The US Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft has been unveiled at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth Facility in Texas.

The aircraft is the navy’s first fifth-generation fighter and will undergo a wide-ranging series of ground tests before its first flight, scheduled for late 2009.

The aircraft combines stealth with supersonic speed and high agility as well as the most powerful and comprehensive sensor package ever placed in a fighter jet.

US Navy chief of naval operations Gary Roughead said that the jet will top anything that comes its way.

“It will give our sailors and pilots the tactical and technical advantage in the skies, and it will relieve our aircraft as they age out,” Roughead said.

Three F-35 variants derived from a common design, developed worldwide, will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations, making the Lightning II the most cost-effective fighter programme in history.