A group of pilots who have flown the F-35 Lightning II praised the aircraft on Friday and said that its capabilities are "unmatched."
"This is by far the easiest airplane I've ever flown in my life," said Col. Todd Canterbury, the F-35 Integration Office Operations Division Chief, during a showing of the aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
"What does that mean? That means that I can now focus on the battlefield, focus on the tactics at hand, rather than try to manipulate and fly the aircraft to where I need it to be," Canterbury said. "The increased situational awareness that this brings increases my survivability on the battlefield. That's really what it's all about. It's protecting the men and women that are going to fly these airplanes every single day and bringing them back home safely."
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the aircraft will excel in any missions it faces.
"We are certain that the F-35 for decades to come will be, for the United States and for our partners, an aircraft that will be lethal, survivable, and adaptable," she said.
James said the service has worked to get the price down on the F-35. The plane on display at Andrews entered service in 2013 and cost $108 million, roughly $4 million less than the previous block buy of planes.
The goal is to get the cost down to $80 million per plane by 2019, which James said will be about equivalent to current costs for F-15s and F-16s.
"We will ultimately get fifth generation capability at fourth generation prices," she said.
Many on Capitol Hill still are not happy with the price of the F-35, which is estimated to be more than $150 billion over budget. But for some members of Congress, this weekend will be the first chance to see the aircraft up close. The Andrews Air Show is the first time the F-35 will be on display in the Washington, D.C. region.