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Test Pilot Admits the F-35 Can’t Dogfight


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A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can’t turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy’s own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January.

“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the unnamed pilot wrote in a scathing five-page brief that War Is Boring has obtained. The brief is unclassified but is labeled “for official use only.”

The test pilot’s report is the latest evidence of fundamental problems with the design of the F-35 — which, at a total program cost of more than a trillion dollars, is history’s most expensive weapon.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — not to mention the air forces and navies of more than a dozen U.S. allies — are counting on the Lockheed Martin-made JSF to replace many if not most of their current fighter jets.

And that means that, within a few decades, American and allied aviators will fly into battle in an inferior fighter — one that could get them killed … and cost the United States control of the air.

The fateful test took place on Jan. 14, 2015, apparently within the Sea Test Range over the Pacific Ocean near Edwards Air Force Base in California. The single-seat F-35A with the designation “AF-02” — one of the older JSFs in the Air Force — took off alongside a two-seat F-16D Block 40, one of the types of planes the F-35 is supposed to replace.

The two jets would be playing the roles of opposing fighters in a pretend air battle, which the Air Force organized specifically to test out the F-35’s prowess as a close-range dogfighter in an air-to-air tangle involving high “angles of attack,” or AoA, and “aggressive stick/pedal inputs.”

In other words, the F-35 pilot would fly his jet hard, turning and maneuvering in order to “shoot down” the F-16, whose pilot would be doing his own best to evade and kill the F-35.

“The evaluation focused on the overall effectiveness of the aircraft in performing various specified maneuvers in a dynamic environment,” the F-35 tester wrote. “This consisted of traditional Basic Fighter Maneuvers in offensive, defensive and neutral setups at altitudes ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 feet.”

The F-35 was flying “clean,” with no weapons in its bomb bay or under its wings and fuselage. The F-16, by contrast, was hauling two bulky underwing drop tanks, putting the older jet at an aerodynamic disadvantage.

But the JSF’s advantage didn’t actually help in the end. The stealth fighter proved too sluggish to reliably defeat the F-16, even with the F-16 lugging extra fuel tanks. “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement,” the pilot reported.

The defeated flier’s five-page report is a damning litany of aerodynamic complaints targeting the cumbersome JSF.

“Insufficient pitch rate.” “Energy deficit to the bandit would increase over time.” “The flying qualities in the blended region (20–26 degrees AoA) were not intuitive or favorable.”

The F-35 jockey tried to target the F-16 with the stealth jet’s 25-millimeter cannon, but the smaller F-16 easily dodged. “Instead of catching the bandit off-guard by rapidly pull aft to achieve lead, the nose rate was slow, allowing him to easily time his jink prior to a gun solution,” the JSF pilot complained.

And when the pilot of the F-16 turned the tables on the F-35, maneuvering to put the stealth plane in his own gunsight, the JSF jockey found he couldn’t maneuver out of the way, owing to a “lack of nose rate.”

The F-35 pilot came right out and said it — if you’re flying a JSF, there’s no point in trying to get into a sustained, close turning battle with another fighter. “There were not compelling reasons to fight in this region.” God help you if the enemy surprises you and you have no choice but to turn.

The JSF tester found just one way to win a short-range air-to-air engagement — by performing a very specific maneuver. “Once established at high AoA, a prolonged full rudder input generated a fast enough yaw rate to create excessive heading crossing angles with opportunities to point for missile shots.”

But there’s a problem — this sliding maneuver bleeds energy fast. “The technique required a commitment to lose energy and was a temporary opportunity prior to needing to regain energy … and ultimately end up defensive again.” In other words, having tried the trick once, an F-35 pilot is out of options and needs to get away quick.

And to add insult to injury, the JSF flier discovered he couldn’t even comfortably move his head inside the radar-evading jet’s cramped cockpit. “The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft.” That allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him.

In the end, the F-35 — the only new fighter jet that America and most of its allies are developing — is demonstrably inferior in a dogfight with the F-16, which the U.S. Air Force first acquired in the late 1970s.

The test pilot explained that he has also flown 1980s-vintage F-15E fighter-bombers and found the F-35 to be “substantially inferior” to the older plane when it comes to managing energy in a close battle.

Related reading: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/fd-how-the-u-s-and-its-allies-got-stuck-with-the-worlds-worst-new-warplane-5c95d45f86a5

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The F-35 was never meant to be a dogfighter. It was designed to be a bomb truck and interceptor. We designed the F-22 Raptor to be a dogfighter...and then only bought 187 of them.

