Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Stealth Air-to-Air Combat Story

The F-35C pilot was all too aware of the reason for this mission.  The latest Hawkeye shootdown had been just like the others.  The Chinese VLRAAM (Very Long Range Air to Air Missile) had used the American E-2D Hawkeye’s radar transmissions for detection and guidance and made its approach at Mach 6+ from well over 200 miles away.  The 350 kt Hawkeye had attempted to evade but the Hawkeye’s utter lack of stealth and slow speed made escape impossible.  For the Chinese, it was like shooting a turtle with a rifle – escape just wasn’t an option. 

The Chinese had shot down two of the carrier group’s Hawkeyes, so far, and forced the remainder to operate 50-100 miles behind the group instead of out in front and offset to the sides where they should be to provide early warning and long distance situational awareness.  The Chinese VLRAAM had effectively blinded the carrier group or, at the very least, substantially degraded their “vision” and shifted the operational and tactical advantages from the Americans to the Chinese.  U.S. carrier groups were not used to operating from a tactical disadvantage and it had unsettled the group and blunted its operational usefulness.

That was about to change.  The analysts on board the carrier had calculated the range of the Chinese VLRAAM and, combined with the location of known Chinese air bases, had predicted the launch point for the J-16 strike-fighter that carried the VLRAAM.  The point was above a somewhat sizable island that neither side had bothered to occupy.  Now, a U.S. F-35C had been tasked with ambushing the J-16. 

The F-35C carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM and two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles in its internal weapon bays.  The small combat load was one of the weaknesses of the F-35 but, for this mission, it shouldn’t matter.  A simple ambush against an unsuspecting J-16 carrying a very large missile, which rendered the aircraft not very maneuverable, ought to be a straightforward affair.

The J-16 was China’s version of the Sukhoi Su-35, itself an advanced and upgraded version of the venerable Su-27.  To be sure, the base Su-35/J-16 was a very capable strike fighter with excellent maneuverability but it wasn’t terribly stealthy and, saddled with the VLRAAM, it wouldn’t be very fast or nimble.

As the F-35C closed to within 100 nm of the anticipated location, the pilot opted for a quick scan with the APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar in LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) mode.  The pilot was only expecting a single enemy aircraft but it didn’t hurt to be safe and sure.  The LPI mode ought to prevent detection with limited use.  As expected, the radar found its target and not more than 20 nm from the anticipated location.  The pilot smiled.  This was going to be a classic ambush.  The J-16 would never know what hit it.

The F-35C carried the AIM-120D AMRAAM with a claimed range approaching 100 nm but the pilot knew that was under ideal conditions.  Realistically, the probability of a hit increased with every mile closer to the target.  The pilot continued to close.  There was no need to rush the shot.  The pilot knew that his Chinese counterpart couldn’t see the F-35 at this range so the F-35 was in no danger.  As the range closed, the F-35 pilot attempted to establish an infrared track but was having trouble.  Several times he thought he had the J-16 but he couldn’t hold track. 

At 45 nm, the pilot opted for one more quick radar scan.  Sure enough, the J-16 was still there but it appeared that the aircraft had turned and was headed away at high speed.  Well, the pilot thought, this was why he hadn’t fired sooner.  At this range, the J-16 couldn’t outrun the F-35’s AMRAAM even though he was already headed away.  As the pilot readied the shot, alarm lights and audible missile warnings startled him out of his calm routine.  Frantically glancing at his threat warning screen, the pilot saw that a missile was approaching from ahead and to the left, at the 10 o’clock position.  The pilot was momentarily frozen with surprise.  There had been no aircraft there and yet a missile was rapidly approaching.  It wasn’t possible.  Shaking off the surprise, the pilot yanked the F-35’s nose into the threat to present the aircraft’s best stealth aspect, the front, waited a few more seconds to allow the missile to approach close enough, and began ejecting chaff and flares.  Having received no radar warning, he assumed the missile was an infrared heat seeker but he wasn’t going to take chances and, besides, he had chaff and flares to spare.

As the chaff and flares bloomed, the pilot rolled inverted, pulled maximum G’s, and dove down to get out of the flight path of the incoming missile and its sensor’s field of view.  He tried to twist his head back to look behind and see if the missile had been fooled but the F-35’s high fuselage and low canopy provided very poor rearward visibility – the F-35 was an aerial sniper not a dogfighter. 

After a couple of seconds that seemed to last forever, the pilot realized that the missile must have missed since he was still alive.  The frontal stealth and decoys had done their job. 

Unfortunately, he still had no idea who or what had shot at him.

Recovering from the dive, he pulled level and quickly initiated a radar scan.  There was still no target to be seen.  Glancing at the IR display, he noted a target indicator marker ahead and below him but the indicator was not updating continuously.  He knew from experience that kind of intermittent target was likely due to an aircraft with infrared suppression and a reduced heat signature.  The intermittent contact occurred as the enemy aircraft maneuvered and changed aspect.

A sickening awareness quickly crept over the pilot.  The only time he had encountered this type of situation had been during a series of training exercises against friendly F-22 Raptors.  Then, he hadn’t been able to get usable radar returns and only intermittent IR indications.  With a start, the pilot realized that he was likely facing a Chinese stealth aircraft.

The F-35 pilot was correct.  Ahead and below him, a Chinese J-20 was maneuvering for a second shot on the F-35.  In recognition of the F-35’s front aspect stealth, the J-20 had not even attempted to obtain a radar lock but had, instead, used its all aspect infrared search and track capability to find and track the F-35.  Low on the deck, the J-20’s own heat and visual signature had been lost in the ground clutter while the F-35, high above, had been highlighted against the cold and clear sky.

The entire encounter had been a setup.  The VLRAAM toting J-16 was actually a J-16D electronic warfare version mimicking a J-16 VLRAAM shooter and was now broadcasting both specific APG-81 jamming signals and broadband electronic noise to render the F-35’s radar ineffective.  The Chinese had anticipated an American ambush and turned the tables.  The stealthy J-20 had waited, low on the deck, watching for the F-35. 

Having evaded the first missile shot from the J-20, the engagement was rapidly developing into a close range, turning encounter.  The F-35’s radar couldn’t track the J-20 but neither could the J-20 track the F-35.  Both aircraft were now depending on their IRST tracking and, again, neither could maintain a track long enough to generate a high probability kill shot. 

The F-35 dove for the deck to negate the Chinese aircraft’s infrared advantage.  As he did, he got a momentary IR indication and launched one of his two Sidewinders.  Even as he launched, he saw the IR track fade as the enemy aircraft maneuvered and knew that the Sidewinder would miss as, indeed, it did.

The F-35 had catapulted from the carrier with its maximum stealth air-to-air load of 2 AMRAAMs and 2 Sidewinders.  With radar useless against the J-20 stealth aircraft, that left the F-35 with only 2 Sidewinders and the pilot had just wasted one.  In contrast, the J-20 had a large central belly bay which held 4x PL-21 medium range radar guided missiles, comparable to the US AIM-120 AMRAAM, and two smaller side weapon bays which held a total of 4x PL-10 short range, infrared, heat seeking, high off-boresight missiles.  At this point, the Chinese aircraft had three heat seekers left to the F-35’s one.

By now, the engagement had closed to gun range and devolved into a turning and maneuvering dogfight – exactly the kind of engagement that the US Air Force had bet would never happen again in aerial combat.  Unfortunately, for the US F-35’s, when two stealth aircraft meet, neither can effectively use their radar guided missiles and infrared missiles are unlikely to be able to track reliably enough to get a clean, high percentage shot from any aspect but the rear – the classic 6 o’clock position.  This mandates the classic maneuvering dogfight in order to obtain the required position.  This should have been easily predictable but the US Air Force had chosen to ignore the possibility.  Now, the lightly armed and poorly maneuverable F-35 was paying the price.

With the F-35 now down on the deck and neither pilot wanting to go vertical and highlight their infrared signature against the cold upper atmosphere, the fight became a one dimensional, level turning contest just like the ancient WWI dogfights.  Unfortunately, it was a dogfight the F-35 was ill-suited for with its poor turning performance, low g-limits, and poor maneuverability.  The F-35 had been designed with maneuverability on par with the legacy F-16/18 and now was facing a stealth fighter equivalent to an F-22.  Worse, the F-35C didn’t have an internal gun!  If the pilot couldn’t get the 6 o’clock firing position for his missile, he had no other option and with only one missile remaining, even that was only a one-time option!

As the dogfight wore on with ever tighter turns, the F-35’s airspeed bled off faster than the J-20’s and the F-35 reached a point where it had no choice but to break out of the turn and go vertical or else get outturned and become a sitting duck.  Getting another momentary IR lock, the F-35 pilot fired off his second and last Sidewinder and yanked back on his stick with full throttle to climb out of the turn – it was time to run for home!  The pilot could only hope that the Sidewinder would occupy the Chinese pilot just long enough to allow a clean break from the engagement. 

However, thanks to extensive pre-war intel obtained through cyberespionage, the Chinese pilot knew the F-35 almost as well as the US pilot did.  He knew that the F-35’s Sidewinder couldn’t reliably track his fighter from this aspect.  He ejected a series of flares but otherwise ignored the Sidewinder.  Seeing the F-35 go vertical, he waited a heartbeat to allow the F-35 to establish its direction and then turned his nose across the F-35’s path.  With better maneuverability, the J-20 was lined up and waiting as the F-35 momentarily settled on its hoped for escape path.  The J-20, with an internal 30 mm autocannon, fired a three second burst which shredded the F-35 and sent it cartwheeling toward the ground.

Leveling off, the Chinese pilot released a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding and released the stick to shake the cramps out of his hand which had been maintaining a death grip.  The fight really hadn’t been a fair one given the F-35’s small weapons load and poor maneuverability but the pilot would gladly accept any advantage he could get.

The Americans would have to come up with another way to negate the Chinese VLRAAM advantage.  In the meantime, the carriers would have to be pulled back, out of range of the deadly Hawkeye-killing missile.


