Saturday, April 22, 2017

F-35 And Dogfighting

The shilling for the F-35 is absolutely breathtaking in its scope and inaccuracy.  “Experts” of all varieties are regularly trotted out to talk up the aircraft and explain why it is the greatest flying machine ever built or that likely ever will be built.  Careful analysis invariably demonstrates the falsity of the claims.

Recall the Marines declaration of IOC after a stunningly successful operational test?  Of course, after we read the DOT&E report we found out that the mission availability rate was 50%, at best, and the evaluation relied on spare parts and even spare aircraft being flown onto the ship during the test.

We have the Red Flag exercise in which the military claimed the F-35 achieved a 10,000:1 kill ratio or maybe it was only 20:1.  When you’re making up numbers, it doesn’t really matter what they are, does it?  Of course, we have no actual data and conditions upon which to assess the validity of the claim and given the history of lies associated with this aircraft, I flat out don’t believe the claim.

Rather than tediously list all the exaggerated claims that have been made and disproved, let’s just skip ahead and look at the latest.  SNAFU website gets the credit for the heads up on this story about F-35 dogfighting which was posted on Business Insider website (1).

“But according to retired US Marine Corps Maj. Dan Flatley, who helped design the training syllabus for F-35 dogfights, the F-35's lackluster performance against legacy jets had more to do with old habits of the pilots and a weapons system in its infancy rather than anything wrong with the F-35 concept itself.”

Right off the bat, let’s note and acknowledge that Maj. Flatley is as biased as it is possible to be.  Anyone who helped design the training syllabus for the F-35 has a huge stake in the game and a clear bias.  However, let’s also be fair and recognize that merely having a bias does not mean that what he has to say is wrong.  What it means is that what he has to say has to be taken with a huge grain of salt until proven.  So, moving on …

The problem, according to Flatley, is not the aircraft but the bad habits of the highly trained fighter pilots.  Now that sounds like an excuse for a poor aircraft.  Again, though, to be fair, any weapon system has to be used to its strengths to be effective.  The Major, then, appears to be saying that the F-35 is not a dogfighter, which confirms the well known “secret” that we’ve heard for some time, but that it can be an effective aerial combatant if flown to its strengths.  Okay, let’s accept that for the moment and keep going …

“If you try to fight it like a fighter it isn’t, you’re going to have terrible results,” Flatley said of the F-35.”

“Flatley stressed that dogfighting, where the close range diminishes the F-35's stealth and sensor fusion advantages, is certainly not the purpose of the Joint Strike Fighter … “

Again, confirmation of the well known “secret”.

And now, the key part where Flatley explains how the F-35 can effectively engage in aerial combat.

“Unlike dogfighters from World War II, the F-35 mainly focuses on flying undetected while using its array of fused sensors to paint a clear picture of the threat environment for miles out and to engage with targets before they're ever seen.”

According to Flatley, the F-35’s aerial combat role is to be a sniper around the periphery of a battlefield – unseen but seeing all that is around it and sniping unsuspecting enemy aircraft who will never know what hit them.  I have no problem with that, whatsoever.  In fact, it’s kind of the ideal goal of aerial combat – to achieve that 6 o’clock position and gun down the enemy before they know you’re there.  Of course, with modern missiles, the 6 o’clock position isn’t necessarily required but it conveys the concept.

Do you see the problem – two problems, actually – with this concept?

The first problem is that the concept assumes that the F-35 can remain far enough away from the aerial battlefield to remain undetected and yet still be able to see all enemy aircraft.  If the enemy has nothing but early legacy aircraft, this will work and work wonderfully.  MiG-21/23/25/27’s will be toast, without a doubt, as will early Sukhois.  However, what happens when recent legacy aircraft that are semi-stealthy are in the air?  Modern, updated, late series MiGs and late variant Sukhois are moderately stealth, highly maneuverable, hard to detect, and harder to kill.  What happens when those aircraft don’t stand out like radar beacons and the F-35 doesn’t see all of them or has to move closer to the battlefield to get viable returns and images?  And – you can anticipate this coming – what happens when the F-35 encounters peer stealth fighters like the Russian T-50/PAK FA and Chinese J-20/31 on the near future battlefield?  What happens when the F-35 can’t see the enemy aircraft or, at least, no better then enemy aircraft can see the F-35?  In fact, enemy aircraft seem somewhat more advanced in IRST capability so they may actually possess the detection range advantage over the F-35!  How does the F-35 concept work when the F-35 can’t see the enemy aircraft?  The short answer is, it doesn’t!

“As exciting as dogfights are, it's been decades since a US jet engaged an enemy in a turning dogfight, and the F-35's design reflects that new reality.”

That leads us directly to the second problem which is, how many times, now, has the era of the dogfight been declared dead?  The first few times, it was over due to the advent of missiles.  Of course, that proved to be wrong and we had to scramble to relearn how to dogfight.  Now, dogfighting is over due to stealth.  Is it?  Or, will we wind up having to relearn how to dogfight, yet again?  When two stealth aircraft meet in combat and neither can reliably lock missiles on the other, the combat will, inevitably, devolve into a close range, guns-only, high-g, turning dogfight.  Recent anecdotal evidence from exercises suggest that this is exactly what happens.  Now, you have no choice but to dogfight and, according to Maj. Flatley, the F-35 is extremely ill-equipped to do that.

What happens when you can’t see the stealthy enemy but he, with his superior IRST, can see you and the F-35 is now the hunted?  Again, you’re going to be forced into a dogfight for which the F-35 is not designed and not capable.

Let’s put this in terms we can all understand.  Can an F-35 employ the peripheral sniping concept against another F-35/22, successfully?  If not, then the F-35 is a failure on the future aerial battlefield and is relegated to fighting only older legacy aircraft.  That’s a hideously expensive aircraft to be able to engage only older legacy aircraft.  Heck, we have F-15/16/18s that can already do that!

Had the F-35 made it to squadron service ten or twenty years ago, as intended, it would have been successful as an aerial sniper because there were no enemy stealth fighters.  Now, however, that advantage has been squandered due to the obscenely long development time of the F-35 and the near future battlefield is going to be populated by stealthy and semi-stealthy enemy aircraft.  The F-35’s design combat concept is already obsolete.  Once again, our unwise assumption that technology makes dogfighting a thing of the past will prove disastrous in combat.

Ironically, Major Flatley, in his attempt to praise the F-35, has told us all about the failing of the F-35. 


(1)Business Insider website, “Here's why the F-35 once lost to F-16s, and how it made a stunning comeback”, Alex Lockie, retrieved 19-Apr-2017,


  1. NICELY DONE! Very nicely done. You got down to the crux of the matter and eviscerated the arguments of the "pro" F-35 crowd. This! This is why you're on my must read list!

    1. The heads up for this was all you. My thanks to you for what you do and keep doing it!

  2. Are you really so old fashioned that you think modern warfare still involves fighting? In the 21st century, combat is a contest of who has the coolest high tech toys. This whole thing with the F35 sounds a lot like the situation with the F4 fifty years ago. Where is the new Charles Myers and the "fighter mafia" to inject realism against the group think.


    1. I live in Turkey and my brother served in Turkish Air Force for years. As a guy with some information about aircrafts it is easy to see F-35 is a disappointment. It is being compared to 40 years old f-16. It is a shame for a aircraft project costed 21 years of work and hundreds of bilions of dollars. F-35 can't climb vertically with full load, can't supercruise, has kinematics worse than a f-16 and can only carry 4 air to air missiles. After all BVR combat have never been effective. All project is based on the assumption of the death of close range air combat. I can't understand how a weapon based on a assumption going to be the backbone of the global superpower's air force.

    2. oops! commented wrong place

  3. Lt.Col Anker Sorensen (Rtd) report to the Australian Senate Submission on the F-35, February 2016

    "We also simulated Joint Strike Fighter against Russian fighter aircraft where we flew two against two.
    In the forenoon I and the Danish test pilot was flying Joint Strike Fighters against two Russian fighters. In the afternoon we swapped, so we flew Russian fighter aircraft against the Joint Strike Fighter.
    In the afternoon the first thing the test pilot and I noticed was that the Russian fighters was not loaded with the best air-to-air missiles as the Russians have in real life. We therefore asked about getting some better. It was denied us. We two pilots complained but it was not changed.
    My test pilot and I decided in our simulated Russian combat aircraft to fly “line abreast”, but with 25 nautical miles distance. Then at least one of us could with radar look into the side of the Joint Strike Fighter and thus view it at long distance. The one who “saw” the Joint Strike Fighter could then link the radar image to the other. Then missiles could be fired at long distance at the Joint Strike Fighter.
    It was also denied us, although we protested this incomprehensible disposition.
    It was now quite clear to us that with the directives and emotional limitations simulations would in no way give a true and fair view of anything. On the other hand, it would show that the Joint Strike Fighter was a good air defense fighter, which in no way can be inferred from the simulations. We spoke loudly and clearly that this way was manipulating with the Joint Strike Fighter air defence capability.
    Because of these circumstances, I would not let the Danish Air Force be included as part of the totally misleading/non-transparent results, which alone would show Joint Strike Fighters superiority in the air defence role, which it would not have been against an opponent with missiles with a performance than those who we were g iven permission to. Also there was given major obstacles in the way flying tactically against the Joint Strike Fighter.
    We therefore left simulations, returned to Denmark and complained to the Chief of Staff Tactical Air Command and technical manager Air Material Command." #35

    1. The problem with this is that whilst you can grant the Russian aircraft better missiles (R-77), you can also do the same for the f-35 with Meteor. I think the Russians have no more than 200 R-77 atm, so it´s not that much of a threat.

      The other thing the pilot failed to point out, as AAP also did, is that whilst the Russians could gain an advantage by flying at a distance, so can the F-35, and unlike the Russians it has actually been designed to do so, with all-round sensors and advanced sensor fusion.

      Basically, the arguments advanced on this as well as other public forums is simplistic at best, deluded at worst. The things that will determine whether the f-35 will be successful in air-to-air combat in the future are all classified, i.e. detection ranges of sensors, degree of stealthiness of aircraft, sensors and missiles, performance of missiles, degree of sensor fusion, etc, availability of allied assets, and relative sophistication of tactics. It is not going to come down to a single, old-fashioned variable such as turn rate or wing-loading. If you want success in air combat to be determined by such things, play a WWII flight sim and use the same tactics as the computer.