We'd have been much better off canning the F-35 project years ago and buying more F-22s for air superiority and buying updated F-15s and F-16s for the air force and upgraded F/A-18s for the navy.

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So we spent $1,000,000,000,000 for a plane we are trying to apply in a way it was never intended to be utilized. Maybe we can use it to bring stuff to and from the space station as the three latest platforms intended to do that job all failed to reach the upper atmosphere...Our Gobmint at work...How's the whole health insurance thing going anyway?

We should all get our money back! That aircraft was intended to be untouchable...I guess we should have specified "in a good way", not in measurable inadequacy.

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For the mere cost of $85 million per F-35 you get what the White House called "teething problems with a few minor glitches"

A 2015 Pentagon report found these issues:

  • The Joint Program Office is re-categorizing or failing to count aircraft failures to try to boost maintainability and reliability statistics;
  • Testing is continuing to reveal the need for more tests, but the majority of the fixes and for capability deficiencies being discovered are being deferred to later blocks rather than being resolved;
  • The F-35 has a significant risk of fire due to extensive fuel tank vulnerability, lightning vulnerability and an OBIGGS system unable to sufficiently reduce fire-sustaining oxygen, despite redesigns;
  • Wing drop concerns are still not resolved after six years, and may only be mitigated or solved at the expense of combat maneuverability and stealth;
  • The June engine problems are seriously impeding or preventing the completion of key test points, including ensuring that the F-35B delivered to the Marine Corps for IOC meets critical safety requirements; no redesign, schedule, or cost estimate for a long-term fix has been defined yet, thereby further impeding g testing;
  • Even in its third iteration, the F-35’s helmet continues to show high false-alarm rates and computer stability concerns, seriously reducing pilots’ situational awareness and endangering their lives in combat;
  • The entire production number of Block 2B’s already limited to minimum combat capabilities, with fixes being deferred to later blocks, means that the Marine Corps’ FY2015 IOC squadron will be even less combat capable than originally planned;
  • ALIS software failures continue to impede operation, mission planning, and maintenance of the F-35, forcing the Services to be overly reliant on contractors and “unacceptable workarounds”;
  • Deficiencies in Block 2B software, and deferring up grades of those capabilities to later blocks, is undermining combat suitability for all three variants of the F-35;
  • The program’s attempts to save money now by reducing requirements and test points and deferring crucial up grades of combat capabilities will result in costly retrofits and fixes later down the line, creating a future unaffordable bow wave that, based on F-22 experience, will add at least an additional $67 billion in acquisition costs.
  • Low availability and reliability of the F-35 is driven by inherent design problems that are only becoming more obvious and difficult to fix.
  • Current aircraft software is inadequate for even basic pilot training.
  • Ejection seat may fail, causing pilot fatality.
  • Several pilot-vehicle interface issues, including lack of feedback on touchscreen controls.
  • The radar performs poorly, or not at all.
  • Engine replacement takes an average of 52 hours, instead of the two hours specified.
  • Maintenance tools do not work with out modifications.
  • MACH 1.6 maximum speed it limited to a 150 mile burst or less than 4 seconds due to engine failure potential.
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 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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Lemon law?

The President feels that if we have a fighter better or at least equal to other countries, they will be upset with us.


 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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  • 2 weeks later...

Pentagon may rethink F-35 procurement strategy

Autoblog Military / July 13, 2015

The United States military may be preparing to scale down its purchase plan for the controversial F-35 Lightning II due to built-in spending caps. At present, the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will take add 2,457 of the stealthy, single-seat fighters to its fleet, at a cost of $391 billion, according to Defense One.

"Given the evolving defense strategy and the latest Defense Planning Guidance, we are presently taking the newest strategic foundation and analyzing whether 2,443 aircraft is the correct number," Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Obama administration's nominee for the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote as part of the remarks for his Senate confirmation hearing. "Until the analysis is complete, we need to pursue the current scheduled quantity buy to preclude creating an overall near-term tactical fighter shortfall."

But just because Gen. Dunford is talking about trimming the final figure doesn't mean he's opposed to the controversial fighter.

"With projected adversarial threats challenging our current capabilities in coming years, the Joint Strike Fighter is a vital component of our effort to ensure the Joint Force maintains dominance in the air," the general wrote. "If confirmed, I will advise the Secretary as he assesses the delicate balance of the capacity and the capabilities of the future Joint Force."