The VLRAAM is real. 

Launched by J-16, a multi-role strike-fighter that is roughly equivalent to the Russian Su-35.  The Very Long Range Air to Air Missile (VLRAAM) is 19 ft long and 13 in. diameter with a range of 250-300 miles.  Missile speed is Mach 6+.

“… large active electronically scanned (AESA) radar, which is used in the terminal phase of flight to lock onto the target. The AESA radar's large size—about 300-400% larger than that of most long range air-to-air missiles—and digital adaptability makes it highly effective against distant and stealthy targets, and resilient against electronic countermeasures like jamming and spoofing.” (1)

VLRAAM Mounted Underwing

The J-20 stealth fighter is real, however, its performance is somewhat speculative.

J-20 Stealth Fighter

The point of the story was to explore air to air combat between two stealth fighters and what I see as the inevitable degeneration of the combat to traditional dogfighting.


(1)Popular Science, “China is testing a new long-range, air-to-air missile that could thwart U.S. plans for air warfare”, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. SingerNovember 22, 2016,

(2)Air Force Technology website, “Chengdu J-20 Multirole Stealth Fighter Aircraft”,


  1. Thanks for writing these 'fictional' overviews of how this all works, it is far easier to see how the pieces fit together that way!

    Yikes! Not a promising beginning, and we would not have time to apply lessons learned the way we did after Kaiserine Pass.

    Couple questions, first, why don't WE have a VLRAAM? We built the Tomcat/Phoenix for just this scenario, and aircraft can turn a section of airspace into a 'free-fire' zone for VLRAAM, something that a AAW destroyer escorting the CV cannot do by definition!

    Second, why do stealth aircraft carry so few missiles? I know that it's due to them being stored in an internal bay, but couldn't you build aircraft with a flying wing/lifting body providing the internal space required? As you said, 13 inches of height for a 300 mile missile.

    Is it really that hard to build a aircraft with wings thicker then that?

    Sorry if this wasn't totally on point, it's just something that has bugged me ever since I read that the Korean War F84 Thunderjet could haul 24 HVAR's no problem.

    We are almost 70 years past the Korean War, and almost every fighter I've seen doesn't have a prayer of carrying an equal number of sidewinders. Was carrying massive numbers of missiles just not important? Or were they too costly to risk having so many on a single aircraft?

    1. You raise a host of good questions. The simple answer to all of them, at their core, is design philosophy. When the F-35, for example, was in the design stage some twenty years ago, the military did not envision having to face an enemy with their own stealth aircraft. Thus, it was reasoned, an F-35 with four missiles equaled four kills - seemingly adequate. Further, the designers did not envision A2A combat. The F-35 was designed as a STRIKE fighter rather than an aerial combat fighter. Thus, the ability to carry a couple of precision guided bombs was the main task.

      Also, to be fair in comparison to older generation aircraft, the F-35 does have 6 external hardpoints that can carry 15,000 lbs of ordnance. Of course, the penalty for that is reduced range, reduced endurance, reduced maneuverability, and loss of stealth - essentially, the external hardpoints are useless in any but an uncontested scenario.

      The F-22, on the other hand, is pretty good in terms of weapons. It can carry 8 A2A missiles internally and has an internal gun. It was designed for A2A.

      So, the short answer, design philosophy.

  2. Col John R.Boyd would nod to your realization that dogfighting is not dead.

    Now bring back a YF-16 and YF-18, NOT the tricked out and heavy F-16 & FA-18.

  3. The Naval F-22 [swing wing] was canceled in '93.
    In the dust bin o' history there is the AIM-97,
    an air launched SM2 variant. RH with terminal IR homing.
    Anyone remember in NavAir remember the gunless F4 w/Sparrow debut in Vietnam ?

  4. Another fine story :)

    Oh, and by the way in the other news, finally a F-35 pilot discloses that the F-35A is a very capable dog fighter to say the least :

    "Dogfighting in the F-35...
    ...‘The F-35 is a very different aircraft, and it took pilots a while to adjust and figure out how to max-perform it. What didn’t help is that until about 18 months ago we were restricted in envelope, which meant we couldn’t pull as much g as we wanted to, nor fly with high-alpha. It was an eye-opener for all of us when those restrictions were lifted and we finally got to see the full potential. Actually, it was an eye-opener for a lot of adversary pilots as well.’

    The F-35 is far larger than the F-16, and it carries twice as much fuel and three times the payload. ‘Consequently, the F-35 loses energy a bit faster than the F-16 at higher speeds,’ continues Knight. ‘But the slow-speed handling is amazing. The F-35 pilot has the option to continuously point the nose at the adversary, even at ridiculously slow speeds, which is a great capability to have in combination with high off-boresight missiles and a helmet-mounted sight. You need to be careful maneuvering the aircraft at higher speeds, because if you keep pulling back on the stick the aircraft will give you as much alpha as it can, but it will bleed a lot of energy in the process. It’s up to the pilot to recognize when to try to maintain airspeed and energy and when to give that away to prosecute with missiles or guns. I typically tell new pilots that the F-35 sits somewhere in between the F-16 and F/A-18 when it comes to within visual range maneuvering.’

    Knight divulged a little more information about flying basic fighter maneuvers (BFM) in an F-35. ‘When our envelope was cleared to practise BFM we got the opportunity to fight some fourth-generation fighters. Remember, back then the rumors were that the F-35 was a pig. The first time the opponents showed up [in the training area] they had wing tanks along with a bunch of missiles. I guess they figured that being in a dirty configuration wouldn’t really matter and that they would still easily outmaneuver us. By the end of the week, though, they had dropped their wing tanks, transitioned to a single centerline fuel tank and were still doing everything they could not to get gunned by us. A week later they stripped the jets clean of all external stores, which made the BFM fights interesting, to say the least…

    ‘High-g maneuvering is fun, but having high fuel capacity and the ability to carry lots of stores is great too. During the weeks when we were flying BFM we also needed to drop a GBU-12 [laser-guided bomb] on the China Lake weapons range. Back in our F-16 days we’d have had to choose, since there is no way you can BFM with a bomb on your wing, let alone having the fuel to fly both missions in a single sortie. With the F-35, however, this isn’t much of an issue. On one of the sorties, my colleague, Maj Pascal ‘Smiley’ Smaal, decided he would fly BFM and still have enough fuel to go to the range afterwards and drop his weapon. During the debrief, the adversary pilot told us he was confused as to why we went to the range after the fight. When ‘Smiley’ told him that he was carrying an inert GBU-12 the entire time and that he then dropped it afterwards during a test event, the silence on the other end of the line was golden.’

    So much for the dogfight discussion

    1. I don't think you realize how damning this little story was. Consider this statement,

      "A week later they stripped the jets clean of all external stores, which made the BFM fights interesting, to say the least…"

      That sounds like a clean fourth gen aircraft (the implication was F-16/18) was a match ("made the BFM fights interesting") for the F-35. That's a sad commentary that our greatest aircraft is an interesting match for fourth gen aircraft.

      "So much for the dogfight discussion"

      Oh good grief. How many Captains has the Navy trotted out extolling the virtues of the LCS? How many AF Generals have proclaimed the wonders of the F-35 over the last decade?

      One anecdotal story from a shill proves nothing. Checking your source, you appear to have copied a snippet of a forum thread and I could find no description of who this guy is or what degree of authority he has, if any. At the moment, this is tantamount to a rumor, at best. In fact, it sounds very much like a made up story. If it was real, I would think the military would have it plastered all over every major Internet outlet!

      See if you can find a source and description of this guy's background.

    2. Interesting for sure BUT what happens when an F-35 fights another F35 or F-22 or in this scenario, J-20?

      Notice we don't hear too much about that....I'm sure some pilots have tried fighting each other or at Red Flag maybe USAF has already tried it, makes sense to see what happens when you have LO vs LO fighting each other. Russia and especially China will have LO fighters soon, J-20 is already in "service"....

    3. "what happens when you have LO vs LO fighting each other."

      I've read a couple of anecdotal stories about F-22 vs F-22 and they ended just as the story did - with a close range dogfight because neither could target the other. I haven't published those because I couldn't confirm them but the logic is sound and that's why I wrote the story - to illustrate what I think will happen.

    4. "See if you can find a source and description of this guy's background."

      whole article

      Out Of The Shadows: RNLAF experiences with the F-35A - Combat Aircraft Magazine May 2018

    5. "That sounds like a clean fourth gen aircraft"

      Exactly that is only good for air show stuff.

    6. So, it would appear that an F-35 can equal a 1970's-1980's era F-16. Outstanding!

    7. For the F-16 to match the F-35 on range and armament it would require 3 tanks and six missiles = Christmas tree on radar lock on.

    8. Once aerial combat is joined, range is utterly irrelevant - both aircraft are there!

      As far as missiles, the F-35 can only carry 4 internally. Carrying more missiles externally obviates the need for the F-35.

      I would also point out that for every positive report about the F-35, there is a negative one. For example, the famous David Axe, War is Boring report from a year or two ago. There was also the Australian pilot report that trashed the F-35. And so on.

      And are you seriously trumpeting the ability of the F-35 to beat an F-16???? Is that the gazillion dollar, most modern aircraft we have, best capability? It can sometimes beat an F-16?

      The F-35 will earn its pay fighting Chinese stealth fighters so let's see the reports about the F-35 fighting and winning against other F-35s and against F-22s. If it can do that, I'm impressed. Otherwise, we've wasted our money.

      Beating an F-16 sometimes?

    9. F-35s in Japan are still losing dogfights to F-15s sometimes — here's why

      So what, its a new jet, i have a picture in a book of a F-4 wearing a marking of "downing" a in mock combat F-15 taken in the mid 70ties.

      The F-35 just began to train more seriously in the last 2 years.

