Lockheed's Plane for All Seasons

Maybe Lockheed (NYSE: LMT  ) deserved to beat out Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) in the Joint Strike Fighter competition after all.

Built with a little help from its friends Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC  ) , United Tech (NYSE: UTX  ) , General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , and BAE Systems, the second version of the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II attended a debutante's ball for the benefit of the U.S. Marine Corps yesterday. Unlike versions being developed for the U.S. Navy and Air Force, the USMC version features a vertical take-off/landing (VTOL) function invaluable in tight squeezes, along with the stealth features and supersonic speed shared by its Navy and Air Force cousins.

(Rumors that the plane can also travel underwater, be flown remotely using a wireless Microsoft Xbox controller, and perfectly poach an egg in 10 seconds or less could not be confirmed by press time.)

Although over its expected lifetime of 30-odd years, the F-35 family of jets could easily generate more than $100 billion in sales, Fools should not expect Lockheed to show them the money on its income statement just yet. The first deliveries to the various branches of the military are still at least three years away. Meanwhile, there's significant risk that the better this plane performs, and the more hype it receives, the more likely it is to begin sapping F-16 sales as Lockheed's customers sit on their wallets.

Like a gamer with a Sony PS2, awaiting the advent of the Playstation3, no one wants to spend money on a soon-to-be-obsolete product.

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