At present, the acquisition period for the F-35 is expected to span three decades, while Defense One reports that program's schedule would likely stick for the next 15 to 20 years.

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Once again the DOD is talking about scrapping the A-10 Warthog to cut the F-35 cost over runs. Congress saved the A-10 in 2014 and it is feared by mid eastern terrorist groups for it firepower and loiter time. The DOD and White House feel the multi roll F-35 can do the same missions as the A-10. Only a few aircraft used in those roles strike the same fear and devastation as the A-10. The Stuka with 37 mm canons for tank busting, C-47 Spooky's, AC135 and the OV-10. But since our current administration feels that all we need is dialog, understanding and to provide jobs for our enemies what should you expect?

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 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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Lemon law!

Lemon law would never work for the Gov't . . . there would be nobody left...... Hey what an idea!!!!

Here is something to ponder The DOD and media says the F-35 is a high speed aircraft with a top speed that is comparable to the F-15, 16 ans FA-18. Well perhaps they should learn the facts

F-35 estimated speed of 1840 mph but best so far with air frame, engine, fuel usage and avionic problems allow only a 3 second bursts in the aircraft is a bit under 1000 mph The Marines managed to get better numbers BUT " the USMC test pilots mentioned this little tidbit—they have to use a modified Rutowski profile in order to get the F-35B and C up to Mach 1.6. Basically, you do one push over, unload the jet and accelerate, get up to 1.2 (in a dive), turn and repeat until you hit 1.4 Mach, turn and repeat till you hit MACH 1.6. It just barely gets there and barely has any fuel left over afterwards."

F-15 1650 mph

F-16 1350 mph

F-18 1190 mph

F-22 1355 mph

and for kick the obsolete F-14 1565 mph

Now all of the current fighters it could go up against have a 2 to 400 mph higher speed for a much longer period.


 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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  • 4 weeks later...

Report: F-35 Inferior to Older US, Foreign Fighters

Stars & Stripes / August 11, 2015

The F-35 Lightning II passed a major milestone last month when the Marine Corps declared it operational, but the accomplishment has not silenced critics.

A Washington think tank released a report Tuesday that found the 5th-generation jet – billed as the world's most advanced fighter – will be outmaneuvered in dogfights with current Russian and Chinese jets as well as the U.S. aircraft it is slated to replace. The report comes after details were leaked last month on a test flight where the F-35 was bested in most aerial maneuvering by an F-16.

"The F-35 will find itself outmaneuvered, outgunned, out of range, and visible to enemy sensors," according to Bill French, a policy analyst with the National Security Network, a progressive think tank that claims to challenge overly militarized conservative defense policies. "Staying the present course [on the aircraft program] may needlessly gamble away a sizable margin of American airpower at great expense and unnecessary risk to American lives."

The think tank has an advisory board that includes Sandy Berger, the national security advisor to President Bill Clinton, and Richard Clarke, a senior White House advisor to several administrations. A call and email request for comment were not immediately answered.

Related Video

After 14 years and over $390 billion invested, the first F-35s entered service just two weeks ago when the Marines completed a battery of tests on a squadron of Harrier variants in Yuma, Ariz., and declared it ready for deployment around the world. Navy and Air Force variants are still being developed, and U.S. weapons contractor Lockheed Martin is working to overcome software and engine difficulties.

The Defense Department says the joint strike fighter will bring cutting-edge technology to the battlefield and become the backbone of United States air power over the next five decades. Congress has backed the program as a costly but necessary upgrade following years of delays, massive cost overruns and a final price tag estimated at $1.4 trillion.

But the F-35 has become a magnet for criticism and doubt.

The blog War is Boring published a leaked report by a test pilot who flew an F-35 against an F-16 in a mock dogfight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in January.

The pilot wrote that the joint strike fighter performed sluggishly against the older jet and was mostly inferior in testing that consisted of "traditional basic fighter maneuvers in offensive, defensive and neutral setups at altitudes ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 feet."

French compared the power, maneuverability and maximum payloads of the F-35 against the Russian-made MiG-29 Fulcrum and the Su-27 Flanker, which is made by Russia and flown by China.

The U.S.'s next generation fighter is "grossly inferior in terms of wing loading [except for the Navy variant], transonic acceleration and thrust-to-weight," French wrote in his report, "F-35, Thunder without Lightning."

"These are the kinds of aircraft the F-35 would most likely face in air-to-air engagements against a high-end opponent," he wrote.