    10. New as in what this damn thing has been in development for 15-20 years you realize we fought the civil war, the Spanish American war,wwI,and WWII in the time frame of this piece of shots development just how long is it supposed to take for it to be fully combat capable another 20-30 years give me a break

    11. "F-35s in Japan are still losing dogfights to F-15s sometimes"

      Focusing on F-35 versus F-16/15/18 is totally missing the point. If the stealth F-35 begins with 50 miles of separation, its stealth probably allows it to win the majority of the time. However, if the engagement begins/reaches dogfighting range, for whatever reason, then the direct maneuverability comparisons become relevant and the F-35 appears to be on par, at best.

      The problem/issue is that the F-35 will face Chinese stealth aircraft so it won't have any stealth advantage. If I'm right about stealth versus stealth engagements degenerating into dogfights then the F-35 is at a disadvantage.

      Tactically, the F-35 needs to do everything it can to avoid a dogfight.

      I note that the few semi-authoritative positive reports about F-35 performance are all against 1970-1980's era aircraft. I have yet to see a report that I can confirm (I've seen a couple that I've been unable to confirm) about F-35 versus F-22.

    12. "See if you can find a source and description of this guy's background."

      Thanks for the link to the original. Here's a thought about the guy being reported on. He's described as the commander of the group. I'm always leery about group commander's opinions. Let's face it, they're paid to say positive things. If he came out and said, yeah, we were having trouble beating F-16's, he'd be fired. I saw this with the LCS. The Navy trotted out squadron commanders, Admirals, and Captains to rave about the wonders of the LCS. Clearly, they were paid to go spin positive stories.

      The guy whose opinion I'll respect is the average pilot, sitting in a bar just talking off the record. Now, that doesn't mean that the group commander is wrong, necessarily, but it does mean that he's absolutely putting the most positive spin on things and it makes what he says, suspect.

      Talk to the CEO of Ford Motor Company and he'll rave about the quality of the cars. Talk to the guy on the assembly line and you'll find out about the real quality issues. You see my point?

    13. +Delmar Lewis, watch this video

    14. 15-20 years? The thing had it’s firset flight in 2006 and first entered service with the marines in 2015. Hardly 15-20 years.

    15. "Hardly 15-20 years."

      People don't realize it but the design and much of the equipment was locked in back in the late '90s. The beginnings of design was in the early '90s. That's 25 years ago or so. Development has been so protracted and flight occurred so late that the aircraft seems newer than it is. The X-35 flew in 2000 - almost 18 yrs ago.

      Because of the drawn out development, some of the equipment, such as the EO/IR sensors are considered almost obsolete compared to what's available today.

    16. "watch this video"

      I have no problem with posting links to various reference sources but please add some of your own analysis to go with it and points of emphasis for someone to look at. In other words, I look for value-added comments!

    17. +CNOp’s I should have worded the other comment a little differently, it is indeed true that the early concepts of the JSF did indeed start in 1993, and the demonstrators did indeed fly in 2001. However, the first production model F-35’s (not the X-35) did not fly until 2006. And entered IOC with the marines in 2015. Take the time frame and it’s only 9, 10 and 12 years respectively. Nowhere near the number of years Delmar Lewis is making it out to be.

      Now why is this important? Well, let’s take a look at the F-35’s counterpart, the F-22. Thhe advances fighter program (which gave birth to the F-22) was initiated in 1981 and the companies were selected in 1986. The first production model F-22’s were not introduced until 2005 which was 24 YEARS after the program was initiated.

      So the F-35 was not the only aircraft to have decades between the start of the program and its actual introduction.

    18. "Nowhere near the number of years Delmar Lewis is making it out to be."

      One of the things I insist on in this blog is that we actually read what is written, not what we think is written. For example, DL actually wrote the following in reference to the F-35.

      "has been in development for 15-20 years"

      JSF development began in 1992-1993 out of the JAST program among other foundations. Thus, the JSF development can be traced back at least 26 yrs. The UK signed a memorandum of understanding to participate in the JSF program in 1995, 23 yrs ago. Prototype construction contracts were awarded to Lockheed and Boeing in 1996, 22 yrs ago, based on design proposals previously submitted. Thus, we can see that the F-35 design and equipment was beginning to be locked in as early as 1995-6, 22/23 yrs ago. In 2001, the Lockheed X-35B demonstrator flew, 17 yrs ago. At this point, the basic concepts and much of the equipment was locked in. The SDD contract was awarded to Lockheed in 2001, 17 yrs ago. F-35A first flight was in 2006, 12 yrs ago. Well before that, the design and equipment had been totally locked in.

      Now, return to DL's statement,

      "has been in development for 15-20 years"

      Note the word "development". The JSF has, indeed, been in development for 26 yrs or so, in one guise or another. His statement was not only correct but, perhaps, slightly understated depending on exactly what aspect of development he may have been referring to.

      "Now why is this important?"

      You posed this question and then went on to provide some information about the F-22 but the real reason why the development time frame is important is because the protracted development has caused the F-35 to now be fielded with performance specifications, such as range for Pacific/Chinese operations or internal weapons load, that are no longer as relevant as they once were (if they were ever relevant) and equipment, such as the EO/IR sensors that are mediocre compared to what's available now.

      "So the F-35 was not the only aircraft to have decades between the start of the program and its actual introduction."

      That's correct. However, being correct does make it right or good. The F-22/35 (and other aircraft, to be fair) development time frames have been so bad for so long that we've come to believe that kind of drawn out development is both expected and normal. Nothing could be further from the truth and nothing could be more wrong. Compare the F-35 development time frame to, say, the F-14 Tomcat which was every bit as revolutionary for its time as the F-35. NavAir issued an RFP for what would become the F-14 in 1968. Grumman won the competition and was awarded the contract in 1969. F-14 first flight was in 1970 and first deployment took place in 1974. So, from contract award in 1969 to first deployment in 1974 was five years. If you want to consider development to have begun with the RFP, it's six years. Compare that to the F-35.

      What we have degenerated to today as far as aircraft development is an embarrassment. I've written posts on why this has happened and what we can do to return to much better performances. Feel free to peruse the archives.

      You are new to the blog and I welcome you. This blog is unlike any other - at least, I try to make it so. The standards are higher. Data and logic are the requirements. If you choose to continue participating please be sure to read carefully before commenting and apply logic and analysis. You will find the experience rewarding and educational but it does require a bit more work on the part of the reader than that required for other blogs.

  5. Off topic, but RealClear Defense has an interesting article about the British participation in last month's strike against Syria.

    1. It's exactly what I said in the analysis post - that the French and British limitations were exposed and that both countries need to rethink their geopolitical goals versus their military capabilities.

  6. I think the part that is interesting and not the part we should all focus on (F-35) is the spying and tactics.

    China,undeniable even by the most pro China advocates, has downloaded,spied, hacked,etc...everything to know about most if not all our weapon systems. We are facing an enemy that has the money and technology to really use it to it's advantage, probably even more than the old Soviet Union! It's stupid to believe that they won't exploit these vulnerabilities and weaknesses. What does DoD know of their gear and what have we downloaded from their networks?

    The other one is tactics. We have been "out there" using our military continually since Gulf War 1. Our adversaries have been watching, studying, analyzing what we do, how we do it, at what time, how much gear we use, tracks,etc,etc...does anybody in DoD think we are going to have the element of surprise?!? What do we know of Chinese tactics and training??? WE HAVE BECOME PREDICTABLE AND WE DON'T KNOW OUR ENEMY! That's a RECIPE for DISASTER!!!

    1. You've picked up on a couple of key points. Good comment.

      Now, what would you suggest we do to better "know our enemy"?

  7. "The Americans would have to come up with another way to negate the Chinese VLRAAM advantage."

    Sprint a couple of Burkes or FFG(X)s into SM-6 range of the VLRAAM launch point? Now the F-35 doesn't have to get into the kill box and can just pass the targeting data to the shooters who then launch half a dozen SM-6s along the J-16's axis of retreat.

    "The stealthy J-20 had waited, low on the deck, watching for the F-35."

    The J-20 pilot nervously watched his fuel gauge. He was burning fuel fast at this altitude and was in an extremely vulnerable position. He hoped his superiors were as clever as they thought they were. He only had enough fuel to remain on station for another ten minutes with no margin for ACM. The Americans weren't cooperating today. Fortunately, he thought, the bait should be in the trap by now. An yet there was only silence.

    The silence was shattered by a panicked voice on the radio. The J-16 pilot was reporting multiple SAM launches. The J-20 pilot slewed his radar towards the suspected launch locations and began scanning. Six SM-6 missiles were arcing back down from the stratosphere at hypersonic speed. The J-16 was doomed.

    Now the J-20s own alarms were going off. Somewhere an S-band radar must have found him. Had an E-2 just gone active? Was it an aegis warship? His radar-warning sensors finally got a fix. The energy was coming from a high altitude source. His own sensor showed nothing. A B-21. The American's must have started using them in an ISR role once they started losing E-2s. He knew that the small canards, small vertical stabilizers, and small ventral strakes of his aircraft made him detectable by such radars.

    Now launch alarms were going off in the cockpit. His radar showed nothing at the suspected launch location. His IRST had a contact, but could not resolve its range well enough for a missile shot. Is must be a F-35, his intended prey. He realized that his J-20 was vulnerable. There was too much air friction at this altitude to hide against the ocean surface, especially if he accelerated to transonic, combat speeds. Not that he had the fuel for that anyway. The B-21 was now illuminating him with a high powered x-band radar in addition to the S-band radar. Three more contacts now appeared on his IRST and several more missiles were incoming. Of course the American's wouldn't send just a single F-35. The hunter was now the hunted. He realized that his leaders had sent him out alone because they thought that he and his aircraft were expandable. He once again he hoped they were right. He did not have enough altitude to fight, and he did not have enough fuel to run.

    - R.A.C.

    1. "Sprint a couple of Burkes or FFG(X)s into SM-6 range"

      Unfortunately, the Chinese, knowing the location of the carrier group and their J-16/20, anticipated this possibility and had a couple of SSN/SSK sitting on the route. The sprinting destroyers made so much noise that the Chinese subs were able to target, launch, and sink the destroyers without the destroyers ever knowing what hit them.

