Over in another forum, they have a moderator who is a diehard F-35 fan. Can’t understand why, but he is. Unfortunately, he brooks no criticism of the F-35 and calls “BS” on people who try to put it down. Naturally, I ran afoul of him … it happens.
So, for the record, he claims the F-35 will rule all engagements and is hand-down the best fighter ever built. To be fair, it probably IS in beyond visual range (BVR) combat scenarios. I do not object too much to that claim. Since it has yet to be proven, I will only say the ballots aren’t in yet as it has never been in combat.
My own stance is as follows:
1. The F-35 is WAY too expensive. I’d cancel it on that alone.
2. It uses one airframe for all 3 variants. So it is necessarily a compromise in ALL missions because of that.
3. It is too heavy by long shot, probably due to continuous “additions” over the WAY too long, protracted development cycle.
4. The software isn’t even CLOSE to war-ready.
5. It can’t even shoot a gun after some 17 years of development. When and if it ever CAN shoot, the ammunition capacity will be laughably low.
6. It can’t dogfight effectively with current US aircraft when within visual range (WVR). I was shouted down for saying this, but I was around and in the industry when the F-35 was being marketed, and I can CLEARLY recall the claim that after the attack ordnance had been expended, it would be a first-class fighter. It purely isn’t. People who like it today seem to have a convenient amnesia on that one.
7. My main concern is as follows:
I’m not too concerned about the F-35 in a declared war while in the war zone. But, and it’s a big one … that hasn’t happened to the U.S.A. since WWII. In a “police action,” the politicians aren’t well known for being smart, and they set the rules of engagement (ROE). I have zero faith the politicians will say, “since the F-35 isn’t a close-in dogfighter, we’ll let it kill intruders from BVR.” Instead, I believe they will require the F-35 in a non-declared war situation to close and identify it as a real “bandit” before authorizing even self-defense, much less engagement from BVR. It was even that way in Viet Nam.
8. So … the F-35, at least in my scenario above, will be required to surrender it’s only real advantage, surprise from all those marvelous avionics and attack electronics. It will have to fly up, confirm the bandit is a bad guy, and engage. All that with exactly 2 air-to-air missiles and a gun that can’t shoot after 17 years, all while being out-turned by older fighters optimized for WVR combat. Add to that it’s legs are shorter than even the “spec” because we are using the fuel as a heat sink, and I see a short-range ambush killer that must lose the advantage of surprise in real-world situations.
If it weren’t so expensive, I might say, “to hell with it,” and just let it go. But we spending BILLIONS for a platform that could win a war, but won’t really be allowed to win while on a patrol. Most of our planes that have engaged in combat for quite a few years now, have engaged while on patrol around places like Libya and the like, or in police type situations. If the F-35 was allowed to patrol the “no fly zones” a few years back and could launch from BVR, it probably would have been wildly successful. If they had been made to close and get a visual ID, I am not so sanguine about it’s chances for survival.
The worst claim from the other forum was that we who don’t like the F-35 just don’t understand the new technology and are hopelessly behind the times. Bunk. Once you close to within sight of one another, the fight is on, and no “fire and forget” missile yet has lived up to the hype. In fact, the PK (probability of kill) for all missiles is not really all that good, particularly in difficult weather.
Any comments that wander toward discussion are welcome, and I’ll be happy to discuss. If you are wanting to start a fight over it, kindly butt out and refrain from joining. Also, and probably foremost, don’t ask me for sources unless you are willing and able to provide them for your claims, too, every time. The real issue is, the F-35 is new and not yet even cleared for combat, and it’s real-world specs aren’t available for public discussion, as far as I know. If they were and if we discussed them, we’d probably be arrested for leaking classified data. So sources are tough for both sides of the discussion, and we might have to discuss without sources on both sides. The press, especially news media, are generally stupid about combat aircraft, but I wouldn’t, for instance, put Aviation Week & Space Technology in that category.
Have at it F-35 fans and foes.