    2. "The things that will determine whether the f-35 will be successful in air-to-air combat in the future are all classified"

      You're partly right, of course. The crucial factors are mostly classified and unknown to any of us. We base our discussions on open forum information and educated guesswork. There's nothing wrong with that and it's the best we can do. These kinds of discussions also serve to identify broad strengths and weaknesses and without the mandated cheerleading that most military assessments seem to incorporate. I've had many active duty personnel comment to me that this forum, and others like it, serve the purpose of "forcing" a degree of realism and objectivity on military thinkers. The alternative is we talk about nothing, the blogs go away, and the military continues on its unhindered and unwise way with no one to challenge their decisions. Obviously, I'm in favor of doing what do with what's available to us.

      Also, the success or failure of the F-35 (or any platform or system) is not totally dependent on classified factors. For example, much of the success of any platform is dependent on maintainability (WWII German tanks being a classic example of the failure of maintainability of a technically superior product). At the moment, the F-22 and F-35 have horrid maintainability and readiness rates in the 40%-60% range. On a related note, the logistics will impact the platform's success. Again, at the moment, spare parts shortages are a major factor impacting the F-35. And so on.

      So, yes, you're correct that much is classified but many important factors are not and educated guesswork is often a reasonable "fill-in" for broad based discussions.

      Here's another example of what I'm talking about. When the LCS first was announced, no one had access to any classified performance data (and we still don't) but it was obvious from the open source data and logical extrapolations that the ship was going to have many serious problems and shortcomings. Almost all of those predictions have come true and all without the aid of classified information. To serious students of military technology and operations, some pretty accurate discussions are possible. Had the Navy, with all their classified information, paid attention to the "uninformed" outside commenters, the LCS might be a hugely better platform than it is.

    3. Nick, fascinating manipulation of F-35 testing but not surprising. Thanks for the link.

      I have no doubt that the Red Flag exercise was similarly manipulated.

    4. I guess my problem with many of the arguments against the f-35 is that, given what we know, they don´t really justify any other likely course of action. For example stealth, if the f-35 doesn´t have the degree of stealthiness to survive against a particular air defence, then no 4th gen does either, and they will be even more vulnerable, making the f-35 a better bet. The stealthiness argument only leads to either restarting the f-22 (although many of the same arguments are can be made with regard to the f-22) or to UCAVs/manned platforms with all-aspect stealth. Since these wouldn´t have tails, they would much less maneuverable than the f-35. Therefore, you can argue against its stealth or maneuverablity, but not both. With regards to maneuverability, if that is the be-all and end-all, then that precludes the Super Hornet as well, as the f-35 handles just like a Super Hornet with more thrust. The most manueverable non-stealth western planes are the Eurofighter and Rafale, so if maneoverability was everything then the US should buy European, even though the Europeans themselves have started to buy American (f-35).

      So, apart from those who think that the Raptor line should be started again, just what should the US buy for a fight with China/Russia in the 2020s? Souped-up f-16s? I don´t think they will have nearly the same deterrence value as f-35s, leaving aside the issue of combat effectiveness. If the Russians and Chinese have already ´seen through´ stealth, then why are they making their own stealth planes? Is it some kind of double bluff?

      Given all the above, I think the best criticisms of the f-35 are all to do with the cost overruns, etc, but just because a project is mismanaged doesn´t mean that it isn´t necessary.

    5. "just because a project is mismanaged doesn´t mean that it isn´t necessary."

      A potentially valid point. However, are you considering the opportunity cost? For every dollar (all trillion plus of them!) we spend on the F-35, we don't spend a dollar on something else. Would it be better to have no F-35s and, instead, a thousand extra Abrams tanks or a few more carriers filled with Advanced Super Hornets or more submarines or new AAVs or ... well, you get the idea. The F-35 has cost the US military big time and a lot of other acquisitions and upgrades are being dropped to pay for the F-35. Is it worth it?

      You see, it's not just a question of whether the F-35 is as good as an F-16 or a Chinese stealth fighter or whatever else. It's a question of whether the F-35 is the best way to spend our limited defense dollars. So very many people think it's not.

      Your view is legitimate but very narrow.

      There is also the valid question, for the trillion dollars we've yet to spend on the F-35, could we terminate it and design/build a more focused aircraft better suited for the Chinese and Russian wars to come?

    6. Yes, but it would mean there would be a gap, and it is quite likely that a better aircraft would be even more expensive and problematic to develop.

      Actually, I was trying to answer the question of whether Super Hornets are a viable alternative to a f-35. Since it would be inferior to a f-35 in stealth and manueverability, it would have to be considerably cheaper to be worth it. Also, remember that the USA tries (for manpower and political reasons) not to fight battles of attrition, and that the cost of training more pilots for those additional aircraft needs to be figured in. So, given your relevant point about different ways to achieve stealth, the best alternative to the f-35 for the Navy would be the Rafale M, as it is designed for CATOBAR operations and is more manueverable than the Super Hornet, is probably approximately as stealthy and has an ECM ability that the French forces seem to trust, at least against an air defence system such as the Libyan one. Pair that up with the Growler and you would have a better fleet than a purely Hornet based one, although it would still be inferior to a f-35/Hornet mix, or even better a f-35/rafale mix.

      Oh, and regarding your point about so many people thinking its not a good way to spend defence dollars, so many GOVERNMENTS think it is, including those with no investment in the program (Japan, Korea and Israel for example). Do you really think Israel would compromise its security just to make Lockheed happy? It would buy American jets regardless.

    7. Regarding the point you made about alternative ways to invest the money, if one carrier with f-35s can´t be risked near the Chinese coast, two with Hornets on them definitely can´t. The same goes for Abrams - what´s the point in buying more if we can´t rely on air superiority? RE: submarines, fair enough, but that would entail a much more defensive policy than the US has had at any time from the 1940s onwards, and that would have political costs too.

    8. "I was trying to answer the question of whether Super Hornets are a viable alternative to a f-35."

      It all depends on what you want the aircraft to do which, in turn, depends on what your strategic, operational, and tactical requirements are. This illustrates one of my pet peeves with the US military. We tend to buy weapons without first developing a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) which would tell us exactly what characteristics the weapon needs. The LCS is a classic example of design without a guiding CONOPS and we would up with a vessel that has no use. The F-35 either had no CONOPS (certainly the F-35C naval version did not have one) or, if it did, it has long since become outdated due to the prolonged development period. Thus, the F-35 is not well suited for our current strategic, operational, and tactical needs.

      So, what do you want the F-35 or the Super Hornet to do? If we want a naval long range air superiority fighter, as I suggest, then neither aircraft fills the bill so I'd suggest terminating the F-35 and designing a new aircraft. If we want some other role, then the Super Hornet may or may not be an adequate substitute. If we want a deep penetrating, high risk strike aircraft then the Super Hornet is clearly not suitable but neither is the F-35 although it would be better. And so on.

      This is the problem with developing weapons without CONOPS.

    9. "Oh, and regarding your point about so many people thinking its not a good way to spend defence dollars, so many GOVERNMENTS think it is"

      Which doesn't make them right. It just makes them crowd followers. Most countries thought the battleship was the key to naval warfare prior to WWII and yet they were all wrong. I can list lots of historical examples of "all" countries thinking the same thing and being proved wrong.

      Let's also recognize that for other countries, they don't have much choice. Most cannot afford to develop their own advanced aircraft so it's either use the whatever the US is pushing or go without. In a very real sense, they don't have much choice. To be further fair, most countries are hesitating and questioning their original commitments.

    10. "Regarding the point you made about alternative ways to invest the money"

      Again, it goes back to what your strategic, operational, and tactical goals and requirements are. As I pointed out, there are few usable bases in the Pacific to counter the Chinese so non-naval F-35s will not be particularly useful. More carriers with long range air superiority fighters are needed.

    11. "Yes, but it would mean there would be a gap, and it is quite likely that a better aircraft would be even more expensive and problematic to develop."

      If you've been following the blog for any period of time, I've explained how we can build a new design, better aircraft and have it in production in five years.

    12. "if one carrier with f-35s can´t be risked near the Chinese coast"

      Who's advocating putting carriers near the Chinese coast?

    13. The US Navy? Isn´t there one fairly near N Korea right now?

      I haven´t read everything on your blog, but I really doubt you have the knowledge base to determine whether a better plane could be produced in the next 5 years at a non-prohibitive cost. If we just look for historical analogies, when was the last time this happened? The 1960s? I assume you are talking about a new design, rather than a development of an existing design, as I have tried to point out that they are all inferior to in the f-35 in at least one respect, and in the case of the Super Hornet in two (stealth and maneuverability).

      I take your point about the CONOPs coming first though, and it does weigh heavily against the f-35c. As you know, the Navy wanted to get the a-12 instead, but that was cancelled. Just because it doesn´t fit the Navy´s CONOPS (as you noted, the Super Hornet doesn´t either), doesn´t mean it doesn´t fit the other services´ CONOPS. In fact, I would say the f-35b is integral to both the USAF, but particularly the USMC´s CONOPs.

      With regards to the Navy however, it´s still a better fit than the Super Hornet. If you were advocating (you may be) a UCAV instead of the f-35c, I would probably have to agree with you, but if you were advocating a Super Tomcat or some such, I think you are still living in the 80s.

    14. That was quite a comment in the sense that you made a lot of assumptions about me and they're mostly wrong! I've got a post or two in the pipeline that addresses many of the issues you raise, so hang tight. You'll enjoy them!

      On a closely related note, I would point out that the US has no clear geopolitical strategy for dealing with China (Trump may have one but, if so, he hasn't elucidated it yet) which means the military has no strategy for a confrontation/war with China (what would we want to achieve in a war with China?) and, therefore, we have no coherent CONOPS for any of our prospective weapon systems and platforms.

      Would an A-12 support our strategic objectives? Would a navalized A-10? An F-35C? An Advanced Super Hornet? A new design? Who knows, since we don't have coherent strategies to inform our platform level requirements?

    15. "I haven´t read everything on your blog"

      ??!!!!! Well, I guess we know what you'll be doing for the next several hours!

    16. "I really doubt you have the knowledge base to determine whether a better plane could be produced in the next 5 years at a non-prohibitive cost."

      Just out of fairness, why don't you either go back through the various posts and comments and piece together my proposal or wait for the upcoming post on the subject before you declare me wrong!

      Conversely, just for fun, why don't you try the mental exercise of seeing if you could conceptually put together a new aircraft program that would be ready in five years, be better than the F-35, and be affordable? I bet you can do it if you put your mind to it!

  4. I'm going to say it, the F-35 is pretty hopeless as a dogfighter. If it gets into dogfighting range, it is in trouble unless the enemy is very unskilled.