      I don't know whether you're writing this as some sort of refutation of the post story or whether you just enjoy writing stories.

      If you're trying to refute the story, you're wasting your time. The story does not purport to prove anything so there's nothing to refute.

      You may be missing the purpose behind the story. I don't write stories to simulate realistic combat; I write them to illustrate concepts as a change of pace from simply describing the concept in a dry post - oh, who am I kidding?; my posts are riveting! Still, it's a change of pace, I enjoy the writing, and they seem to be reasonably well received and enjoyed by the readers.

      Now, if you, too, simply enjoy writing and you're offering an alternative story, I'm not in the business of hosting fan fiction ... hmmm, maybe that's not a bad idea? A fan military fiction page added to the blog might be a decent idea. What does anyone think?

      So, whatever the purpose behind your comment was, it's not coming across. Feel free to explain it.

    2. Interesting story only problem the B21 is a long ways off as too the main article it sure does sound like the Vietnam scene all over again where our fancy technology was defeated by simpler machines with good tactics as to the junk pile known as the F35 it is really a good possibility this happens of course you will see a bunch of defenders like the Norwegian pilot mentioned earlier I think in may have in defense news or breaking defense I read that 8n BTW

    3. The Norwegian pilot article is dated March 1 8n the defense news only reason I know this is because 8ts a side story on the navy's new anti ship missile featuring the NSM hope that helps

    4. +Delmar Lewis, the only part of the F-35 program that could be considered “junk” or a “disaster” was the fact that it was horribly managed.

  8. AMRAAM is not a stellar performer against older aircraft with older systems, this has been documented. AIM-9X has also had a few real-life hiccups. I doubt that the European missiles are any better.
    I remember reading that the AMRAAM being a F16 fire control system in a 7 inch tube. Any combat aircraft typically has suitcases of EW kit. The IR countermeasures are also capable.
    Against any relatively stealthy aircraft (these include the Euro canards) these guided weapons have a ridiculous probability of a kill. An F35 with an internal load is unlikely to acheive even a single kill against a fairly switched on and capable oponent.

    1. I know of no comprehensive real world performance documentation for the AMRAAM. This underscores the need for realistic testing which, to the best of my knowledge, we don't do. Shooting at a cooperative drone is not realistic testing.

      Remember, as we find fault with our weapons, that the enemy's weapons are likely no better.

  9. ComNavOps in the main scenario you stated the 35 only carried a missile loadout but in this case would they not be armed withe the (STEALTH) gun pod also though I doubt it really would not have made a difference do you?

    1. The gun pod, while claimed to be stealthy, nevertheless worsens the stealth - to what extent, we don't know. It also increases weight and drag which decreases range and maneuverability. To be consistent within the story scenario, it was anticipated to be a simple, medium range ambush so there was no need for a gun pod. The lack of an internal gun for the C-model is a major weakness and was one of the points made by the story.

    2. Thanks and a good story it is one that has a very good chance of coming true unfortunately I really hope it doesn't though same as I hope LCS never has a chance to see actual combat

    3. +Delmar, this video should hopefully shed some light

  10. Off topic but what are your views on the 'light attack experiment'?

    1. If you're referring to the use of aircraft like the Super Tucano for peacetime truck plinking and the like, I'm all for it. Using up front line, state of the art aircraft for unopposed, simple missions makes no sense.

      Once upon a time, the Navy had the A-1 Skyraider which would also be a great choice. The Navy could also use a WWII Essex type carrier to operate these peacetime planes instead of using Nimitz class carriers for truck plinking.

  11. I like these scenarios, opens up the discussions.

    RAC(ANON) scenario seems plausible to me but I see it more as a response to a F-35 being shoot down the day before and USA coming up with an ambush. Then China comes up with a new twist,etc,etc....interesting how modern LO fighters, long range missiles, high AOA, range constraints,etc would probably turn into a small groups of fighters ranging out in the dark, mostly blind and stumbling into each other, taking a quick shot and bugging out fast. I think anybody that sticks around too long or stays radar on too long would get a long range A2A down it's throat.

    How AWACS operate or manage to survive long would be interesting to model out? USA has pretty much operated for ever now with AWACS radiating, what happens if that's not true anymore?

    Very reminiscent of Japan Imperial Navy vs USN at Guadalcanal slot, each navy going out every night and stumbling into each other or missing each other, lots of confusion and/or missed opportunities, one night being completely different than the next....

    1. "Very reminiscent of Japan Imperial Navy vs USN at Guadalcanal "

      Interesting analogy and quite possible.

  12. In WW-2, USN took out heart of IJ's carrier fleet in Midway, and nothing was the same after that for IJN's naval air. In Europe, pilot-to-pilot, plane-to-plane, Germans were no worse off than Americans in weapon/training/tactic; however, they couldn't keep up with the numbers. In the end, it's no different than what Stonewall Jackson said: get the most there the quickest, that is, 2 is better than 1 and closer is better than farther. So while one side might hold advantages in training and equipment, if that difference is not revolutionary and advantage prolonged enough, it still comes down to 'distance and number'. If US can draw out PLAN beyond 1st island chain, US will win. If not, lack/vulnerbility of forward airports ( land or floating), not J-20 (or whatever new fangled stuff they have), is still the biggest problem for US.

  13. CNO,

    Thanks for another well written story to illustrate the F-35's pluses and many minuses.

    One possible way to overcome the lack of missiles would be to send up far more planes. There was just one in this case. it looks like a lot more planes will have to be sent up, say three F-35's for every one that might have been sent up in the past.

    Alternatively, the USN can stick to using F-18's, with missile armed F-18s flying in combination with Growlers. Which shows how flawed the F-35 is in the first place.


    1. Agreed it makes perfect sense to cont the F18 as the navy is doing with the block 3 upgrade they seem to realize STEALTH has its place but not when it's in a dogfight at least I hope they do now if the Air Force and Marines would realize that also

    2. "three F-35's for every one that might have been sent up in the past."

      On the one hand, that triples the aircraft "cost" if we have to use three to accomplish the mission of one. On the other hand, the small weapons load and the use of three would seem to be an example of distributed lethality, if an expensive one.

      Setting aside the F-35, itself, what do you think of the concept of aerial distributed lethality - of multiple less capable aircraft versus one supremely capable one?

    3. "They would always send more than one aircraft. At least a pair."

      That's interesting and it was certainly past practice. However, I disagree. I think the combination of not enough aircraft - our air wings are close to half the size the once were - and a belief by the military in the overwhelming capabilities of the F-35 mean that we will see "routine" missions flow by single aircraft.

    4. A simple ambush of an entirely unsuspecting victim - as routine as combat gets.

    5. CNO:

      " "three F-35's for every one that might have been sent up in the past."

      On the one hand, that triples the aircraft "cost" if we have to use three to accomplish the mission of one. On the other hand, the small weapons load and the use of three would seem to be an example of distributed lethality, if an expensive one."

      ** yeah, it's a very expensive example of it.Read a recent article online which said if the F-22 line was reopened, a single F-22 would cost $270-280 million each. SOunds pricey, exept that it's still the world's best plane, a decade in, and it's still cheaper than $360 million for x3 F-35B's

      " Setting aside the F-35, itself, what do you think of the concept of aerial distributed lethality - of multiple less capable aircraft versus one supremely capable one?"

      ** CNO- Had a thought about it- the vaunted F-35's networking and data distribution ability supposedly also spreads to all hardware- other planes, other warships and subs. It's possible it's small missile load could be offset by sending data to a nearby warship. eg a DDG is 100nm away, whivch receives data from the F-35, so the DDG fires two SM-6's. Of course, this assumes there are other assets in the region.


    6. "They would always send more than one aircraft. At least a pair."

      Aside from the rationale that I've explained in other comments, history also suggests that might not be the case. If I recall correctly, the F-117's in Desert Storm were deployed individually - groups flew out but they dispersed to their individual targets. I also seem to recall that B-52/2's deployed individually to provide air support for Iraq/Afg operations. In WWII, morning scouting patrols from carriers would launch a dozen or so aircraft which would each fly individually.

      So, there would seem to be significant historical evidence that single flights are far from uncommon.

      And, of course, the US military has assured us that the F-35 will achieve kill ratios of 20:0 on up to hundreds:0. That being the case, why would anyone waste a wingman to protect an aircraft that is invisible, omniscient, and invincible?

  14. Just a few thoughts, more observations from this really good scenario from CNO! Haven't had time to figure out if right or wrong...

    If we assume that pro F-35 crowd is right and F-35 has superb LO compared to J20 and company and that we all agree US needs more missiles, I don't think putting onboard somehow more AMRAAMS is the answer. If we are looking at ambushes and snap shots, I think we should be looking st packing more Sidewinders inside the F-35! That way we really never need to use the AESA, use data-links and just go passive detection IRST. Could LMT squeeze 8 Sidewinders inside the internal bays? Guessing not BUT if I had to chose, I would prefer to go into combat with 6 Sidewinders over 4 AMRAAMS....

    The other observation, is if everybody is LO, we really should be looking at a smoke less or somewhat smokeless A2A missile. I recall talking about this once, would be very beneficial and actually help if our missiles had less smoke trails,especially the long range shoots. Probably not as important for close range but long range in LO mode, you never would know what is hitting since you would have no visual warning.....

    1. "more Sidewinders inside the F-35"

      I can't recall reading about any effort along those lines which suggests that it's just not dimensionally possible but I don't know. Have you heard of any such effort?

    2. No, none. All I see is 4 AMRAAMS or 2 AMRAAMS with 2 bombs. I guess everybody just puts more A2A missiles on the outside pylons...

      Had another late night thought about this, again, I assume that the scenario is first day or 2 of the war is in full LO, both J20 and F35....isn't the usual assumption (on the USA side for sure, don't know what the Chinese think!) that after the first few days, WE START HANGING STUFF ON THE PYLONS?!?

