The military's newest and most controversial fighter jet stopped by the Sun 'N Fun Fly-in in Lakeland Thursday hoping to convince taxpayers that investing in the expensive F-35 was worth it.
The 5th generation fighter jet is still in test mode, but after years of setbacks it may finally be ready for combat later this year.
When the F-35 arrived in Lakeland from Eglin Airforce Base on Thursday, spectators took in the sight and sound of the $100 million aircraft.
"It's expensive, you're right about that," said Capt. Daniel Haley, who flew the F-35 into Sun 'N Fun.
Hayley admits the program has faced its setbacks. It's billions of dollars over budget, years overdue, and has encountered some serious incidents.
But part of the reason the military is flying the F-35 into air shows this summer is to show the taxpayers that it's a wise investment.
"It's absolutely worth it in my opinion. We definitely need to keep on pressing with this aircraft because we don't really have any other good options," he said.
While you can argue all day about the steep price tag, no one can dispute the state of the art technology.
It starts with the roughly $40,000 helmet.
"It's made out of carbon fiber to try and make it as light as possible," Haley said.
When pilots pull down the visors of the five pound helmet, a computer projects the display from the six cameras mounted all over the jet.
So when they're flying near the enemy there are absolutely no blind spots.
"It gives 360 degree coverage around the aircraft," he said.
The F-35 comes with the most advanced radar technology, is totally stealth, and one model can even take off and land vertically.
It's costly, controversial, but for aviation enthusiasts at Sun 'N Fun, it's pretty darn cool.
The aircraft will be on static display at the fly-in event in Lakeland through Sunday.