The Joint Strike Fighter Program (JSF) was started in the year 1993, after the U.S. Department of Defense observed some studies about the current equipment of the US Armed Forces. The US Air Force programs for the F-22 Raptor and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet were continued. The Multi-Role Fighter program and the A/F-X-program were cancelled and F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18C/D procurement was curtailed. The JSF program was started as compensation.
The JAST program office was established on 27th January 1994. It should develop the aircraft, the armament and the sensors, that would be needed for tactical future aircraft. The aim was a single family of aircraft that should replace multiple ageing aircraft types in the hangars of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The aims of the Joint Strike Fighter design were:
- Stealth abilities
- Integrated avionics/sensors
- Low unit cost
- Low maintenance cost
The JSF should be built in three variants:
- An aircraft performing conventional take-off and landing for the United States Air Force (A variant)
- A carrier based aircraft for the United States Navy, wit foldable wingtip sections. (C variant)
- An aircraft performing Short take-off or vertical landing for the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force. (B variant)
The following companies showed their concepts:
- Lockheed Martin
- McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace
In the year 1996 Boeing and Lockheed Martin were contracted to build and develop the X-32/X-35 prototypes.
On 26th October 2001 Lockheed Martin's design, the X-35 was selected as the winner, so that Lockheed Martin received the contract to develop the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The reason for that was the conventional design which would lower the production cost and the weight versus size problems of the X-32. The X-35 was also more agile than the X-32.