      What if the F35 crowd is RIGHT (BUT never think the whole thing thru) and only FULL ON LO AIRCRAFT survive? Oh snap, now what?!? So all 4th gen aircraft on both sides become super vulnerable to sniper shots by LO aircraft from the other side and have to stay away or take huge losses? Don't know about Super Hornet, it might make it thru with better loss rate than F15/F16 and J10/J11.

      Wonder how that affects the war zone if 4th gen are taken out? And do we have the right weapon mix if only F22/F35s can operate in the war zone...

    3. B.Smitty. Nothing has emerged since it was first revealed in 2012/2013? Or USAF is thinking about it for 6th gen fighter or maybe it went "black".

      Nice concept and I agree we should develop it but I'm guessing that CNO is operating on the premise of using what is known and in service for his scenarios. So as far as I can tell, F35 is stuck with 4 AMRAAMS in full LO mode.

    4. "upgrade the internal bays to 6 x AMRAAMs total (3 each)."

      What is the limiting factor, currently? Bay size? Hardpoint attachments? Something else? And, how would it be overcome?

    5. I think it was putting 2 inside the bay hard-point and 1 on the door? I think the hard-point that normally carries the GBU needs to adapt(changed?)to a 2 point carriage. Supposedly coming out with Block 4, when ever that really comes out....

      Interesting, apparently Sidewinder takes up more volume than an AMRAMM so I guess that's why DoD would put 6 AMRAAMs instead of 6 Sidewinders, you probably can't squeeze 6 or 8 Sidewinders inside the bay, just not other volume.

    6. Raising another point about the internal bay, not a lot of volume but seems like it's not very plug and play friendly. Seems like you can carry 4 AMRAAMS or 2 AMRAAMS and 2 GBUs....that' it?

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    8. "What if the F35 crowd is RIGHT (BUT never think the whole thing thru) and only FULL ON LO AIRCRAFT survive? Oh snap, now what?!? So all 4th gen aircraft on both sides become super vulnerable to sniper shots by LO aircraft from the other side and have to stay away or take huge losses? Don't know about Super Hornet, it might make it thru with better loss rate than F15/F16 and J10/J11."

      This scenario would heavily favor the US Air Force.

      China has very, very few 5th gen aircraft.
      The J-20 is barely out of prototype stage.
      Officially they have less than 30 J-20s either in production or flying - including 8 prototypes.

      The US has almost 200 F-22s and the F-35 is entering full rate production, with dozens already produced.

      The Chinese air force is almost completely 4th (and even still some 3rd) generation aircraft.
      They have about 600 1980s era aircraft, mostly SU-27 derivatives that form the bulk of their offensive punch, alongside the 120 H-6 (TU-16) bombers.
      They still operate hundreds of 1960s and 1950s era MiG-21 derivative aircraft.

      The most modern aircraft they have are less than 30 Su-35s and the 30 or so J-20s.

    9. "China has very, very few 5th gen aircraft."

      The story is set in the moderately near future. China is rapidly overtaking the US in numbers of everything. The US holds advantages today but in ten years that will likely flip.

    10. The US has about 350 F-35s (including a lot of jets for training) and is expecting about 75 new aircraft this year, with production only just starting to ramp up.
      They have just shy of 200 F-22s.

      China has about a dozen J-20s (including 8 prototypes not suitable for combat) and another dozen or so in production.

      The gap is actually gtowing in terms of 5th gen aircraft production.

      China is overtaking the US in production of some things, but not 5th gen aircraft. Not right now and probably not anytime in the near future.

      I just can't agree that China is going to have the upper hand in terms of the number and quality of 5th gen aircraft it is able to produce and deploy anytime in the next 10 years at least.

      In addition America's allies in the region are begining to receive F-35s and Japan is pursuing the F-3 project.

  15. Once again I say these scenarios are actually really possible it was brought up the sidewinder ineffectiveness I'm wondering is the British meteor missile may be be a better option and if so how many could or would fit inside the weapons bay I know the Brit. 35s are going to be using them instead of sidewinder

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    2. "IMHO, the scenario overstates the value of IR signature reduction in WVR combat. From what I've read, at best it shaves off a handful of km from the max detection range, aspect and band dependent."

      The few reports of stealth vs stealth exercises that I've seen (unconfirmed, so I can't in good faith publish them) indicate that the scenario I described is exactly what happened.

      Also, your statement suggests that you're conflating aircraft IR sensors with missile IR sensors. The aircraft has more, larger, better IR sensors than the missile. It's not enough to simply detect an aircraft at some range. The missile seeker needs to see it, too. It's also not enough to simply see the target. In order to achieve a hit, the missile must continuously see the target right to detonation. An aircraft may be able to intermittently see an enemy aircraft via IR and even track it in an overall sense but the missile has to maintain a constant track.

      Can I state with 100% certainty that the scenario I've described would play out exactly that way? No, of course not. Can you say with 100% certainty that it won't? No, of course not.

      So, you're welcome to your opinion and I'll stick with mine pending any better performance data.

      I would also point out that the story is not intended as a combat simulation. It's intended to highlight several points and simply uses the scenario as a more entertaining means of describing those points. Whether a particular aspect of the scenario might or might not be 100% accurate is irrelevant to the overall concept that stealth versus stealth is going to be much different than previous A2A combat and, likely, not in a way that the military seems to believe.

    3. "Once you're in WVR, all stealth pretty much goes out the window. You're back to chaff, flares, DIRCMS, jamming and so on."

      Another major factor you didn't explicitly mention is maneuverability and this is where the F-35 may find itself at a disadvantage. Of course, until we have performance data on the Chinese aircraft, we won't know but we can say that the F-35 was designed to be maneuverable on par with an F-16 and testing has proven that. It's likely that the Chinese fighters will be more maneuverable.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. It will if stealth aircraft prove resistant to frontal and side IR attack - one of the points of the story; another being that a small IR missile load drastically limits combat options.

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    7. Defense Industry Daily F-22 article,

      "... exercises also show that its [F-22] radar and infrared signature reduction continue to complicate opponents’ lives up close, to the point of denying missile locks that would work on other aircraft."

      From a Pop Mech article,

      "... work has been done to minimize the F-35's infrared signature as well. FLIR Systems, maker of forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, pointed its cameras at a F-35B Joint Strike Fighter at the Farnborough Air Show recently. Notice how localized the heat is on the F-35B, confined mostly to the engine exhaust and a small area around the exhaust nozzle:" - reinforces the story's concept of having to maneuver to obtain a 6 o'clock IR lock position

      From a article,

      "The Spirit, Raptor and Joint Strike Fighter apparently all feature gear for cooling hot leading edges such as the fronts of wings. They also boast systems that sink much of the heat generated by the on-board electronics and actuators into the fuel. The F-35 in particular pushed that concept to the extreme."

      And so on.

      When these various sources are collated, they paint a pretty convincing picture of effective IR suppression. This is not IR immunity but does suggest that heat seeking missiles will have difficulty locking on from any but the rear aspect. Combine that inherent difficulty with IR tactical maneuvering such as slow speed, low altitude, nose to the enemy sensors, etc. and this, again, suggests that frontal/side IR locks will be difficult - certainly enough to alter the dynamics of the traditional legacy A2A combat - which was the point of the story.

      Thus far, the Chinese have declined to share their IR signature data for the aircraft with me. I would speculate that they will at least match our IR suppression capabilities and, likely, surpass it, if for no other reason than that their aircraft are newer and being continually refined. Our state of the art F-22 design, for example, is now well over a decade old. The Chinese stealth aircraft are just now coming on line and likely to have newer, better IR suppression features - pure speculation on my part but reasonable.

  16. Actually meteors are replacing the Amraam while AIM 132 ASRAAM are replacing the sidewinder but still don't have the number that. can be carried internally

  17. I have several issues with this hypothetical:

    1. Why would the US Navy, after having an E-2D shot down directly over their CSG, send up another (let alone a third) without escorts? Why was the USN playing a (very weak) defensive?

    2. Why was the F-35C sent up alone on an OCA sortie? F-35s are specifically designed to operate in flights in order to utilise things like multi-ship sensor fusion and cooperative EW. Where were the Super Hornets and Growlers?

    3. The J-20 only carries 1x PL-10 per side-bay, not 2x.

    4. While its pK would certainly be lowered, AMRAAMs could still be viable against the J-20; stealth only reduces your detection range and an F-35 getting intermittent IR tracks of the J-20 could still provide mid-course guidance until the AMRAAM is close enough that its seeker might get a hit.

    5. The F-35 doesn't carry AIM-9Xs internally (could be done but there aren't plans for it at the moment; for now they have to be carried on LO pylons on the outer wing).

    6. The F-35C should have lower wing loading and a comparable T:W compared to the J-20.

    7. While the F-22 and F-35 have IR-reduction measures, they're still very visible on IR at short range; an AIM-9X should fairly easily have been able to get a lock on, particularly when both jets were down low.

    8. The F-35C's cockpit visibility isn't that bad, plus the pilot would have had AR symbology showing him where the missile is, plus DAS is available.

    1. "I have several issues with this hypothetical:"

      I have several issues with your comment. You appear to have come here from a gaming site looking for an argument and a "win" rather than to learn and discuss. This blog does not engage in arguments for the sake of arguments. There are many other sites you can go to where you can argue to your heart's content.

      Normally, I would terminate further discussion at this point but I'll address your concerns in the faint hope that you have some desire to discuss rather than argue.

      For starters, you completely missed the purpose of the story. The story is NOT a combat simulation. The story is an ILLUSTRATION of some concepts in a story format to make the concepts a bit clearer and a bit more entertaining.

      Second, neither of us is an F-22/35 pilot so unless you have a best buddy who is an F-22/35 pilot and is sharing classified information with you, we are both working from open source information and neither of us have any definitive information about stealth combat performance. Now, we both understand our degrees of expertise.