    Several problems:
    - It has very heavy wing loading
    - The high thrust to drag ratio (from the fat draggy fuselage) means that maximum cruise speed is not going to be good
    - Situational awareness might not favor the F-35 with passive sensors. The DAS system is optimized for bombing (ground attack) and is not IRST system.

    The one advantage the F-35 does have is that it has a pretty good fuel fraction so it might be able to outlast the enemy in a turning dogfight ... assuming it survives for that long. Dogfights usually only last a few minutes and are extremely intense.

    That won't work very well against the Russian Su-35 series though as they also have a very good endurance.

    Saying the dogfight is dead is like saying the missile has rendered the need for guns on warships dead.

    There are a few other problems. The F-35 is not as stealthy as many of its advocates claim. So the risk of a dogfight is even higher.

    It gets worse. If the F-35 uses its radar it might illuminate itself against enemy radar warning receivers. Actually I"m thinking war may end up like submarine warfare where passive sensors are relied upon because the detection range of an enemy using active sensors exceeds the range that active sensors can detect. There is also the risk of air to air anti-radiation missiles.

    I'll end with this:

    1. I find one small problem with you're statement. At one point you state that the F-35has a very high wing loading, well according to history channels dogfights of the future: the F-35 has a very low wing loading. Any comment on this?

    2. Only I, as the blog administrator, sees old post comments. You're unlikely to get a response from AltandMain.

      At a quick glance, Wiki lists a wing loading of 107 lb/sqft for the F-35A versus 73 for the F-15 and 77 for the F-22 so, yes, it does appear that the wing loading is high. What that translates to in combat performance, I have no idea.

      Check your sources and let us know if you see different data. This site is all about data and logic!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. In point of fact, anyone who selected the "notify me" option can bare witness to the Lazarus-like resurrection of this comment thread.

      First off, you can't neglect thrust, fuselage lift (including high-AoA lifting devices like strakes and LEXs), and the difference between sustained vs. instantaneous turn performance, among many other factors. To the extent that thrust and wind-loading are useful in evaluating maneuvering performance, which is debatable, in isolation they only really approximate a "Boyd" EM (energy management) philosophy to any real extent. Increasingly, it seems like fighters are marketed, at least in part, around their "snap-shot" capability, which doesn't really fit the popular notion of EM-management because this capability requires surrendering a lot of energy (whether it's a high off-boresight missile or the aircraft itself) to achieve nose position on the target. There are pluses and minuses to all design decisions.

      Second off, I guess I might as well use the opportunity to refer those interested to:

      The whole series on sustained turn performance is worth a read, but it does require a substantial time investment if much of the subject matter is new to you, as it largely was for me. Some might object to this source because it is a "pro F-35" site, but if nothing else, it puts the F-35's performance in context and is a great resource for dipping one's toes into the nuts and bolts of fighter aircraft design and performance.

      If you have an open mind about the aircraft, I think you'll come to appreciate that the engineers had a clear CONOPS that today's F-35 fulfills quite well in conjunction with the F-22. Time will tell if that CONOPS is correct, but at least in terms of aeronautical performance, it would seem that the engineers designed and built what they envisioned. It's important to remember that what the AF and LM outwardly sold the F-35 as capable of are not necessarily the parameters that the engineers were designing the aircraft around.

      - Gripen

    5. "selected the "notify me" option"

      Thanks for the heads up. I wasn't aware of that! I kind of knew it was there but never really paid any attention to what it was used for. I wonder how many people use that option?

  5. There is one other big problem.

    It is unlikely that the F-35 will ever be as cheap as its advocates claim. The problem is that when you have an aircraft that expensive, it squeezes out the alternatives that you could have bought for that same amount of money.

    1. Not only will it never be as cheap as claimed, significant chunks of construction costs are being "hidden". For example, the concurrency costs which every airframe built so far will accrue, are not counted in the claimed cost. Worse, there is no end in sight for the ongoing concurrency costs.

      The F-35 is not only squeezing out aircraft alternatives, it is squeezing out Marine Corps AAV alternatives, Navy LCS alternatives, Army tank and IFV alternatives, etc. The F-35 has gutted the US military and for what? A short legged, mediocre aircraft that will be bordering on obsolete by the time it reaches squadron service?

  6. With a less expensive dedicated purpose fighter, with less expensive maintenance requirements; we could buy and maintain more aircraft, and train more pilots. More fast agile fighters in the air will make life very difficult for enemy aircraft. Is there something I'm not getting.


  7. Even if your analysis of the F35 is accurate, what other option do we have? If we procure legacy fighters they'll be the ones getting sniped. They won't even be able to get within dogfighting range. Restarting the F22 line would be incredibly expensive. Developing a replacement will take years even if everything goes smoothly, which is a pretty big assumption. For better or for worse the F35 is the only option. If its canceled, we'll be left with fighters that are completely helpless to the J20, PAKFA, etc. except for our hundred or so combat coded F22s.

    1. Well, you're somewhat correct in that we've "poor decisioned" ourselves into a situation where there are not many good options. However, restarting the F-22 line would not be very expensive, as these things go. I've done a post on this and you'll be surprised. Check it out: F-22 Production Line Restart Costs

      I've also demonstrated in previous posts that a brand new fighter, IF DESIGNED AND BUILT WITH DISCIPLINE, could be in production in five years which is less time than is still needed to get the F-35 into service.

      So, there are viable options.

    2. "Even if your analysis of the F35 is accurate, what other option do we have?"

      If????? I'm ComNavOps. Of course my analysis is accurate!

      Seriously, "what other option do we have" is the absolute worst rationale for continuing any program. When maintenance and operating costs are factored in, the F-35 is going to cost the US a trillion dollars or more, depending on whose analysis you want to go with. The point is that the F-35 is a multi-decade commitment and a bad one. Do we really want to commit to a multi-decade poor weapon system?

      It would be far better to abandon a bad program, learn some lessons (which, admittedly, the military seems unable to do), and move on to a new design that is executed with fiscal and design discipline. It would be ready sooner, provide far more value, and justify a multi-decade commitment. Even if there were a resultant short term gap in fighter capability, that would be better than a long term failure like the F-35.

      I would also point out that the Air Force has already publicly acknowledged that they will not run their next fighter program like the F-35. They've admitted that it was a programmatic failure. WHY CONTINUE AN ACKNOWLEDGED FAILURE?????

      As I said, "no other option" is the worst rationale for continuing. Even at the start of WWII when we desperately needed new aircraft, we didn't commit to continuing F4F's and Brewsters and whatnot because we had "no other option". Instead, we held the line with what we had and pushed hard to get F6F's and P-51s and so on into production. Let's learn from history's lessons. There are always better options!

    3. There are several options that the US does have:

      - Resume and step up the F-16 and for the USN, F-18 programs until a suitable alternative can be developed
      - Another option is to license build another aircraft, the Rafale is an option as it works on US Nimitz class carriers

      The Anon here is advised to read up on "Sunk Cost Fallacy". Don't spend good money after the bad.

    4. The rafale is a competent 90s plane. Why would look to that when the modernised F22 is a better bet.

    5. The answer is that the Rafale is a lot cheaper. You could probably buy 2 and for a F-22 - likely more in bulk.

      Ironically the F-22 itself has outdated avionics and no IRST.

  8. When you say things like "Had the F-35 made it to squadron service ten or twenty years ago", yet the F-35 was selected as the winner of the JSF program in 2006. That was 11 years ago. You can't claim your assessment is accurate when it's filled with tons of obvious inaccuracies like this.

    1. As you can verify in Wiki, among other sources, the original JSF development contract was issued in 1996 - 21 years ago!. The design (SDD) contract was issued in 2001 - 16 years ago - to Lockheed for its X-35 aircraft which won the flyoff with the Boeing X-32.

      So, your dates are inaccurate. Do your homework.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Can't we just hack the Chinese military computers and just steal their J-31 design? It a shame the they can build a better f35 then we can.

  10. Another great analysis, CNO.

    Another point that the proponents of the F-35 never seem to mention is the 'bullets' that the F-35 will be firing to eliminate these enemy aircraft.

    As I understand it, the F-35 has only been cleared for two AIM-120 AMRAAMs internal, and surely while sniping around the periphery of a furball they won't be slinging pylons and external weapons.

    Now, AIM-120 has had a combat Pk of about 0.5 against mostly non-maneuvering, non-ECM equipped legacy fighters and ground attack aircraft (and possibly helicopters, if we count those Blackhawks). So even firing both shots won't guarantee a kill every time, merely 3 times out of 4. On average.

    What kind of Pk could we expect against 4.5 or 5th Gen fighters with partial LO or VLO, possibly supercruise and high altitude performance, and DRFM jammers?

    Maybe 0.125? No wonder you'll need a full squadron to operate together (as confirmed by the head of ACC, where he stated you'd need 7-9 supporting each other, or needn't bother).

    Let's not forget that the AMRAAM is being fired low and slow, circa 25-30kft and at 0.8M. The F-35 does not have the ability to quickly punch through the sound barrier to give its missiles a range extension (witness the much longer than planned 0.8M to 1.2M acceleration interval, far outside the KPP, in the F-35C case a full 43 seconds slower - that is a long time in burner). And it can't fire high and fast like the F-22 can - which gives about 50% more range to the AMRAAM.

    As such, even if you can see the targets swirling around their furball at extra long range, the F-35 won't be sniping until much closer - making counter-detection highly likely.

    In short, the F-35 will not have combat persistence (high fuel burn rate and small weapons load), will be shooting from closer range due to the limitations of its main missile and the non-optimised (for A-to-A) EO/IR fit, and will be achieving low Pks regardless.

    When a clutch of F-35's turn tail to run they will be pointing the hottest fighter engine in the world at QWIP IRSTs (and the least 'stealthy' aspect also), and will be attracting mixed seeker counter-fire (IIR BVR missiles being the most logical - like MICA-IR and Russian/Chinese equivalents).

    The F-22 can get away with using the AMRAAM. For now.

    The F-35 really cannot.

    If ever there was a case for a ramjet AAM in US service, the F-35 makes it. Yet, because of the budget drain from buying $10B+ worth of faulty prototypes per year, there is no money for it.

    How many munition programs have been killed on the altar of the JSF?

    Note: The same goes for A-to-G missions. Necessary developments starved of funds, and as a result a new aircraft locked into laydown deliveries of gravity weapons like the JDAM and GBU-12. Against double digit SAMs with longwave queuing they are going to be butchered.

    The F-35 really needs a small cruise missile (smaller than the JSM) and something like the JCS in order to give standoff. And an internally carried ARM for quick reaction strikes on popup threats.

