Lockheed Martin's wooden F-35 mock-up overlooks the Farnborough flightline. From this exposed position, the F-35 is a rich target during the show.

The Eurofighter consortium fired the most damaging shots. The Typhoon-maker challenged the F-35's claims of 6:1 superiority over what Lockheed calls fourth-generation fighters, asserting the Typhoon out-duels more numerous F-35s in a fight.

Boeing released video of the first missile launch test by the F-15 Silent Eagle, a new version of the F-15E designed to challenge the F-35 as a stealth attack fighter. Even the F/A-18E/F raised the bar for an F-35 rival, with Boeing unveiling potential improvements that include an enclosed weapons bay to improve stealth.

Saab brought in the Gripen NG demonstrator. It's not ready yet to impress the crowds at the air show, but its presence alone is a boast the F-35 cannot match.

Lockheed perhaps played into the critics hands. Absent was the programme's biggest customer, programme executive officer Vice Adm David Venlet. The task of defending the F-35 fell to Tom Burbage, the vice-president on watch as cost projections spiralled upwards by more than $100 billion over nearly nine years.

And, yet, the F-35 programme endures and even prospers, with Canada announcing plans to buy 65 F-35s on the eve of the show. Perhaps we will then see how the F-35 fights back.

Source: Flight International