F-35 to make debut at Dayton Air Show

The F-35 Lightning II will make its first-ever debut at the Vectren Dayton Air Show when a pair of the fifth-generation fighters will be on display on the tarmac of Dayton International Airport, air show organizers say.

Two Air Force F-35As with the 58th Fighter Squadron, based at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be on static display in a “rare” public appearance, according to Terry Grevious, air show executive director.

The two planes will not fly a demonstration, however. “There will be a day when the F-35 will be doing a demonstration in Dayton,” he said. “It’s not going to be this year.”

The Lockheed Martin joint strike fighter jet has made headlines in recent years as the most expensive weapons program in history at nearly $400 billion to buy more than 2,400 of the aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps over the next two decades. Each service branch flies one of three variants of the stealthy fighter.

The F-35 isn’t flying a demonstration flight because it remains in the developmental stage with a planned “initial operating capability” with the Air Force this fall, said 1st Lt. Jenny Hyden, 33rd Fighter Wing spokeswoman at Eglin AFB.

The upcoming introduction into the Air Force fleet is why the service branch is bringing the jet onto the U.S. air show circuit for the first time, she said.

At 13 air shows this year, the Lightning II will perform a simple flyby in tandem with an older plane in what’s called a “heritage flight,” she said. A dozen of those are shows in the United States and another in England.

Backers say the high-tech jet will add advanced capabilities to the military’s air fleet, but it has faced production and flight testing delays.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, a flight demonstration team that flies six F/A-18 Hornets, and an Air Force F-22 Raptor are among the performers set to fly at the Dayton Air Show set for June 18-19.