      1. I never mentioned the presence or absence of Hawkeye escorts. That's an assumption you made. Regardless, escorts would accomplish nothing against a Mach 6+ missile launched, unseen, from 200 miles away. Hence, they are irrelevant to the story. Again, it's not a combat simulation.

      2. I've addressed this extensively in other comments. Please come up to speed on the comments.

      3. My source indicates 2x. If you have definitive data on the J-20, please share it. Presumably, the central bay could also carry PL-10s. It doesn't change the concept being illustrated that the F-35's limited weapons carry is a weakness.

      4. The reports I've read indicate that AMRAAM will be nearly useless against an F-22 type aircraft. The US AF certainly thinks so. In no exercise that I've ever read about has an AMRAAM equipped F-15/16/18 been able to successfully target an F-22/35.

      5. This is a somewhat future based story so I've assumed that the F-35 can carry Sidewinders just as I've assumed that the F-35 and J-20 are in squadron service.

      6. If you have definitive performance data on the J-20, please share it.

      7. I've addressed this in other comments.

      8. The F-35's cockpit visibility is quite poor compared to the bubbletops of the F-22/16/15/18.

      I would hope (faintly) that you would now recognize the story for what it is and address the concepts that it raises rather than attempt to nitpick. If so, I invite you to discuss further. If not, I invite you to find another site more to your liking.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    2. "It does have EO DAS,"

      And if it worked and if I had any factual information about useful it is in a dogfight scenario, if at all, I'd incorporate it. However, I have nothing but manufacturer's claims which are worthless (hey, have you heard the one about the LCS that was going to win wars singlehanded? or the one about the EMALS that could launch almost ten planes without a failure? or ... you get the idea about manufacturer's claims, I hope).

      You're displaying the US tendency to assume that everything we have/do will work and the enemy has nothing. Would you not assume, in this future-set scenario, that the Chinese J-20 would also have EO DAS equivalent or better? Thus, the two capabilities, to whatever extent they would work, would cancel out. Neither would have an advantage over the other.

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    4. "You weren't comparing it to Chinese aircraft, just other US aircraft,"

      Yes, I did so in response to the original commenter who was questioning my assessment of poor visibility and how it related to the J-20.

      Regarding the EO DAS, what I've never heard, good or bad, is how well it can handle the rapid updates required in ACM when a pilot is whipping his head around trying to keep track of everything in the sky, all at once. The initial versions had problems with scan rate and refresh leading to jumpy/blurry images that lagged reality. Whether that has been improved enough to be useful in ACM, I've never heard.

      I have no doubt that in a relatively slow moving situation like a pilot scanning for ground targets from 30,000 ft or tracking a missile far off that "moves" very slowly within the field of view, the system is probably effective.

      I've also read, and I'm sure you've read the same things, that the F-35 helmet is a bit too large and interferes with the pilot's head movements in some situations - ACM presumably being one of them.

      So, the net take is that I have no evidence that the EO DAS is useful in ACM. Neither to I have any evidence that it isn't although there are/were some known problems. With that to work from, you should be able to understand why I didn't include it in the story.

      And finally, presumably, the J-20 would have an equivalent system and the two would cancel out each other's advantages. It would not have contributed to, or changed, the concepts being presented in the story. Again, a reminder, the story was NOT a combat simulation. It was an ILLUSTRATION of several concepts using a story to make it clearer and a bit more entertaining.

      If you read the various comments from the various story posts, a repeating comment theme is that the stories make it easier to see how the various related concepts fit together and that is my goal/purpose behind the stories. Absolute, nth degree technical fidelity is far less important for my purpose though I try to remain as realistic as reasonably possible without turning the story into a tech manual.

    5. "I have several issues with your comment. You appear to have come here from a gaming site"
      Thanks for mentioning that; I'd forgotten about those blogspots; they were abandoned 9 years ago. Gaming is a hobby; aerospace is my work. Also as hobbies I run the F-35 subreddit /r/f35lightning and make YouTube videos about air warfare, the both of which have put me in contact with individuals such as F-35 maintainers, flight test engineers, assembly workers, etc - no pilots [not directly] just yet, but that should be changing in the near future. Regardless, my comment was not intended as a personal attack.

      "The story is NOT a combat simulation. The story is an ILLUSTRATION of some concepts in a story format to make the concepts a bit clearer and a bit more entertaining."
      If the story is really meant to be a work of fiction (not a war-game / simulation), purely for the purpose of demonstrating why you think stealth vs stealth will result in BFM dogfights, then sure, but I disagree with some of the concepts that you try to use as a basis for that argument. Writing is tedious on this website due to the tiny comment reply boxes, but for example, in regards to the single F-35 being featured and your claim that diminishing fleet sizes will result in more single-ship sorties, I disagree, particularly when we're talking about a CSG that has more or less the same number of fighters (arguably more) as it did ~30 years ago. I also don't see a single F-35 being used for OCA against targets that are directly threatening a CSG. If I was in charge of the CAW, I'd expect whatever shot down my E-2Ds to be escorted by multiple aircraft / not just be a lone Flanker.

      To be clear, I don't want you to stop writing or anything like that, but I'd like to see you write more about other possibilities, counter-concepts, etc. What happens if the J-20 engages that F-35C but then it turns out that the F-35C was the pointman / scout for the full flight of 4x F-35Cs? Or what if a ship in the CSG or (more interestingly) an air platform (Super Hornet, F-35, MQ-25, E-2D) has 150kW laser? What if the F-35 is using its satcom equipment to use space-based sensors?

      As for the J-20 and the PL-10; here's a photo of it carrying a PL-10; I don't see it carrying 2x per bay:
      The J-20 also features a deployable rail system that helps reduce drag / RCS while the missile gets a lock onto its target (whereas the F-22 prior to AIM-9X Block II LOAL integration had to keep its doors open and trapeze launcher extended):
      Doing that with 2 missiles per side-bay would be excessively complicated.
      When it comes to the F-35's internal payload, don't forget that it's soon being upgraded to carry 6x AMRAAMs internally via Lockheed's "Sidekick" program. SACM integration will also result in the F-35 being able to carry up to 12 AIM-120C equivalents [range-wise] internally as well.

      For AMRAAM effectiveness against stealth aircraft, I'm not so sure that it's ineffective; don't forget that even for a -40dBm sized target, a modern AESA or high-end PESA will still be able to detect a target from roughly 10-20nmi. An AMRAAM's seeker is no APG-77 or Irbis-E, but it only needs to be effective from a few nautical miles out to have a chance at working. A big reason that the F-22 and F-35 dominate against F-16s, F-15s, etc is simply because those legacy platforms rarely see 5th gens on their radar and even more rarely are able to target and identify an F-22 or F-35 with their radar. If you have decent sensor fusion and sensors (IRST, etc) that can track a target and determine range / identity, then you can still launch an AMRAAM and guide it close to the target with mid-course corrections (subject to your ability to maintain a track of the target, etc).


    6. 2/2

      For IR stealth I'd suggest comparing IR imagery of the F-35 and F-22 against jets like the F-16, Typhoon, etc. The temperatures scales aren't apples to apples, but you can compare things such as airframe temperature relative to pitot tubes. Also consider / take note of how visible exhaust plumes are (even at military power) when viewed from the side, even the forward quadrants. While I agree that it's bad to underestimate your opponents, I also don't see the J-20 having a lower IR signature than the F-35; the J-20's a larger, considerably heavier plane than the F-35 and that equates to both a larger IR cross-section when viewing the fuselage, as well as more thrust / exhaust flow required to keep it flying.

      For cockpit visibility I'll just quote Morten Hanche:
      "With regards to cockpit view alone, I had an advantage in the F-16, but I am still able to maintain visual contact with my opponent during aggressive maneuvering in the F-35. The cockpit view is not a limitation with regards to being effective in visual combat, and it would be a misunderstanding to present this as a genuine problem with the F-35."

      As for the F-35's DAS; it tracks air / land / sea objects, including missiles (especially missiles), in 360 degrees, with manufacture test footage showing some impressive results. Yes their footage is going to be biased towards showing successful tracks, etc, but the scenarios they show are the kind that make tracking a PL-10 at very short range a piece of cake. That kind of tracking occurs throughout flight and is automatically incorporated into symbology and countermeasure systems; even if the pilot doesn't use the DAS view portal (ie 'sees through his plane') he'll see things like a triangle overlaying a threat, or in the edge of the display if it's outside his FOV. Obviously that's very useful in ACM.

      As for update rates, the problems you're describing were with the HMDS Gen II. They upgraded the helmet to the Gen III system a couple of years ago which removed the latency / jitter issues. They're also now bringing otu a Gen III Lite that removes greenglow by using OLED projectors and reduces the helmet weight (which had grown with the Gen III) to slightly below that of the JHMCS and HMDS Gen II in order to improve ejection safety.

      Anyway, if you want to learn more on the F-35, I've been collating public-releasable, open-source data here which you'll probably find useful:

  18. "I note that the few semi-authoritative positive reports about F-35 performance are all against 1970-1980's era aircraft. "

    Oh, i hope the fun part will start once they do practice in Europe against the Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale ;)

    1. I'm not too familiar with the Typhoon or Rafale. Are they superior to the F-16/18/15?

      At a quick glance, the Typhoon seems to be 1980's era design (long, drawn out development), with a substandard radar, and just a few stealth features. It doesn't sound as good as US legacy aircraft.

      Similarly, the Rafale is 1980's era design, limited stealth, and possibly better radar than the Typhoon.

      In short, I'm not sure that the European aircraft are even as good as their US counterparts although I'm sure that their supporters will claim all kinds of magical abilities!

      Have you seen objective authoritative comparisons and, if so, what were the conclusions?

    2. The Typhoon superior kinematic performance to all teen series fighter, after all it was designed to fight MiG-29 and Su-27.

      "Indeed, Typhoon pilots at Farnborough said that, when flying without their external fuel tanks, in the WVR (Within Visual Range) arena, the Eurofighter not only held its own, but proved to be better than the Raptor."

