NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - Nellis Air Force Base is getting ready to show off its new fighter jets. The new F-35A jets arrived two weeks ago. A ceremony Tuesday officially marks the fighter jets' new home.
Each jet costs an estimated $80 million. Nellis is one of the first bases to get them. It took approximately five years for the base to acquire the jets, but Nellis officials say the planes are the future of the Air Force and will be here to stay for the next 40 years.
These new planes differ from the famous F-22 jets. While both planes feature stealth capabilities, the F-35 is designed to attack targets both in the air and on the ground. The F-22's primary role is as an air superiority fighter.
The new planes have stealth features, allowing them to hide from enemy radar. Military officials say the stealth capabilities are the best the world has ever seen.
The base expects to eventually have 36 jets which will be used for developmental testing to make sure they perform as advertised.
"Can we actually employ air-to air weapons, air-to-ground weapons? Can we talk to whoever we're supposed to talk to the right way - communicate using radios, data links and all the other systems the aircraft have?" said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Vin Wilson.
The planes' arrival will also create much-needed jobs. Nellis officials expect to hire 400 people - many for permanent positions like technicians and engineers.
The developmental approach for these jets has taken heat in the past. The planes have experienced mechanical errors. Despite those issues, Nellis officials say the jets are safe and will have a positive impact to the base.
"We are developing the airplane at the same time that we're already starting to train with it and use it in an operational mode," said Lt. Col. Wilson. "That's never really been done before in a fighter program. So, we're getting some overlap of things that usually (have) been done sequentially. So, we're seeing a lot of things in public that was usually not known to the public, because they were kept out at Edwards or Patuxent River where they usually do that initial flight testing."
While the plane's ceremonies take place Tuesday, don't expect the first flights to begin for a few weeks.
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