    Given the size of its weapons bays, that dual-role air dominance missile would have been perfect. For air or ground threats. The F-35 just doesn't have the room to carry enough separate missile types.

    1. JCM, not JCS. The cancelled replacement for AGM-65 and AGM-114.

    2. Excellent point about the weapons type and load. Also, an obvious but excellent point that the F-35 in this type of scenario will never be in any configuration other than max stealth which means no external pylons - again, to your point about weapons capacity, or lack thereof.

      Good comment.

    3. Britain will use the meteor missile on their F-35Bs, this should fit the bill.

      I'm sure licensed production for it could be set up to avoid spending billions of dollars and years of time on developping a new ramjet AAM.

    4. Um, if the F-35 is suppose to be sniping into a furball ... who's in the furball engaging the enemy? It seems far more likely to be trying to snipe enemy aircraft going from A to B, who will have less occupying their minds and sensors, and be watching out for surprise attacks.

    5. "who's in the furball engaging the enemy?"

      Good question. The F-35 engagement concept suggested by Maj. Flatley seems like a contrived script that has limited applicability other than to wave the F-35 flag for supporters.

    6. "Britain will use the meteor missile on their F-35Bs, this should fit the bill."

      I don't know enough about the Meteor to have any valid opinion but I do note that there is a marked tendency among US military observers to hugely overvalue foreign weapon systems. I attribute this to the openness of US testing and reporting which makes system flaws and shortcomings common knowledge while foreign systems tend to be untested or, at least, the test results are unreported. Thus, US observers wind up comparing tested and flawed systems against foreign systems that are nothing but manufacturer's brochure claims.

      I'm sure the Meteor has flaws and shortcomings but to hear many people describe it, it's a wonder-weapon of unlimited capability. If it were subjected to standard US testing AND REPORTING I strongly suspect it would be just another ho-hum missile - good, but not great, and with known shortcomings.

      Let me now repeat, I don't know enough about the Meteor to have a valid opinion. My comment was generic, though likely true.

      I see this same phenomenon when it comes to foreign ships, aircraft, armor, etc.

    7. Agree with this assessment.

      Dogfighting will be needed. The moment that the F-35 launches a missile or uses afterburner, it will be vulnerable to detection.

      The other problem that if the F-35 uses its radar, the enemy (at least a well trained enemy) will have radar warning receivers.

      I don't agree that ground based SAMs are as dangerous to fighters, but perhaps given how poor the maneuverability of the F-35 is, perhaps it is a fair assessment.


      Meteor has a Ramjet with a stage booster, so it doesn't have an oxidizer and variable acceleration rate. That means that it can accelerate at optimal rate towards the target, in theory leading to a higher Pk. MBDA Meteor would also have a larger zone of "no escape".

      Actually the US needs to make the replacement a priority:

      This Meteor is a newer and more flexible technology. The US should develop its own ramjet technology.

      The Meteor would have a higher Rtr (see below for missile terminology):

    8. Anyone claiming that F35 can use the Meteor does not know what he´s talking about. Fact - Meteor does not fit inside the F35 period. I will go so far as claiming that the F35 program is the greatest threat to all Western Powers not only to those that have bought it. It will totally erode the air power of the Western World and Europe in particular.

    9. Lets call this maneuver "The Flatley Spin"

      We're not going to intercept red air.

      We're not going to force them to merge or withdraw.

      We can't turn, outrun or disengage.

      We can't survive the merge.

      But we're going to position somewhere off the threat axis i.e. NOT between the enemy and his objective and, apparently, degrade the package as it moves [supersonically] towards its objective.


      The Pk of an AIM-120 in that scenario makes it unlikely that red air will be 'degraded' in any militarily significant way.

      I think its far more likely that red air will reach their objective almost completely unimpeded.

      This. Is. Insanity.

    10. Flatley explains why the F-35B and C are programatically finished.

      You can't fight the outer air battle by ceding
      an open path to the battle group.

      Same argument applicable for the ARG or landing force.

      Have to be able to force red air engagement or withdrawal long before they reach target.

      Can't just probabilistically degrade them as they fly past you.

      Something has gone really wrong here.

    11. "Anyone claiming that F35 can use the Meteor does not know what he´s talking about."

      It is commonly reported that the manufacturer is modifying Meteor to fit in the F-35 so, while it may not fit today, it will in the near future. Software mods are still needed to integrate the missile into the aircraft's sensors and systems.

    12. As someone pointed out, the UK wants Meteor on its jets. They also seem to be aware of the air-to-ground problem you mentioned, since they are in the process of procuring a small cruise missile (Spear 3) just as you suggested. So, it seems that, apart from the fact that the f-35b won´t be able to fit the AARGM internally, the Brits will have a superior f-35 force, jet for jet.

    13. Well we have to. With a buy of only 138.

      I think we have been developing the weapons specifically to compensate for F35 deficiencies.

      Thanks for mentioning 2 of the 4.

      There is ASRAAM a very high off bore sight missile, with lock on after launch, capable of hitting targets at close range actually behind the aircraft.

      This has been in service for some time but is being upgraded now.

      That along with STORM SHADOW stealth cruise missile. Capable of external carriage without ( significantly ) decreasing RCS.

      The point of the post stands though. In a world of stealth on stealth do I think an F35 = a PAK FA.

      HMMMMM probably not.

    14. Actually, the F-35 at block 3i can carry at least 4 amraams (I think) and is already planned to carry 6 internally at full rate production. That's the same amount of amraams that an F-22 can carry internally. (Note: the F-22 has a centre main weapons bay for amraams and two side bays for the sidewinders)

  11. I live in Turkey and my brother served in Turkish Air Force for years. As a guy with some information about aircrafts it is easy to see F-35 is a disappointment. It is being compared to 40 years old f-16. It is a shame for a aircraft project costed 21 years of work and hundreds of bilions of dollars. F-35 can't climb vertically with full load, can't supercruise, has kinematics worse than a f-16 and can only carry 4 air to air missiles. After all BVR combat have never been effective. All project is based on the assumption of the death of close range air combat. I can't understand how a weapon based on a assumption going to be the backbone of the global superpower's air force.

    1. The F-35 was conceived back in the mid-1990's. It either never had a well thought out concept of operations or, if it did, the concept (likely relatively uncontested strikes) is no longer valid due to the intervening 21 years of development.

    2. Relatively uncontested strikes is what USN aviation has been doing for the last 26 years. USN officers seem to be selected for self-confidence and branch loyalty, rather than broader intellectual capability.

      Given those factors, the idea of a stealthy ground-attack aircraft, with a limited air-to-air self-defence capability probably seems quite attractive. Its limited load-carrying capability can be assumed to be compensated for by accuracy. Sadly, that accuracy is only possible in an electronically uncontested environment.

    3. What you describe is the Air Force's F-117 Stealth Fighter. We got rid of it.

  12. Let's remember that land and ship-based radars and missiles are improving too, this only adds to the challenges any stealth aircraft faces. Stealth only delays detection, it doesn't eliminate it.

  13. Im just dumbfounded that we went from being able to field planes like the Tomcat in under 10 years to this

    We have major issues.

    IIRC the f-35 also has weapons bay overheating issues.

    If we can see this, why are the services that will have to buy and fly it so resistant?
    Hubris? An inability to admit they were wrong? Fear of losing budget? What? Are they just rolling the dice they'll never have to fight it?

    1. Agree that it is a regression compared to the previous generation, especially the F-16.

      You know my thoughts on the F-14. I actually consider the F-35 the second F-111. The F-111 was originally supposed to be a multi-role, multi-service weapon, kind of like the F-35.

      The F-111 was far heavier, more expensive, and suffered from some crippling flaws that made it not very effective as a fighter, although they were used as expensive bombers.

      Interestingly, the F-14 (VFX) originally came from the F-111 (TFX). It shared many of the same flaws. The heavy swing wing mechanism in particular was difficult to maintain and cruise speed was slower than a non-swing wing.

      I wonder if the F-35 will produce something like the F-14 did for the F-111.

    2. "The heavy swing wing mechanism in particular was difficult to maintain "

      We've discussed this before. There is NO evidence that this is true that I'm aware of. Produce some evidence or stop saying it. I will delete statements that are untrue.

    3. F-14 as a whole took a lot more time to maintain:

      " The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour."

      See this too from a F-18 pilot:

      "Unfortunately, maintaining the aircraft was not simply expensive, it was intensive. The Tom required more time, more mechanics, more parts, more space, and more patience than even old Hornets. While many of those simply mean longer funding chains (to include legacy costs for the personnel), many meant that precious carrier space was being taken up by innumerable crates of spare parts and broken airplanes. All of this also amounted to a reduced reliability rate. With limited space on deck, you didn't always have the option to have a bunch of spare aircraft up there if you had some that suddenly needed a fix."

      "However the F-14 with its complex airframe and tricky servicing became extremely expensive to maintain as it aged. The wing movement mechanism needed constant attention and the engines were also very troublesome in the early years of F-14 service. Later as the planes grew older they did what all planes do, they became even more expensive to maintain. When new engines solved the engine problems the constant need to repair the wing movement mechanism and the servicing of the radar and other avionics drove the cost up again. I think the landing gear also gave a lot of headaches to the service engineers."

      Notice he says that they needed 'constant' repairs to the wing movement mechanism.

      Part of the problem was the early TF30 engine, fixed by the GE engines, but even then it still needed 50 hours per hour of flight.

      It requires 5-10x as much maintenance per hour of flight as the Super Hornet. While the Super Hornet has its own issues, at least it is reliable.

      It's also why the F-15 is a fixed wing:

      " Boyd rapidly sunk the idea of a swing wing, on grounds of extra weight and complexity. He then proceeded to optimise the engine (turbofan being then the in thing) bypass ratio concluding that a turbojet is best, but accepting 1.5 as a reasonable compromise (later reduced). "

      Today this is a problem with the B1:

      " The B1 turned out to be very maintenance intensive. Everything associated with the swing wing is a pain; hydro/fuel/vent swivels, actuators, flaps, spoilers, and slats. "

    4. I mean if you look at general articles as to swing wings, here's an example:

      "There were several reasons for the move away from this technology, but the primary reason was that the large metal gearbox needed to move the wings was complicated and heavy. This increased maintenance requirements and decreased fuel performance. An aircraft capable of moving its wing forward for fuel-efficient flight could never be as efficient as an airplane equipped with a straight wing. The same was true for aircraft with swept-back wings; they would always be more efficient than aircraft with swing-wings. The B-1B Lancer, for example, has never been able to achieve its original range requirements and has to refuel in the air more often than planned. It also rarely flew at the high speeds that sweeping back the wings allowed it to do. Ultimately, aircraft designers decided that the flexibility of the variable-sweep wing was not worth the compromises it demanded."