    3. That's interesting but about the least authoritative description possible. A Typhoon pilot bragging about his aircraft?

      Exercises such as Red Flag are designed, in large measure, to teach pilots. There are intentional "losses" built into the scenarios for training. Without knowing the engagement conditions, a pilot bragging is just a useless commentary. For all we know, the F-22's held back and later laughed at the bumbling Typhoon pilots thinking they had accomplished something. The US military has been known to hold back when exercising with foreign countries so as not to embarrass them (and risk possible future sales!).

      One pilot bragging is not an authoritative report.

      This is similar to submarine ASW exercises where there is great publicity about a sub's photo of a carrier to indicate that it was sunk. What you don't hear is that the exercise is scripted to give the subs a chance to sink a target and vice versa. That's what training is.

      What I'm looking for (we all are) and what doesn't seem to be out there (no great surprise) is objective performance data with clearly stated conditions. The closest I've seen/read is the F-16/F-35 maneuvering report and that was maneuvering testing, not combat as so many want to believe.

    4. "The Typhoon superior kinematic performance to all teen series fighter"

      Based on what? I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing - just looking for something authoritative.

      Also, even if the statement is true, "kinematic performance", whatever you specifically mean by that, is just one (small?) part of aerial combat performance. Sensors, signatures, weapons, avionics, endurance/range, tactics, etc. all play a larger role in the overall concept of aerial combat.

      Find me (and yourself) something authoritative!

    5. By that term i meant :

      I have been told that nothing can out-climb the Typhoon, would you agree? Absolutely, the SEP of the Typhoon is unmatched.

      What’s the best way to defeat an F-16 in within visual range fight? How difficult is it as an opponent? The Typhoon is a superior fighter within visual range though we must always remember that we are not fighting the aircraft but the pilot.

      Which aircraft have you trained against, which was the hardest opponent and why? I fought a Top Gun instructor out of Nellis Air Force base and he was in an F-16. I was not very experienced at the time though managed to defeat him – he did, however, make it very difficult!

    6. Authoritative, do you mean a official government sanctioned document of some sort :D
      That's impossible for new combat aircraft.

    7. "managed to defeat him"

      This is, again, a pilot bragging about his aircraft. Quite understandable but not terribly helpful. Also, he probably fought an old F-16N which had reduced capabilities, artificially enhanced radar signature, poorer radar, etc. Was the F-16 instructor even trying to win? Typically, training scenarios are presented for the students to be challenged but to "win".

    8. "Authoritative, do you mean a official government sanctioned document of some sort"

      I mean a report that is objective. The author/pilot has no bias. Just performance evaluations. Again, the F-16 maneuvering report appeared to be a good example. The Australian pilot report may have been a good example. DOT&E reports are great but they don't actually evaluate combat tactics, just equipment specs. I know of no others.

    9. The F-16N is out of service for a long time.

    10. The pilot stated that he hadn't had much flight hours at the time which implied that it was long ago - hence, the possibility of the F-16N.

      Even now, I think they fly old F-16A's with reduced capabilities.

  19. Nice scenario. I guess there was no wingman due to the poor availability rates of the F-35C in a salty environment?

    As an aside, the frontal VLO would be nullified by carrying a pair of AIM-9X externally. I haven't seen anything about internal carriage being an option for the Sidewinder. Maybe they are working towards that for Block III, with LOAL?

    Something to remember for the F-35 is that its EO/IR sensors aren't optimised for long range detection of aircraft, but rather for targeting things on the ground (EOTS) and for maintaining spherical SA (DAS).

    That combo does not equal a QWIP IRST for long range passive detection of aircraft - something threat interceptors/fighters will have when the F-35 actually enters service for real. Something the Typhoon/Gripen have already. But the US has neglected IRSTs for decades.

    The F-135 is a very hot engine. It is highly likely an F-35 sneaking around will be detected by IRSTs, triangulated, and encounter salvos of IR-BVRAAMs regardless of whether the weapon pylons are fitted that day or not.

    And as the example illustrated, the F-35 is not suited to exchanging salvos with actual fighter/interceptor aircraft. First, it just doesn't have the missile load. Secondly, she accelerates from M0.8 to M1.2 like a dump truck, particularly the C model - so those AMRAAMs will be launched subsonic most of the time.

    We all better hope AMRAAM is as fantastic as they tell us it is, but years of evidence say otherwise (with an average Pk in combat against mediocre aircraft of about 0.5).

    1. "I guess there was no wingman due to the poor availability rates of the F-35C in a salty environment?"

      I actually gave some thought to this aspect of the story. Carrier air wings are around half the size they once were. An air wing currently has only around 44 combat aircraft (Hornets) and, when tankers are subtracted, there are only around 38 available. When the F-35C arrives in squadron service, the squadrons will be reduced to 10 aircraft from the current 10-12. In short, there won't be many aircraft and there will be even fewer F-35's.

      Also, remember that a carrier group in combat is launching strikes, maintaining a combat air patrol, using the rare F-35's for ISR, etc. Toss in combat attrition and woeful availabilities and there are even less aircraft. In other words, aircraft will be in short supply.

      So, for what was believed to be a simple, routine ambush mission, I believe a single F-35 would be tasked. The military seems to believe that the F-35 is all-seeing, all-knowing, and invincible. Why would they feel a need to send more than one aircraft for a "non-combat" sniper mission? It's a debatable point but I think a reasonable one. Plus, I wanted to illustrate a one-on-one encounter and more aircraft would have muddied the story and concept!

    2. Considering numbers of F-35Cs per carrier, parts availability which is low (hopefully will get better in future...), ALIS problems (hopefully will get better...), LOSSES (why assume this is first or second day of war?) I don't it's that unthinkable that ONE F-35 would be on patrol (better ONE than NONE) or the wing-man might be so far away that he can't provide that much support anyways. I vaguely remember reading an article that F-35s might have the biggest distance between them than any previous fighters...I'm sure one could come up with many reasons why there could be just 1 F-35....

  20. "I mean a report that is objective."

    Well that comes close then

    The F-35A was not designed to be an air superiority fighter, but the pilots interviewed conveyed the picture of a jet that will more than hold its own in that environment—even with its current G and maneuver restrictions. In the words of an F-16C Weapons School Graduate and instructor pilot now flying the F-35A, “Even pre-IOC,[26] this jet has exceeded pilot expectations for dissimilar combat.

    1. "pilots interviewed conveyed the picture of a jet that will more than hold its own"

      No, not quite. What the pilots are conveying, even if we take them at face value, is that the F-35 is capable of holding its own AGAINST LEGACY AIRCRAFT. What no pilot has said is how the F-35 will fare against its likely future opponents, the J-20, J-31, and Russian stealth fighters - or, as a stand-in, how the F-35 fares against the F-22.

      We already have F-15C's that can more than hold their own against legacy MiG's and Sukhois. We didn't need to spend a gazillion dollars to achieve that.

  21. It seems like the emerging lesson of WVR combat in the age of stealth aircraft and imaging, all-aspect IR missiles is that the only way to win is not to play because everyone is vulnerable and everyone can die in WVR.

    Even in this "story" the odds are basically even after the J-20 misses its first shot; arguably the odds are in the F-35s favor at this point given the F-35s altitude, and likely fuel-state, advantage. IMHO, the smart thing for the J-20 to do after the first salvo is to launch a parting shot and RTB to fight another day. This little gambit did its job and got the Chinese a shot at downing a F-35, that's a success even if the F-35 lives too. The flip side of losing a J-16 and/or J-20, which is likely more expensive than a F-35 on an equal cost basis, to down one F-35 is probably a huge failure most of the time.

    I seriously doubt that we'll see stealth aircraft out trolling for other stealth aircraft absent some overwhelming tactical or strategic advantage. Instead, when your opponent has stealth aircraft too, your own stealth aircraft will be the enablers that let you do other things on the battlefield at reasonable cost.

    I think a more likely scenarios is that the Chinese would send a strike package consisting of VLRAAM shooters, stealthy escorts for the VLRAAM shooters, ASCM shooters, and stealthy escorts for the VLRAAM shooters. J-20s get the VLRAAM shooters in range of the E-2s and E-3s (the claimed range of the VLRAAM isn't all that great versus the claimed E-2/E-3 detection ranges). If the E-2 and E-3s are not destroyed (see the dismal record of HARM shots against STATIC ground targets), they are at least forced to turn off. The ASCM shooters use the window provided by the VLRAAM shots to launch their missiles. I don't see many other offensive operations that justify risking stealth aircraft against other stealth aircraft.

    1. "I mean a report that is objective. - the Heritage report"

      I've read that report and it has almost no worthwhile data. The couple of comparative tables showing pilot ratings for various aircraft are kind of damning, actually.

      Consider ... we spent a gazillion dollars for the aircraft that would dominate the world (supposedly) for the next few decades, right? So, what should any comparison of the F-35 and any other existing aircraft show? It should show total, overwhelming superiority (meaning pilot preference) compared to any other aircraft, right?

      Instead, the tables show that in 3 of the 5 categories, the pilots rate the F-15C superior and in 2 of the 5 the F-16 is superior. That's not overwhelming superiority. In fact, arguably, based on the five categories, the F-15C is a better aircraft. Relax, the five categories hardly constitute a complete picture of the capabilities of the aircraft. HOWEVER, and this is the major "but", the mere fact that we even have a debate about whether the F-35 is superior to an F-15C or F-16 speaks volumes about the mediocrity of the F-35.

      Let's say that we all were to agree that the F-35 is at least somewhat superior, overall, to an F-15. Is that reason to celebrate? Is that a sufficient achievement for a gazillion dollar, brand new aircraft?

      So, the report you cited is not very informative and what it does present that's useful shows a bare superiority to some of the legacy aircraft but not the F-15C. That's kind of pathetic, isn't it, compared to how the F-35 should compare to legacy aircraft?

      On the plus side, every pilot rated the F-35 at least slightly and, in many cases, significantly superior to the Fokker Triplane that the Red Baron flew!

