Lockheed Martinâ€™s (NYSE:LMT) F-35 made its first aerial demonstration on Monday at the Paris Air Show, as the defense contractor looks to ink a blockbuster sale for hundreds of the stealth fighter jets.
The F-35 flew late in the afternoon in Paris, where aircraft makers gather each year to show off their latest models and score new orders from airlines and militaries. An F-35Aâ€”the model designed for the U.S. Air Forceâ€”took off in a vertical climb, then made a series of loops, twists and other dramatic maneuvers. In another impressive display, the stealth fighter abruptly cut its throttle to slowly float through the air, simulating the F-35â€™s capabilities in a dogfight.
Video of the demonstration was published by Lockheed Martin on social media:
F-35 demos are scheduled throughout the week at the Paris Air show, which runs Monday through Sunday.
The F-35â€™s air show debut comes as Lockheed Martin is reportedly nearing a $37 billion deal that would send 440 F-35 Lightning II multirole fighters to 11 nations, including the U.S., according to Reuters. It would mark the largest sale ever for the warplane.
Billie Flynn, Lockheed Martinâ€™s test pilot who will fly the F-35 in Paris, told Aviation Week that â€œwe are going to crush years of misinformation about what this aircraft is capable of doing.â€ The flight on Monday marked the F-35â€™s debut in a full acrobatic demonstration for potential buyers, 10 years after it first took to the skies.
Lockheed Martin has displayed some of the F-35â€™s advanced capabilities, such as vertical landings, at other events like the Farnborough International Airshow. Also, while this week is the F-35â€™s debut in Paris, executives involved in the F-35 program have attended the renowned air show in past years.
Rumors had swirled earlier this year that the Paris Air Show didnâ€™t invite the F-35 for a flight demonstration. The news didnâ€™t come as a complete surprise. France doesnâ€™t plan to buy any of the jets for its military, and Lockheedâ€™s F-22 Raptor, a twin-engine stealth fighter, has never made an appearance there. Those rumors were put to rest in May when officials confirmed that the F-35 received an invitation.
The F-35, which was plagued by delays and cost overruns, has experienced another hiccup. Since early May, five F-35 pilots have reported symptoms consistent with hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, after flying five different F-35 jets. The backup oxygen system worked correctly in all five aircraft.
Luke Air Force Base in Arizona has been investigating the issue since at least June 9, when it grounded all F-35As. The Air Force continues to search for an answer, but last week, officials said flights could resume as early as Tuesday.