    5. For similar reasons, the Russians have moved away from this with their fighter aircraft.

      Here is Global Security's article on the Su-24:

      " By the 1980s, however, no one was designing variable-sweep aircraft and no new work on this technology has been incorporated into any new production military aircraft in at least the last 15 years, although work is still being carried out on wings that move in other ways. The technology of variable-sweep wings lasted little more than 20 years before being phased out, although hundreds of the aircraft continued to fly for years more. There were several reasons for the move away from this technology, but the primary reason was that the large metal gearbox needed to move the wings was complicated and heavy. This increased maintenance requirements and decreased fuel performance. An aircraft capable of moving its wing forward for fuel-efficient flight could never be as efficient as an airplane equipped with a straight wing. The same was true for aircraft with swept-back wings; they would always be more efficient than aircraft with swing-wings."

      They might try it again with bombers though.

      The Su-27 and subsequent fighters though have no swing wings.

    6. You've combined a bunch of generic increased maintenance statements that don't mention the F-14 swing wing at all with some forum opinions by a generic commenter who is likely repeating unfounded myths and a generic aviation history website that offers not authority whatsoever (no reports, no citiations, nothing) and is also likely repeating a myth. In short, none of what you've offered contains the slightest aura of authority.

      The one semi-authoritative source, the F-18 pilot, doesn't mention the F-14's swing wing at all. He merely cites higher overall maintenance for the F-14 which is neither surprising, given that it was an older aircraft, nor in dispute.

      Give me something authoritative or stop making the claim.

    7. I've also pointed out that every part of an aircraft needs maintenance. I'm sure the swing wing mechanism needed maintenance but I've never heard that it required any undue amount of maintenance. Similarly, I'm sure the folding wing mechanism on a Hornet requires maintenance but I've never heard that it requires any undue amount of maintenance. A Tomcat's wings swing, a Hornet's wings fold. They both require maintenance. Neither appears to be a maintenance sinkhole.

    8. I think we have to agree to disagree.

      Where I stand on this:

      " The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour."

      I'd say that's pretty authoritative.

      The folding wings on an F-18 are a lot simpler (they just fold when the aircraft is on the carrier to save deck space). They do have a penalty (slight weight and lower G's possible), but nothing else. By contrast the F-14's wings must be able to change their wing sweep in the air. That's a lot more sophisticated and needs a complex mechanism. The reason is because the F-18's folding mechanism doesn't move at all in flight. The swing wings have to move - and be able to withstand immense stresses.

      I mean I've searched around, but from where I'm standing that's pretty solid.

      The other reason why I know is because I've spoken with people who have worked with both aircraft. Not sure how I can cite that. The F-18 does not require nearly as much maintenance.

      The source I spoke with said 40 hours-ish for a new F-14 and 8 hours of maintenance per hour of flight on average for an F-18, which is in line with the 5-10 hours the USN claims. Assuming 8 hours on the F-18 and 40 hours on the F-14 - that's a factor of 5. The person I spoke with said hypothetically it might be possible to get that down to 25 maintenance hours per flight hour with modern technology, but he said he did not know. No aircraft has been developed with swing wings in the past 25 years.

      I have never heard anyone claim to me that the F-14 was easy to maintain. I mean I have heard people call the plane good looking, I've heard people claim that it should not have been retired, but I have not heard the idea that swing wings are easy to maintain. They cannot be. They have a gearbox, complex hydraulics, and sensors. Considering the conditions that swinging mechanism go, it has to be undergo a lot of maintenance. Actually that's partly why Iran must struggle to get their F-14s airborne - partly due to the bad engines of the original F-14A, but also due to a lack of spare parts.

      I will stand by my opinion and you can stand by yours. My thoughts are that if they were so good, we would expect that land based aircraft would continue to use them, something that never happened. Instead fixed wing with advanced software has become the norm. To be that says that drawbacks must outweigh the advantages ... or at best, it has been rendered obsolete by technology.

      The only project I have heard of that might use swing wings is the Tupolev PAK DA project. That's a "might", as some of design proposals look more like a B2:

      Outside of that, nobody uses them. You'll notice that in their ads, Northrop Grumman does not either:

      This looks more like a fighter version of the B2. The wings fold like on the F-18, but now swing like the F-14. That's important considering Grumman was the maker of the F-14. That and there's no way to make a stealthy variable swept wing. The swinging mechanism would reflect radar.

      The Europeans, which made the Panavia Tornado, another swing wing tell me that it would have been better for it to have been a fixed wing fighter. Since then their aircraft have all been fixed wing. The Eurofighter is a long arm canard delta design.

    9. I'll tell you what though - I prefer neither fold nor swing wings. Why? Both restrict G's.

      I prefer a delta wing with a short wingspan (less deck space taken). The Rafale M is a good example of that:

      I'd want something smaller and simpler.

      High wing area for maximum fuel capacity and low wing loading, while low wingspan, which is good for transient performance, only I would want a smaller, simpler aircraft with a very high fuel fraction because the Rafale is a bit too low in range and too many electronics.

      That type of aircraft is possible now with modern technology. It has been for decades.

    10. Amemdment:
      I just checked and assuming this Russian source is accurate, the non-swing wing variant of the PAK DA has been used.

      It will look more like this (from 3:34 onwards):

      So that's it then if that Russian report is accurate. It's a flying wing. Tass is the largest Russian news agency, so I expect it to be accurate.

      I don't imagine that there will be any more swing wing aircraft by either the West or Russia now.

    11. "I think we have to agree to disagree."

      No. You flatly stated that the F-14 swing wing was somehow more maintenance intensive to the point that it was a major reason why the F-14 was retired. You have produced evidence that the F-14 was maintenance intensive, in general, WHICH IS NOT IN DISPUTE, but you have not produced a single authoritative reference citing swing mechanism maintenance requirements. This actually agrees with all my readings over the years on the F-14, none of which ever mentioned the swing mechanism as particularly maintenance intensive. Thus, your statement is unsupported. I will delete any future such statement as untrue. You may, if you wish, offer an unsupported opinion that you believe the swing wing mechanism was maintenance intensive as long as you clearly indicate that it is an unsupported opinion.

      Also, note that I have no particular stake in this. I don't care whether the mechanism was maintenance intensive or not. My stake, and what I care about, is factual accuracy. I would equally critique the converse statement, that the swing wing required very little maintenance, if it was unsupported!

      Interestingly, I'm unaware that the swing mechanism required any maintenance, whatsoever. I've never read about any maintenance that needed to be performed on it. Realistically, of course, it's far more likely that I simply haven't read Tomcat maintenance manuals than that there is no maintenance needed. The point is that I'm unaware of any evidence about swing mechanism, period.

      Factual accuracy is my only concern.

      So, we won't agree to disagree. Instead, we'll recognize that there is no evidence to support the claim of undue swing wing maintenance and we'll refrain from saying so.

      Pending any new information, that's enough on that subject.

    12. "Both restrict G's."

      Not again! Where do you come up with these? I've never heard that. Do you have any reference for that?

      The Tomcat had no swing wing g-limit that I'm aware of. I've never heard that Navy folding wing aircraft were fold-g-limited. What I've heard is that all fighter aircraft are pilot g-limited well below the aircraft's structural g-limits.

    13. My assessment of the decline of the swing wing, and this is purely speculative on my part, is that the swing has been dropped not because of any inherent flaw or maintenance requirements but because technology has progressed to the point that we can achieve the same performance without it. Simple as that. Why add moving parts if not necessary?

      That's a speculative opinion on my part. Whether it's true or not, I don't know. I've never talked to an aeronautical engineer about it or read a paper on the subject.

    14. Wow this exploded after sitting quiet for awhile!

      WRT the F-14 Alt, I think the plane in general is one where you and I can disagree. If I may, it reminds me once of a situation I had with my daughter. She was 2 and had lost her favorite teddy bear. I tried to put another bear in her bed and she kept throwing it back out saying 'YECH!'

      I feel that's how our conversation on the Tomcat goes; I'm trying to say it was (would be) better than just the Hornet, and you're saying its not a good Boyd fighter and keep throwing it out (YECH!). (I mean this with tongue in cheek, not disrespectfully, I hope you take it in jest).

      To my original point; the RFP for the Tomcat hit in '68 and the plane hit the Fleet in '74 (!!). This is with the big new radar, new computer for the swing wing mechanism, etc. Lots of high tech stuff that they were able to get into a fighter and into the fleet in 6 years.

      And yes, it had issues (TF-30's being chief among them), but it was usable in war time in a variety of ways. Ask Iran!

      Given our needs at the time, I think that it filled its role. There is zero question it could have been better and they could have tried to put ease of maintenance higher on the docket. I call it a win for Grumman.

      Lets take the Tomcat off the table though. The Eagle was a '65 RFP and in the squadrons in '76.

      The Viper was a '72 RFP and introduced in '78.

      All of these utterly crush the F-35.

    15. One more thing; you mention that you would prefer a Boyd fighter. There are things I really like about the concept: Cost affordability, sortie rate, and maintainability being among them.

      however... I'm not sure that this fighter adequately fills the fleet defense role? A 2nd line, maybe, but I do believe in the concept of the outer air battle where you try to shoot down the archers as far away from the fleet as possible. To me, That's going to mean a jet with high speed (both sprint and cruise) and long range weapons. Maybe that is a main point of disagreement.

      IRST isn't there yet, from what I've read, as a main sensor. And no one is using it that way. It's still looking at the sky through a straw with a laser to get targeting quality info. This is especially true when you compare it to LPI AESA radars.

      If I'm flying at you in my flanker with an LPI AESA radar it seems its quite likely I could get the jump on you with good targeting information for my missiles well before you can get a targeting quality return on me with your IRST.

      Sure, you might avoid them with your super mobile jet; but with missile technology going forward Pk's would appear to be rising. They aren't uber weapons, but they aren't AIM 4 Falcon's either.

      Further, I just put you behind the curve. While you're dodging for your life, I'm setting myself up for the next attack.

      This could be a real problem if I am in my flanker attacking a carrier with a limited number of jets to begin with. Its not like you can flood the skies with cheap BoydFighters.

    16. Re Boyd, you have to remember that he came from, and was a product of, the time of guns and eyeballs as the sensor. Aircraft radars and missiles were in their infancy. Therefore, he saw air-to-air combat as all about ruthlessly maximizing guns, eyeballs (not really anything you can do to improve those), and maneuverability. He wanted nothing to do with anything else because up close and personal dogfighting was the only thing that was important to him. The carrier outer air battle and other such missions were of no interest to him. In short, he was incapable of designing a good fleet air superiority fighter because he simply didn't recognize the mission.

