Opinion: Hating the F-35 Has Become a Fad

By Armando Heredia and Ian D’Costa for The Tactical Air Network

We won’t beat around the bush. Simply put — it’s now popular to “hate” the F-35 Lightning II, and if you don’t, you’re a shill for Lockheed Martin, you’re being paid off somehow, you’re a clueless idiot, etc. Anyone can virtually find fault with the aircraft, gathering supposed flaws from pictures or simply regurgitating sensationalist journalism prevalent in news media today. Take, for example, this picture shared to the official USAF Thunderbirds Facebook page, showing an F-35A flying in formation at low speed with an F-16 Fighting Falcon (Viper). The F-35 appears to be flying at a higher angle of attack to maintain pace with the Viper and the photo-ship (from which the picture was taken), while the Viper appears to be able to keep up a little better with a lower nose attitude. The comments threads beneath the picture, shared far and wide across Facebook, abounded with hypothesizing on the F-35’s maneuverability almost right away. Oh great, yet another flaw with the F-35. What a useless waste of money!


But, does this picture somehow prove that the F-35 is less maneuverable than the aircraft it’s supposed to replace (the F-16)? Not at all, according to aviation expert, David Cenciotti of The Aviationist. In fact, David comes to the same conclusion in his article as we do: “criticizing the F-35 has become somehow “fashionable.”” Interestingly enough, however, the biggest source of dissent against the mainstream line that the F-35 is a flying lemon comes from the pilots who’ve actually flown it. In sharp contrast to what everybody else seems to be saying, they don’t just like the F-35 but they love it!

Imagine that!

Lightning II pilots have spoken up time and time again to discuss the advantages their new fighters afford them over the older aircraft they once piloted. But we’re sure the opinions of armchair spectators and commentators who’ve never seen an F-35 in person, much less so flown one (with test flight experience on their resume) carry far more weight than what the pilots have to say, right? More on this later.

In discussing the F-35/Joint Strike Fighter program, we can’t ignore the fact that there have been serious issues that need to be dealt with so that future aircraft acquisition programs don’t experience the same difficulties, wasting billions more of taxpayer dollars. Delays (some of which were deliberate so as to save money), cost overruns, software issues, budgetary squabbles, and politicking have bogged down the aircraft considerably. Regardless, is the product of the program really as bad as the process itself?

Let’s tackle this piece by piece.

It can’t dogfight!

Wrong, it totally can.

In 2015, the F-35’s most vocal critics gleefully danced around their cauldron of spite when a supposedly damning report that the F-35 couldn’t dogfight was leaked to the media. It proved their point that the F-35 was inadequate as a fighter aircraft and served no real function in the modern Air Force except as a money scoop to line the pockets of executives and politicians. Earlier this year, Major Morten Hanche of the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) took the time to debunk that particular report. In his article, he discussed distinct advantages granted to him by the F-35 which the F-16 did not, including a considerably higher angle of attack, the ability to regain energy thanks to the F-35’s powerful F135 engine, increased situational awareness, etc. In fact, he found it fairly easy to just develop new methods for overcoming flaws which directly impact the pilot during aerial combat. In every engagement since, he was able to defeat the Viper. Mind you, Hanche has over 2,200 hours and counting in the Viper, and is a graduate of the US Navy’s Test Pilot School in Virginia. That makes him more than qualified to speak at length on the subject of the F-35’s aerial combat capabilities.

You can read more about it here: F-35 CAN Dogfight Says Norwegian Test Pilot

It still can’t fly close air support…

Wrong again.

The Air Force, in 2015, brought a pair of F-35As to the National Training Center in California to function as the primary on-call close air support (CAS) aircraft for thousands of US Army troops on the ground in mock combat. Participating in Green Flag 15-08, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), serving as the coordinators for air strikes and CAS, found the F-35 to be highly effective in the role that it played. Not once was either aircraft shot down… unlike the F-16 and A-10 Thunderbolt II, which have both been shot down during Green Flags. This means that the aircraft is already at or above the capability of the F-16 Viper, which has been the Air Force’s go-to strike aircraft for CAS missions overseas in the Middle East, even more so than the A-10.

What should also perk your ears up is the fact that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has repeatedly expressed interest in picking up a large number of F-35As, now called F-35I Adirs in IAF parlance, to supplant their aging F-16s. Hezbollah, Israel’s primary antagonist, has been known to wield a massive arsenal of surface-to-air missile systems, designed to bring down fighters in one fell swoop. The F-35 adds to the IAF’s advantage by making it nearly immune to the problems posed by such air defense systems with its sensor fusion and stealth, seeking out targets, targeting them and and hitting them before the attacking aircraft will even be detected. Given Israel’s decades-long experiences with prosecuting the air-to-ground mission, their endorsement of the F-35 speaks volumes of the aircraft’s capabilities in such a role.

