1958. With its unusual over/under twin-jet arrangement, the interceptor remained in RAF service until 1988.

English Electric Lightning

The Flight Collection

Lightning II was one of the names originally suggested for Lockheed’s F-22, which narrowly avoided being named the SuperStar and was instead christened the Raptor, following in the bird-of-prey tradition of the USAF’s F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Pilots dubbed the F-16 the Viper, so it remains to be seen what nickname will stick for the F-35.

More than 1,200 of you took part in our online poll in which the name 'Black Mamba' won 38% of the vote, just edging out 'Lightning II' with 36%. The full result is here.

It's only a matter of time before Lightning II pilots are saying "WIWOL" says Kieran Daly. Read his blog.

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