    17. "The Tomcat had no swing wing g-limit that I'm aware of. I've never heard that Navy folding wing aircraft were fold-g-limited. What I've heard is that all fighter aircraft are pilot g-limited well below the aircraft's structural g-limits."

      Manual says 6.5G

      " As compared with the best existing USN fighters, the Tomcat offered a 21 percent increase in acceleration and sustained g-force, 20 percent increase in rate of climb, 27 percent increase in maneuvering capability, and a 40 percent improvement in turning radius. At a high throttle setting, the Tomcat can hold a steady angle of attack of about 77 degrees. Maximum design speed of the Tomcat is Mach 2.4, but the Navy sets a limit of about Mach 2.25 for service aircrews. The aircraft can execute an 180-degree 6.5-g turn of 1800 feet radius in 10 seconds without loss of speed. The Tomcat can hold 6.5 g at Mach 2.2, and can accelerate from loiter to Mach 1.8 in 75 seconds. Armed with four Phoenix, two Sparrows, two Sidewinders, and two external fuel tanks, the Tomcat can loiter on combat air patrol for 90 minutes 280 km from the carrier, or for an hour at a range of 470 km from the carrier. Tactical radius with the same load on a deck-launched interception mission is 317 km with a Mach 1.3 flyout. "

      You might be able to hit more briefly, but not for a sustained period of time.

      For a comparison, the F-16 can hit 9Gs.

      "One of two entries in the Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter (LWF) technology demonstration program (the other was the Northrop YF-17), the YF-16 used Pratt & Whitney F100 engines from the McDonnell Douglas F-15. It picked up existing components from other aircraft, including landing gear tires from a Convair B-58 bomber. What the YF-16 had that was all its own was an unstable, and therefore highly maneuverable, airframe that could withstand 9 Gs and, to manage its fly-by-wire flight control system, four computers, without which the airplane could not have maintained controlled flight. "

      I don't have the sources but an F-18C can sustain 7.5G. The non-naval versions can be strengthened to 9G, which is the same as the F-16.

      Rafale is rated for 11G.

      The Ultimate Structural Load of the Rafale is 16.5G (I'd imagine 13.5G on the F-16), but 11G is as high as it can do safely. The reason is the Ultimate Structural Load is 1.5x the load you can safely sustain.

      Oh and one more matter:

      "The US Department of Defense's decision to relax the sustained turn performance of all three variants of the F-35 was revealed earlier this month in the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation 2012 report. Turn performance for the US Air Force's F-35A was reduced from 5.3 sustained g's to 4.6 sustained g's. The F-35B had its sustained g's cut from five to 4.5 g's, while the US Navy variant had its turn performance truncated from 5.1 to five sustained g's. "

      I thinking sending an aircraft with a 6.5G limit on the F-14 is too low. What do you think I must think about this report?

      I probably should have mentioned it in the kinematic performance.

    18. Picture of the Rafale pulling 10G.

      Normally I'd imagine a Rafale doing 9G like an F-16, but in an emergency, you'd want the option to go up to and over 11G.

    19. 'Yech!' ;-)?

      Dumb Question: What's the upper performance limit on the pilot with existing gear?

      I mean, at some point we could build a fighter with a 20g limit but it won't matter. Or even if we could keep him alive and conscious its unlikely we could keep him fighting.

      I'm guessing that the g limit on the Tomcat had a lot to do with its main role as an interceptor; but that's just assumption on my part.

    20. " In short, he was incapable of designing a good fleet air superiority fighter because he simply didn't recognize the mission."

      That's one of the things I wonder about. I've had a couple active duty air force buddies over the years and they were universally disdainful of NAVAIR. 'If the Navy wants airplanes they should call the air force....' They didn't even recognize that the Navy had any business flying airplanes. I obviously disagree with this.

      I've come to respect more and more of Boyd's opinions over time reading this blog; particularly in terms of cost, sortie rate, and maintenance. But I keep running into a wall with their universal applicability to NAVAIR and considering some modern tech.

    21. You're doing it again. Nothing you've presented states that the aircraft g-limits are related to the swing/fold wing. They may be but you've not produced a reference that states it.

      You have a marked tendency to take generic data and draw specific and unsupported conclusions from it. These conclusions may or may not be right but are unsupported. By all means, draw your conclusion but then go find some specific data to support it. This is getting tedious.

      You need to carefully distinguish between statements of fact and suppositions/opinions.

    22. "But I keep running into a wall with their universal applicability"

      They are not universally applicable. They are applicable only to the the specific mission of guns/eyeballs aerial combat. Some of the principles are well worth keeping in mind for any aircraft but they are not strictly applicable as a group to any other mission. Boyd was the ultimate single function practitioner.

    23. There's a fundamental problem with applying Boyd's principle of cheaper, lighter fighters in larger numbers, if you're a navy. You don't have room for lots of additional cheap fighters on your carriers.

    24. All depends on how many you think you need. The Nimitz class is designed for 100 aircraft or so depending on specific types and sizes. More combat aircraft could be carried if some of the helos were offloaded to the escorts.


    25. "Dumb Question: What's the upper performance limit on the pilot with existing gear? "

      See the following:

      The consensus though is that 12G is probably the limit even briefly. That is what they did for space flight training. It's not just the human. At those G's the engines would probably be as much as you can take. Keep in mind in most dogfights, they aren't trying to take Gs for several minutes, it's like very high for 10-30s, then normal, then very high again.

      Note though that people can take more Gs lying down rather than seated for longer periods.

      You could probably push up the 9G limit on the F-15, F-16, and land based F-18, but will damage the air frame. Perhaps up to 10-11.

      I would have heard that on the F-14, you could briefly sustain higher than 6.5 Gs, but again it would damage the air frame if repeated.

      If memory serves, the Rafale might be able to go a bit higher than 11, but you'd damage not just the airframe but the other parts. The difference with the Rafale is that it can do 11 G sustainably. It's airframe was designed with that in mind.

      I'd want an aircraft with an airframe that can do 12G sustainably as that is what a human and the engines can take.

      "I mean, at some point we could build a fighter with a 20g limit but it won't matter. Or even if we could keep him alive and conscious its unlikely we could keep him fighting. "

      Not anytime soon.

      We'd need a way to keep the pilot conscious, the engine and other components from flying apart, etc. That is NOT easy. We'd need a counter G force.

      That's not possible right now with current technology. If you do figure it out, you will be a very rich man.

      Right now it takes a lot of training, on a select few pilots can do it, and a lot of equipment like G suits for it to happen. I don't see that changing any time soon.

      Fun fact - the G forces is what kills in car crashes:

    26. You might be interested in checking out the g-force human experiments conducted by, and on, John Stapp. He repeatedly sustained g-forces of 30-40+ g's. A simple Internet search will give you the information.

    27. Alt, I've deleted your F-14 comment, as I said I would. I'm not going to allow unsubstantiated statements and I'm not going to waste any more time dealing with them.

  14. Just want to add my view point, hopefully not rehashing previous posts.

    When it comes to AMRAAM, she getting long in the tooth, range and speed wise especially, if F35 wants to be a long range sniper then something with more range/speed is needed. My guess is that there is a black world program for a ramjet AMRAAM, not bad to keep this under wraps, would be a nasty surprise as a silver bullet. I think bigger problem though as mentioned, the meager load-out under LO is pathetic.

    The problem, as CNO has noted numerous times is, are we really testing to world like conditions? I love Red Flag but is it realistic? It's a nice little, ok, huge box with nice little limits and everything stays nicely contained but in real life, anyone in USAF noticed there's a freaking huge civilian airport nearby?!? I'm not just talking Las Vegas, but you have LAX, SFO and PHX not that far with tons of traffic, would USAF risk taking long range sniper shots with that much civilian traffic around? If you think IFF will save the civilians, tell that to those people onboard MH370...any war, any where is going to have major civilian airports and flights nearby, you better be sure you know what you are shooting at or maybe SOP won't let you, like that has never happened in the past (Vietnam,anyone)?

    Wonder too if USAF is looking ahead to when Russia and China will have a high-lo mix of PAKFA/SU30s and J20/J11/J10, what does the simulations/RED FLAG say then?!?

    Last, when DoD puts all it's egg inside LO basket, better hope neither Russia or China comes up with a better IRST/EO, AESA, AWACS,etc or maybe even just some kind of software/algorithm...has anybody inside Pentagon considered that all our operations and SOP are out there, every day, it's not like we don't have somewhat of a PATTERN! Could a nation develop an algorithm when you spot the F15 missile trucks, you assume there's an F22 OR F35 SOMEWHERE AROUND guiding them ? In theory, they could be anywhere, right, there are invisible! BUT, that's not true, in air combat, some tactical positions are better than others, some can be eliminated, some low probability, some high probability, if Russia or China especially has the numbers on us, why couldn't they fire a few missiles at high probability locations to spook the F35 and force them to turn or fire back?!? That's not even assuming just some kind of major technological break thru could happen and pouf, LO is gone!

  15. As cynical as this sounds, I think a major reason the f-35 is still around is that it's fulfilling its mission perfectly: Providing jobs and money to congressional districts.

    I'm skeptical of the uber capabilities ascribed to the Russian and Chinese jets out there. Historically the Russians have always had the "uber" jet lurking behind the shadow of secrecy: the Mig 17, the Foxbat, etc. all were supposed to be monsters. In the end they ranged from good to totally misunderstood; but never game changers.

    Given that, I think we could get away with upgraded Vipers or Eagles in the short term. In the long term make something we can afford without all the Star Wars stuff and as soon as you can concentrate on handing a good plane to a pilot then training the living hell out of them.

    I believe even a slightly upgraded Eagle or Viper in the hands of a pilot with a ton of training and flight time will be a very effective "weapons system" against whatever the Russians can throw at us in numbers for the time being.

    Right now the biggest threat to US air power isn't the Russian or Chinese jets; it's the budget singularity that is the f-35; which curtails upgrades, training, and even other programs.

  16. A sidebar, not F-35 but F-22 (which might lead to F-35 eventually..)

    I dug this up on the Chinese site,

    If the above is true and not dated, then it's the pilots.