The F-35 fared little better against the F-16, F-18 and AV-8B Harrier, which it is expected to replace in the current fleet due to its planned versatility. It was weaker in thrust, acceleration and wing loading, according to French.

"These performance factors are critical to building up speed and gaining or retaining energy that enables the aircraft to maneuver and gain advantages in firing position against other aircraft or defeating incoming missiles," he wrote.

The aircraft also has its defenders inside the Washington beltway.

"Compared with an F-15 or F-16, this is the most survivable tactical aircraft we've ever fielded," said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute who has worked as a consultant for Lockheed.

Thompson has authored recent articles cheering the program as a success and said it is typical for newly developed military aircraft – especially very expensive ones – to be heavily scrutinized. He called the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which killed 19 Marines during development and raised safety concerns before being integrated into the fleet a few years ago, a perfect metaphor for the joint strike fighter.

Thompson said he had not seen the National Security Network report Tuesday morning but that the earlier leaked test documents on the F-16 dogfight in California provided only a partial picture because it involved an F-35 that was not completely operational.

For example, the pilot was not equipped with the F-35's much-heralded advanced helmet, a key feature in dogfights that provides a 360-degree view through the surrounding aircraft.

"It's naïve to think that three presidents and three U.S. military services would have spent so many billions of dollars on a program that doesn't work," he said.

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  • 11 months later...

F-35 ready for service, says US Air Force, as Australia and Britain await delivery

The Guardian  /  August 2, 2016

Doubts remain over Pentagon’s biggest ever weapons project after long delays, cost overruns and technical problems

The US air force has declared an initial squadron of F-35 fighters jets ready for combat, marking a major milestone for a program dogged by serious cost overruns and delays that have infuriated US lawmakers and governments around the world that are buying the planes.

The $379 billion program is the Pentagon’s largest weapons project. The air force’s decision follows one by the US marines in July 2015 declaring a first squadron of the Lockheed Martin planes ready for combat.

The air force plans to buy a total of 1,763 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets in coming years, and to operate the largest F-35 fleet in the world.

Lockheed is building three models of the F-35 Lightning II for the US military and 10 countries that have ordered them: Britain, Australia, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, the Netherlands, Israel, South Korea and Japan.

But the program, launched in 2001, has been dogged by huge cost overruns and technical problems that blew out its budget by nearly 70%.

Britain slashed its orders and the decision of Australia’s Howard government in 2002 to buy the jet fighter has been heavily criticised as hasty and ill-judged as cost increases, delays and doubts about its capability have mounted up.

Problems with the fighter jet have included issues with the radar software and increased risk of neck injury to lower-weight pilots when they ejected from the aircraft.

The F-35 was also reportedly out-performed by the ageing F-16 fighter in a mock dogfight.

Industry and US defence officials have said they are working hard to continue driving down the cost of the new warplanes to $85 million per plane by 2019, as well as the cost of operating them.

“The U.S. Air Force decision to make the 15 F-35As ... combat-ready sends a simple and powerful message to America’s friends and foes alike – the F-35 can do its mission,” said the program’s chief, Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan.

But Dan Grazier, a fellow of the US-based Project On Government Oversight, said the declaration of combat readiness was “nothing but a public relations stunt”. He added that it would not be possible to know if the F-35 jets were ready for combat until after initial operational testing.

Todd Harrison, a defence analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: “The program is not doing everything they wanted it to do ... But they’re at a point now where it is stabilising and so it is progress.”

Air Force General Herbert Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said work to upgrade the jet would continue in areas such as software, making the displays more intuitive and boosting the ability to share information between aircraft.

The aircraft could provide basic air support at this point but did not have everything the final version would, Carlisle said, adding that he would try to get the jets deployed to Europe and the Pacific within 18 months.

The Pentagon’s F-35 program office said it remained in negotiations with Lockheed over long-delayed contracts for the next two batches of F-35 jets – deals worth about $15bn.

“We’re seeking a fair deal for the F-35 enterprise and industry,” said F-35 program spokesman Joe DellaVedova.

Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the armed services committee, said he welcomed the announcement but made clear he intended to keep a close eye on the hugely expensive program.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to exercise rigorous oversight of the Joint Strike Fighter program’s long-delayed system development and demonstration phase as well as the start of the operational test and evaluation phase,” McCain said.


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I truely find that hard to believe that all is major combat faults were magically corrected in a few months. I would believe the requirements could have been lowered... again. We will see when it is operational in combat wings and how it does with unit acclimation flights.    Paul

Edited by 41chevy
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 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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