    2. "I seriously doubt that we'll see stealth aircraft out trolling for other stealth aircraft"

      I'm sure you're right that, initially, rare and precious stealth aircraft will be reserved for "enabling" missions, as you put it. HOWEVER, two factors to consider:

      1. Over time, the majority of combat aircraft will be stealth aircraft. We're looking to eventually replace all/most of our legacy aircraft and China is building stealth aircraft as fast as they can. Encounters between stealth aircraft will become commonplace as stealth aircraft become commonplace.

      2. Chance encounters rule combat! Stealth versus stealth will occur.

      3. When both sides focus on the same important goal (like Guadalcanal in WWII), both sides will commit their best assets and stealth versus stealth will happen regularly, if not intentionally.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Ineresting story

    Thinking about the story and taking it One step further, stealth aircraft might be eroding an area where the US has for a long time led...At the culmination point of their tech, the AEW&C as we know them, should be left at home and retired to a museum.

    Some might say noooooo! But then, we remember how the best armor plated personal armor became obsolete at their technical peak by the introduction of the gun (even if initially a matchlock).

    Is that turning point near for AEW&C? I do not know...but food fot thought.


    1. Fascinating idea. Food for thought, indeed. What do you envision filling the function of AEW&C if not a Hawkeye type aircraft? UAVs? A distributed net of sensors of some sort? Who/where would aircraft controllers reside?

    2. Perhaps in the carrier where these UAV’s are launched? Or maybe in a submarine? The ideas really do expand.

    3. I do not know how AEW&C function could be fullfilled in this new environment, not yet. However, I suspect it could get even worse...before it gets better....

      Recently I have been rereading "Fleet Tactics" by Capt. Wayne Hughes. On carrier warfare he states that with the advent of radar - for air warning and fighter direction - and VT fuses the advantage shifted from the attacker to the defender. If stealth negates much of radar, relegating AEW&C to the museum, then the advantage will shift back to the attacker.

      If true, the naval theory says (see Hughes): the attacker will break through and will most likely sink or cripple the target carrier. Carrier warfare has again become a war of attrition. In these conditions having a few big carriers does not make much sense.

      Fortunately this will affect all navies with carriers...However it will affect the US Navy disproportionally because so much depends on a few big carriers. And while China has fewer carriers, near the Spratleys it is creating many more 'unsinkable' carrier islands.

      Following this logic through it makes less and less sense to put all hope in one big carrier, no matter how powerful it's air wing. It starts to make sense to build many more smaller aircraft carriers.

      Hello Essex class. The new scifi movie will be "Return of the Invincible" and the Spanish and Italian carriers might become the new standard in carrier design. Or will we see a return of MAC and CAM ships from WW2, though now with F35-B? Perhaps future doctrine will state: "Every ship a carrier". This doctrine would at least fit neatly
      with a doctrine of distributed warfare...

      Persolal note, in this storyline the F35-B might just be the saving grace of the whole F35 development. I did not expect that, which makes folowing through kind of interesting.

      'The world is a changing'. I do hope naval officers in our respective navies are developing like stories like and translating them into plans, because 'the world is a changing'.

      CNO, this is fun and interesting. It doesn't matter being right or wrong about the F35 or, wash my mouth, the LCS. These voyage of discovery open up whole new and often unexpected viestas..kind a lost track of that for a while, it feels nice to be back. Thank you for publishing this story. :-))


    4. "makes less and less sense to put all hope in one big carrier, no matter how powerful it's air wing."

      Don't lose sight of the true nature of a carrier. It's not a carrier - it's a carrier GROUP. That's an incredibly important distinction. One lone carrier is somewhat vulnerable. However, a wartime carrier group would consist of 3-4 carriers, 300 some aircraft, and 20 or so Aegis cruisers/destroyers with multiple Hawkeyes out in all directions providing situational awareness. It is an immensely powerful, LAYERED, defense.

      Also, remember that a carrier group's best defense is a good offense. We all think of a carrier, on its own, sitting in the middle of the ocean trying to fight off wave after wave of attackers and we conclude that the carrier, ultimately, has no hope. The reality, however, is that the carrier group has a mission. It doesn't stay in one place. It moves to a mission execution point, executes the mission, and returns to base. During that movement and execution, rather than playing defense, the group would be launching massive Tomahawk cruise missile attacks against all likely enemy bases and missile sites to suppress attacks before they even begin. This is a part of the layered defense that most people overlook.

      So, the layered defense includes offensive suppression attacks, long range carrier fighters, long range Standard missiles/Aegis, medium range ESSM, short range SeaRAM/CIWS, passive ECM and decoys, and more. Nothing is getting through all of that easily. Nothing is invulnerable but a carrier group on a wartime footing is as close as you can get to invulnerable.

      The submarine is probably the carrier group's greatest threat and we'll come to regret the loss of the S-3 Viking. Still, a carrier group is going to be moving at 30 kts and no submarine, unless it gets lucky and finds itself dead in the path, is going to catch up to a carrier group without giving itself away.

      So, bear all of that in mind as you assess the future of carriers.

    5. "And while China has fewer carriers, near the Spratleys it is creating many more 'unsinkable' carrier islands."

      The UK, was an "unsinkable aircraft carrier".
      The Atlantic islands were only because Germany lacked the capacity to attack them.

      The Japanese Islands all fell

      Subi reef is 4 square kilometres of sand, Iwo Jima is 20 square kilometres of volcanic rock.

      Even the most lackluster of attacks against Subi is going to be catastrophic, because there isnt the space to disperse anything, or the geography to harden it.

      Chinas J10 carrys 5,000L of fuel internally, half as much against with drop tanks.
      A 20ft ISO liquid shipping container contains 22,000L

      A single fighter is going to get four flights out of a tanker.
      Where do you propose to hide the hundreds required for even a few days operations? You cant bury them, they'd be in highly corrosive sea water, and you cant (realistically) armour them.

      The islands are speed bumps, but if it takes 12hours to position, strike, withdraw, and there are dozens of islands, the war will be weeks old before the US can start attacking China proper.
      More than enough time for China to seize Taiwan, crush all resistance and install a puppet government that accepts a unification treaty.

      "Following this logic through it makes less and less sense to put all hope in one big carrier, no matter how powerful it's air wing. It starts to make sense to build many more smaller aircraft carriers."

      Small Carriers simply don't work
      They are vanity projects that let middle powers pretend they are big powers.

      The QE class is deigned to generate an average 85 strikes per day for 5 days, with a peak of 110 on day 0 and an aircraft launched every 40 seconds.

      The Invincible class managed a peak 25 per day, in overload configuration, during the Falklands war.

    6. "The Japanese Islands all fell"

      You make a good historical point. I've always hated the "unsinkable island" argument. I may have to shamelessly appropriate your historical arguments and do a post on this!

  24. Liked the story comnavops, thou I'll admit I'm finding the comments more entertaining. It seems to me that some people can't fathom the possibility that a country such as China, which has spent the better part of 3 decades preparing for a war with the US military, while said US military has been weakening itself either thru never-ending wars or poor policy... could win.

    "first step in fixing a problem, is to acknowledge its existence."

  25. I think you may be in too some thing we have grown so dependent on AWACS that everybody and their brother now's and can exploit that wh7ch is part of the original story maybe these UAVs your talking about can be used to for a type of dragnet using IRST kind of sensors to detect stealth aircraft after all it's the one weakness all aircraft have especially jet fighters

    1. Remember, though, that the E-2 Hawkeye does more than just "detect" things. It's a battle management system with combat controllers controlling the aircraft, among other things. Just replacing the sensors alone won't replace the Hawkeye. So, how do we replace the controllers? Whatever replacement system we conjure will need robust communications systems to network all the sensors, controllers, and aircraft.

      It's a challenge!

  26. Regarding AWACS

    The radar on a fighter is (in comparison) short ranged and has a narrow field of view

    The radar on an AWACS is much longer ranged and can cover a far wider cone

    A fighter might need to be 25miles away and no more than 5 degrees from the centre to see another.
    An AWACS might see the same fighter at 50 miles and 25 degrees, and yes, the fighter will see the AWACS even further away than that.

    The Battle Management side of things is likely the easiest to replace.
    We only do it the way we do because it was the only way possible. Radar operator reads his radar display and verbally passes on instructions to a fighter pilot.
    In an ideal world, the fighter pilot would have the ability to see the radar display himself.

    1. "In an ideal world, the fighter pilot would have the ability to see the radar display himself."

      No. You're missing the point of battle management. Management means that ALL the assets are controlled, coordinated, and acting in the most efficient and effective manner, AS A GROUP.

      Even if we could send the AWACS picture to individual pilots, they would each still be acting independently rather than as a controlled group. The battle management specialists train to control an entire, well ... battle. They monitor weapon loads and fuel levels of all aircraft, consider locations and vectors, weigh objectives and threats, and assign assets in the most beneficial way. No individual pilot can do that regardless of his picture.

      In an ideal world, the pilot wouldn't have any need to look at a picture would simply follow the controller's directions. The pilot needs a picture only when control starts to break down and he needs to act independently. In fact, one of the Cold War tactics was for the F-14s to fly silent and simply respond to the controller. That way, the F-14 could "stalk" enemies without warning.

  27. Please correct if I'm wrong but ist the F35 equipped with wingtip launch rails much like the F16 and 18 has for Sidewinder

    1. The F-35 has fittings for what are described as "near wingtip" external pylons for Sidewinders.

    2. Thanks probably would reduce the stealth somewhat if used though wouldn't they

  28. CNO, you write a good yarn. You should publish a short story. :-)


    1. Well, thanks. The challenge is that the post length really limits what can be included so I have to pare the stories down to the bare minimum and then, as you see, some people jump on little details that are missing and criticize instead of focusing on the main premise.

      Still, I enjoy the writing and it seems to be generally well received so I'll keep offering an occasional story. Got any premise that you think would make a good story? Remember, I don't write stories, I write premises in story format.


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