  17. Putting aside the argument as to whether or not the F-35s are the planes that the U.S. and its allies should be buying, do the available specifications really justify condemning the airplane? I don’t think they do. Ignoring the flaws in the operational concept (or lack thereof) that drove the program and the mismanagement of the program, it seems like the designers at LM actually designed a pretty decent airplane. The designers clearly made compromises to provide a degree of stealth and bleeding-edge avionics, but what airframe isn’t built on a system of compromises. Again, I’m not necessarily arguing that the operational concept (i.e., a strike fighter with a high degree of stealth from the frontal aspect) is, or was, the correct one for the geopolitical and fiscal environment (e.g., how many F-22 did they think we’d realistically have when coming up with the requirements?), but versus at least what I consider to be the best alternative currently available, I think we should stay the course and make what improvements we can.

    I believe that the best alternative currently available to the F-35A are the block 60/62 and forthcoming block 70/72 F-16s, largely because I think the single-engine requirement is a deal-breaker. For the purposes of this admittedly back-of-the-envelope analysis, I think ignoring the factors that are unique to the naval and VSTOL roles is acceptable, largely because the F-35A will be acquired in far larger numbers than the B and C models.

    The numbers below should be taken with a grain or two of salt, as they are merely taken from wikipedia and seemingly knowledgeable contributors on, but I assume they’re reasonably accurate for my purposes. Additionally, I am in NO way an aerodynamicist. Consequently, I did not attempt to estimate operational ranges based on estimated drag values and/or fuel flow rates and instead relied on estimated loaded weights, thrust-to-weight ratios, and “wing” loadings. But hey, if you’re a fan of Pierre Sprey those are the ONLY things that matter, amirite?

    The analysis below is driven by what I think are the two biggest compromises in the design of the F-35: (a) a large fuel fraction to increase range at the expense of additional dry weight and (b) internal weapons carriage for stealth at the expense of additional dry weight. The former, (a), is relatively easy to compare with the F-16, at least in terms of weight, because the relevant fuel masses are known. The latter, (b) is more difficult because the weight/drag penalties are not easily discernible, but if you “read between the lines” I think you can infer at least the associated weight penalty.

    Ultimately, my conclusion is that it seems like the F-35 should realistically fair no worse in air-to-air combat than an F-16 based on kinematics alone, EVEN one outfitted with the same P&W F135 as the F-35 (and assuming a 10-20% penalty in parasitic drag, which I think is reasonable). And at least in a first-day-of-war type scenario, I find it hard to believe that the F-35's low observable qualities will not be worth any loss in kinematic performance, which seems like it should be relatively small, if any. Additionally, by all accounts the F-35 has SIGNIFICANTLY better high AoA performance than the F-16, particularly in yaw.

    I’d be interested to see what conclusions others are draw from these data points or what’s missing from this *crude* analysis.

    Just my $0.02 FWIW. I'll post the numbers in a reply.

    - Gripen

    1. F-35A
      Empty Weight: 29,098 lb
      Wing Area: 460 sqft
      Internal Fuel Capacity: 18,500 lbs

      Loaded Weights:
      50% Internal Fuel: 38348 lbs
      100% Internal Fuel: 47598 lbs

      Pratt & Whitney F135
      Dry Thrust: 28,000 lbf
      Wet Thrust (Max): 43,000 lbf

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 50% Fuel (9,250 lbs): 43000/38348 = 1.12 lbf/lbs
      - “Wing Loading”: 83 lbs/sqft
      - “Extra” fuel vs F-16 Block 60/62 at 50% Fuel: 5670 lbs - I’m interested to know if this would translate to more afterburner use margin compared to the F-16

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 100% Internal Fuel: 43000/47598= 0.90 lbf/lbs
      - “Wing Loading”: 103 lbs/sqft

      F-16 Block 60/62
      Empty Weight: 22,000 lbs
      Wing Area: 300 sqft

      Fuel Capacity:
      Internal: 7160 lbs
      CFTs (Weighing 900 lbs): 3050 lbs (220 Gallons X2)
      Center Tank (weighing 600 lbs?): 2045 lbs (300 Gallons)
      Wings (600 Gallons X2, weighing 1500 lbs?): 8180 lbs
      Wings (440 Gallons X2, weighing 1000 lbs?): 6000 lbs

      “Loaded” Weights:
      Loaded weight to equal F-35A at 100% internal fuel capacity: 36000 lbs (Internal + CFTs + Center + 440 X2 + 405 lbs additional fuel + AT LEAST 2500 pounds in estimated additional weight + UNKNOWN drag penalty)

      Loaded Weight To equal F-35 at 50% fuel (9,250 lbs): 32,105 lbs (Empty Weight + Full internal load + 2045 lbs fuel in CFTs + 900 lbs CFTs)

      General Electric F110-GE-132
      Dry Thrust: 19,000 lbf
      Wet Thrust (Max): 32,500 lbf

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 50% Internal Fuel (3580 lbs): 32500/25580 = 1.27 lbf/lbs

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 50% F-35A Internal Fuel: 32500/32105 = 1.01 lbf/lbs
      - “Wing Loading”: 107 lbs/sqft

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 100% F-35A Internal Fuel: 32500/36000 = 0.90 lbf/lbs
      - “Wing Loading”: 120 lbs/sqft

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 50% F-35A Internal Fuel with F135: 1.34 lbf/lbs - NOT accounting for drag of stores + drag/weight of larger intake + additional F35 systems (e.g., DAS)

      Thrust to Weight Ratio at 100% F-35A Internal Fuel and with F135: 1.19 lbf/lbs - NOT accounting for drag of stores + drag/weight of larger intake + additional F35 systems (e.g., DAS)

      - Gripen

    2. "... do the available specifications really justify condemning the airplane?"

      First, let me say thank you for a well reasoned DISCUSSION (as opposed to argument). Yours is exactly the kind of comment I try to elicit from readers. Whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant. Well done.

      Now, to specifics. I'll offer a few thoughts, broken out in separate comment replies so bear with me.

      I'm not enough of an aerodynamicist, as you put it, either, to make an intelligent assessment of specific dogfighting characteristics. However, such specifics are not necessarily required to assess the value of the F-35.

      Your question, do the specs justify the condemnation that the F-35 receives? There are two, opposite, answers to this. One, by the specs alone, considered in isolation from any other factor, no, the condemnation is not warranted. The specs are, as you suggest, at least equal to the F-16, generally, and with added stealth, and probably better sensors, the aircraft is superior to the F-16.

      Two, yes, the condemnation is well justified when other factors, principally cost, are considered. Is an aircraft that is somewhat better than an F-16 worth the trillions of dollars that this aircraft will ultimately cost? Not even close!

      It is the second answer that motivates most people's disdain for the F-35. Consider this ridiculous case: if the F-35 were, literally, free, would people want it? Sure they would and as many as they could get! On the other hand, if it costs so much that your military is forced to give up numerous other acquisitions and upgrades and winds up gutting your overall military force for decades to come, is it worth it and would people want it? Emphatically, no!

      It's the value (specs obtained for the money spent) that the F-35 is lacking. The F-35 is money poorly spent.

      The value gets even worse when other factors like suitability for the anticipated combat theaters, or performance relative to Russian/Chinese stealth peer fighters, and appropriateness for the operational needs of the services are considered.

    3. "ignoring the factors that are unique to the naval and VSTOL roles is acceptable, largely because the F-35A will be acquired in far larger numbers than the B and C models."

      For a European conflict, yes. For a Pacific conflict, no. We have almost no useful bases in the Pacific and carrier air may well be our major combat aircraft. This makes the F-35B/C a highly suspect choice for the operational needs of such a conflict.

    4. "internal weapons carriage"

      The F-35 is very limited in internal weapons carriage. When two stealth aircraft meet and neither can obtain a solid lock on the other, missiles will fly and, mostly, miss. The aircraft with the largest inventory of missiles may turn out to be the winner or, more likely, the combat will devolve into a classic, high-g, turning dogfight - again, not a strength of the F-35.

    5. "seems like the F-35 should realistically fair no worse in air-to-air combat than an F-16"

      To return to my previous comment, is the F-35 worth the trillion plus dollars it will cost to produce an aircraft that will perform no worse than an F-16?

    6. I do not agree with this assessment.

      Several reasons.

      1. Low G limits on the F-35 on B and C variants. (7 G for F35B, 7,5 for F35C and 9 for F35A), and they may be further lowered if big problems are found (they have already been lowered). F-16 is the same at 9Gs. That's actually a problem - I would like a fighter aircraft 11Gs standard.

      2. You're not taking into account the drag from the size and shape of the fuselage, although you did write "Unknown Drag Penalty". It's going to be pretty big on the F-35 due to the large fuselage. Good L/D requires a narrow fuselage with a lot of wing body blending or an outright flying wing.

      3. The F-16 being a smaller aircraft has a lower fuel capacity. Fully loaded it's about 20% I found lower than the F-35 in wing loading. The F-16 is actually a lot heavier in wing loading than I would like to be honest (that's caused by its wings; I very much prefer delta wings).

      4. Factoring in the transient performance (very important in close combat and perhaps for dodging missiles) - the F-35 is at a disadvantage due to its larger (by about 10% wingspan). It also suffers from wing drop.

      5. This is not a kinematic performance problem, but the F-35's helmet is not working well so the rearward visibility is bad.

      I personally see the aircraft as significantly inferior, although it's higher fuel capacity might be able to lead it to get a bit more range (But DOT&E indicates that the F135 engine has higher than expected burn rates so even there I'm not 100% sure).

      Beyond that, as linked earlier, the F-35 in tests has difficulties keeping up with an F-16 with fuel tanks (a huge drag penalty).

      Which leads me to another point. The big nose on the F-35 does not allow for very rapid turns, at least not without losing energy which would render the F-35 a siting duck in real combat.

      That's actually a flaw with the F-16 too - had the nose been narrower like YF-16, then the F-16 aircraft would have been able to have even higher angles of attack.

      Several other problems:

      1. Cost. An F-35 will cost a lot more than an F-16.

      2. Numbers. Let's say it ends up 200 million. For that kind of money, you could easily buy several F-16s. The F-35 would have to win against several.

      3. It gets worse. The sortie rates for the F-35 are not going to be very good due to the various reliability problems that the F-35 has. So it's going to have worse numbers and sortie. You'll be outnumbered badly in the air in such a scenario because of numbers and poor maintenance to flight rates.

      4. The other problem is that the internal weapons carriage can be a drawback too. On the way there it's an advantage because it does lead to less drag than externally carried weapons and of course radar stealth. But it's also a drawback because once the weapons are launched, it's deadweight adding drag to the fuselage. When flying "clean" (ex: when avoiding enemy missiles or in a dogfight), that's a drawback.

