And it's supposed to replace the A-10. Give me a break. How it's going to conduct ground support is beyond me. Besides the number of rounds they are much smaller and less powerful and for them to be effective on the ground you have to get close enough to draw all sorts of ground fire. The A-10 is highly survivable in that environment, armored titanium tub for the pilot and highly redundant control systems. The armored engine nacelles are designed so that one could be blown completely off and have the aircraft continue merrily on its way. The F-35 on the other hand can't work if it's fuel is too warm and would become immediately less stealthy if it gets even a few scratches on its RAM surfaces. Plus there isn't much in the way of protection of the pilot or vital systems. As for the idea of running STOVL F-35s off Australian ships I happen to know that this was a genuine factor in Australia getting involved in the JSF program. When the RAN heard "fleet air arm" they went a little nutty. Because it's not VTOL it wouldn't work on any current design but it's not out of the realm of possibility that we could buy old USN/USMC light carriers that have until now carried harriers. It's the one role the lightning is competitive in but we are never going to afford the 100 we need for the airforce and once the subs go over budget we would have to give up the whole army to pay for a couple squadrons and a single carrier with ask the required escort and support vessels. Apparently the targeting systems are a decade behind what's being put on f-16s in pods. It's low resolution and doesn't have a data link for sharing what it sees with ground controllers. T-50 is scary on paper but it's got troubles all it's own. It's got serious quality control issues with the airframe and stealth coatings and the engines are going to be difficult to build and are already way behind. I still know a lot of defence types who would rather have an American built T-50 in their fleet than lightnings.