    7. "And at least in a first-day-of-war type scenario, I find it hard to believe that the F-35's low observable qualities will not be worth any loss in kinematic performance, which seems like it should be relatively small, if any."

      To me the mortal sins of the F-35 are its long development cycle, which compromises its advantages; and the high cost of keeping it flying, which has been exacerbated by its tech and the (so far) utter failure of ALIS.

      Maybe its worth keeping the ones we have already built for a first day of war scenario. I'd have to think about that. But replacing the whole fleet (1700!!) with them just seems like a great way to hollow out your air fleet by having it suck tons of money and not deliver a lot of flying time.

    8. Honestly, I don't know what to make of this program and aircraft anymore. Both the advocates and detractors are certainly ardent in their beliefs.

      Since posting my comments I've been trying to do some additional research to support my views and conclusions in response to some of the points raised against them. To be honest, the most convincing analyses that I've found of the F-35 and air-to-air warfare in general is from the elements of power blog ( To put it bluntly, few if any of the points raised by AltandMain, and frequently by Mr. Solomon on his blog, seem supported by the various analyses there or many people that purport to have flight-time in fighter aircraft. To be fair, this is a single source and not "peer reviewed" (although some USAF pilots seem to echo his thoughts on, but I think it's safe to say that his analyses demonstrate more rigor than ANY of F-35 critics have shown. I will let his work speak for itself, but he his convincing me of the merits of the aircraft, program, and operational concept.

      Here are a few examples:

      And why you may want to take Mr. Solomon's views with some skepticism.

      And thank you, ComNavOps, for your kind words. I've been lurking on this blog for awhile. Your voice is certainly one worth listening to. I deeply appreciate the thought and effort that you, and others like you (e.g., Weasponsman (who sadly passed away recently) and many of the folks at Sturgeon's House, to name a few) put into your posts.

    9. "Honestly, I don't know what to make of this program and aircraft anymore."

      At the risk of repeating myself, if the F-35 cost $30M or $50M, we wouldn't be having a conversation. No one would care. The F-35's problem is that its value (performance for the dollars spent) is marginal, at best, and is hollowing out the rest of the military to pay for it.

    10. For what it's worth, the site is as one-sided as can be. They don't even pretend to be objective. I don't follow it for that reason.

    11. " site is as one-sided as can be. They don't even pretend to be objective. I don't follow it for that reason."

      Isn't that attitude a bit dangerous? If one doesn't poke one's head into more than one echo chamber, how does one discern facts from opinions in this day and age? Especially in a relatively opaque field like defense technology? I don't care if somebody is one-sided if they can support their conclusion in good faith. They may be wrong. They may be right. Reasonable people CAN differ. Based on much of your commentary, I don't necessarily think you disagree with this.

      Sure, has more than its fair share of fanboys, but there's also a lot of good commentary from aviators and engineers. Is it not worth sorting through the chaff to find some of the golden nuggets of wisdom?

    12. Forgive me, I wasn't clear. This blog, and my interest, lies with naval matters. Other than naval aviation, I don't follow aviation and Air Force matters closely. Thus, I devote only a relatively small portion of my reading time to aviation. Given the's obvious and extreme bias, I choose to devote my limited aviation reading time to other sites that are more objective. If aviation and Air Force matters were my focus then, yes, I'd closely follow, if for no other reason than to see what the one-sided group is thinking, whether I agree or not. It's strictly a time management choice on my part. Did that make my position clearer?

    13. Yes, thank you for clarification. We all only have so much bandwidth.

      FWIW, I agree that the navy is getting the short end of the stick in that I think they need an airframe optimized for air-to-air combat (or at least one with longer legs) in that they have the 4th generation (4+?) version of the F-35 in the F/A-18E/F/G. As you know, they're still looking for a true F-14 replacement. The F-35 is not that, whatever its merits may be.

      It kind of surprises me that the Navy seems to have abandoned any form of boundary layer control (BLC) system in lieu of larger, heavier, and draggier wings and control surfaces to enhance handling at the boat. By all accounts the Blackburn Buccaneer used such a system to great effect in the Royal Navy. Furthermore, the F-35's engine is ideally situated in relation to the flaperons and elevators for a BLC system AND they've already figured out how to siphon off air from the compressor to power the roll posts in the B-model. In theory, a BLC system should preserve more of the A models air-to-air capability.

    14. If I am correct, isn't 7g 7.5g comparable to F-18 and isn't 9g f-16? If so then how can an F-35 turn this we'll and still be bad? Unless I am completely wrong of course.

  18. An interesting question. What parts on the F-35 is the US totally reliant on other nations?

    We know that the US is reliant on China for advanced magnets:

    In a serious dispute, these would not be available to the US.

  19. One last thing; this in terms of a general question:

    Is All Aspect stealth congruent with good aerodynamics?

    I.E. can you get F-35 levels of stealth without the drag?

    I'm not anti-stealth. Reducing your opponents ability to target you is always a good idea. But like anything else it has to be balanced against whatever opportunity costs it incurs.

    1. "Is All Aspect stealth congruent with good aerodynamics?

      I.E. can you get F-35 levels of stealth without the drag? "

      Technically the F-22 achieves this.

      But at least with existing technology it'd be hard to get much better.

      It's why I tend to learn towards the drawbacks of stealth outweigh the advantages.

      It also leaves no room for upgrades (because stealth requires a very specific shape).

    2. Stealth's value in a design depends on what the mission is and what the threat is. Stealth is absolutely mandatory - the degree is slightly optional. A completely unstealth'ed aircraft won't survive on the modern aerial battlefield. Stealth is the baseline price of admission to the battlefield.

      HOWEVER, stealth can be achieved multiple ways, which is something we all tend to forget and I think the military also forgets. Stealth is just the ability to reduce one's chance of detection. This can be achieved via airframe shaping and exotic coatings as with the F-22/35 and B-2. It can also be achieved via jamming/disruption of the detecting sensors. It can be achieved via tactics (flight profiles that reduce the chance of detection). It can be achieved via decoys. And so on.

      Where the stealth comes from and how much is needed depends on the mission, the threat, and how you've chosen to construct your force structure. If you have no EW aircraft then the bulk of the stealth will have to come from the airframe. If you have lots of supporting EW aircraft you can get by with less airframe stealth.

  20. So a Hornet with some RCS reduction and some excellent jamming would be considered a form of stealth, then?

    The ultimate job being to masque where your stuff is and hide it from targeting?

    1. Correct. If you can blind a sensor then it doesn't matter whether your aircraft is inherently stealthy at all.

      Ideally, we'd like a blend of the various stealth techniques and the aircraft would be a part of it but not the entire thing. Then, we could design aircraft with a reasonable degree of stealth but that would not compromise other characteristics or be cost prohibitive.

    2. My understanding is that a jamming signal is highly directional in order to put sufficient power on the target. As a result, it's only possible to jam so many sensors until the aircraft runs out of electrical power. In contrast, coatings and shaping are passive and will deflect/absorb incoming energy from any direction that they are optimized for, although deflection (i.e., edge alignment) WILL result in some high gain areas as shown on RCS polar diagrams. See page 19 here:

      Ideally then, it seems like you'd want both, with jamming antenna largely concentrated in the high gain areas if you can afford a high degree of passive stealth.

      Although I imagine that EW suites may be sufficient for aircraft that aren't expected to penetrate the A2/AD bubble and/or do SEAD/DEAD as a primary missions since you'd expect that "pop-up" threats would be the largest concern.

  21. Boy, given that idea; it seems that if only financially the Airforce could do alot worse than if they had some indigenous jamming and latest block F-16's.

    1. The Air Force, unwisely, gave up the EF-111A Raven and the electronic warfare role to the Navy and its Prowlers.

  22. ComNavOps, I thought I would take a skeptical stab at this. "Had the F-35 came into squadron service 10-20 years ago as expected", The original concept for JSF came in 1992 which was 25 years ago, Boeing and Lockheed signed the contract and produced two demonstrators, the X-35 and the X-32, both of which flew in 2000, The X-35 was awarded the contract in 2001 which was 16 years ago. But the very first F-35A didn't fly until 2006.

    Now, let's take a look at what you wrote, "10-20 years ago as expected" 20 years ago was 1997 while this was when the program was taking place, this was still before the demonstrators even flew which was 2000. So how in the world could a jet like this enter service before its prototype even flew? 10 years ago was 2007 that was only one year after the first F-35A flew. And that is the very first completed F-35 so your statement makes no sense there. Additionally, according to history channels dogfights of the future, the F-35 was supposed to come into service in 2010, The f-35b was declared IOC in 2015, so if history is correct then the F-35 has only been delayed for 5 years.

    Now let's move on to another part of this, this part will be focusing on the comments section. There was one particular comment that caught my eye (and unfortunate enough I can't seem to find it). You said something about the USAF acknowledging that future programs will not be like the F-35, then you say they have pretty much admitted it is a failure before saying this: "WHY CONTINUE AN ACKNOWLEDGED FAILURE??!!" There's a big difference between the airforce admitting something like that and them admitting it is a failure. They never said it was a failure, they simply said that future programs will not be run like the F-35's program. Why? Because the program was inefficient. For example a school project is successful but the kids who made the project admit it was done inefficiently. That's pretty much what the Air Force is saying.
    Moving on, o see comments from other users of how the F-35 would not fare well in a dogfight. Well the F-35A can pull 9g which is the same amount as The F-16 and the B and C variants can pull 7-7.5g respectively, that's comparable to F-18 hornets and possibly greater than the harriers.

    Overall, I hope you found my assessment useful and I would really appreciate it if you would make a reply with your own opinion. It took me a long time to make this so I hope it was worth the time.

  23. I also noticed something in your assessment. You said at the end that the F-35 cannot do its aerial sniper ability because the skies of the future will be populated by stealthy and semi stealthy aircraft. The big question is, How many of these aircraft will be in the sky? And how big of a threat do they pose? Let's look at this article

    Now, let's assume for the sake of arguments that the information regarded in this article is correct. If the information is true and that Russia is only buying 12 PAK FA/SU-57's then they will most likely not be used unless the situation is most dire. More likely is that our adversaries will deploy their non stealthy aircraft to try and combat our F-35's. Then the F-:5 can use its aerial sniper capabilities to its advantage.

    1. The article you linked notes an initial low number buy but then goes on to state,

      "The Russians intend to buy more of the second, improved version of the Su-57, which will feature a new engine and other enhancements."

      Further, if the Russians were the only potential adversary, we could rest fairly easy. However, the Chinese are developing and procuring advanced weapons as fast as they can. They will have a major stealth air force in a fairly short time.


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