You can read more about it here:  F-35s Played the US Army’s Primary CAS Providers During Green Flag and Were Not Shot Down in the Process.

And here: F-35 Unscathed by Hostile Fire in Green Flag

Every pilot I’ve spoken to hates it.

Sorry to be so blunt, but you’ve probably never spoken to a fighter pilot, let alone an F-35 pilot. Here’s a roundtable discussion from the WEST 2014 conference in San Diego, co-sponsored by the US Naval Institute and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. You’ll hear some incredibly insightful commentary from program test pilots who’ve had experience in other fighters and types before transferring to the F-35A/B/C. It’s worth the watch.

You can read more about the F-35 from a pilot’s point of view here:  Flying the F-35: A Pilot’s Perspective

You’re just sticking up for the F-35 because you’re a shill for Lockheed Martin, or you’re being paid to! Any pilot who says anything positive about the aircraft is just padding their career!

Oh boy, we’ve heard this one quite often. Here’s a brief disclaimer: The Tactical Air Network is not affiliated with any defense contractors, especially ones involved in the aviation industry. No members of the TACAIRNET team have ever worked for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or any of the other subcontractors involved in the program. We get paid nada, zip and zilch to bring you the content we post on here, but we still do our best to make sure it’s factual, interesting, and well-researched. Now, disagreeing with what we post is absolutely cool. We encourage it. The more people discuss, the more visible topics become, enhancing the scope of discussion while generating increased interest. But childish dissent is really uncool. We live in a world where facts are readily accessible by a quick Google search, requiring minimal effort and mild usage of our noggins. The facts are out there, it’s up to you to be well-informed before you argue, lest you have to resort to spouting the headline of this subsection.

But we do take pictures of the F-35 from time to time.

Copyright: Alan Kenny, 2016. www.alankennyphotography.com
Copyright: Alan Kenny, 2016.

But we’re paying over $1.5 trillion USD for it!

Historically speaking, fiscal conservatism and warfighting have never mixed. What price would have been paid in prolonged combat and uncertainty both World Wars had the winners decided to bid out each and every screw, every bullet? Efficiency and proper handling of taxpayer monies aside –Stealth gives you the advantages over other nation states capabilities – Russia and China aren’t spending millions of their own reverse-engineering, stealing or otherwise building Stealth in parallel just because they want to keep up with the Joneses. In light of the current geopolitical landscape, can we really say there is a limit to keeping that kind of National Defense advantage?

Secondly, the “noise” around the program’s expenditures must be viewed from a historical lens. Of all the defense programs over $1.5 Billion USD, fifteen (15) out of the seventeen (17) involved already matured or known technologies/platforms.  The two that did not are the Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship. Notably, both programs incurred overrun costs primarily associated with the infamous concurrency (creating a platform mostly based on untested/undeveloped technologies). However, the general complaints around cost in general aren’t new. The short-term public memory is driven mostly by the Internet’s ability to retain Google-based searches, which really only dates back to about 2004. Let’s jump into the Way, Way Back Time Machine (no hot tub stops on this tour though), to May 1973 – and the outrage around the per unit cost of the cutting edge F-14 (Wut???) versus the very matured (and ironically the *previous* joint fighter of the US Services) F-4 Phantom II. Quoting directly from an Office of Naval Research sponsored paper

“The $16.8 million program unit cost of the F-14 – although not out of line with the historical costs of fighter aircraft – makes it the most expensive general purpose fighter airplane in the world…”

Here’s another –

“The public and Congress have been sensitized by far more dubious weapon programs such as the C-5 and the F-111, and are overreacting to the F-14 problems.”

This one’s a beaut–

“In contrast with the highly successful F-4, it has been suggested that this history of the F-14 presents a microcosm of the problems confronting the development of modern highly complex weapon systems. Troubled weapon systems such as the C-5A, or the Main Battle Tank [Editor’s note –that’s the M1 Abrams], or the TFX/F-111 fighter aircraft have exhibited three common problems: repeated major technical failures; prolonged schedule slippage; and extravagant cost growth.”

Coup d’grace –

“It’s problem is its unit cost: the F-14 is the most expensive general-purpose fighter ever built….Critics led by Senator (William) Proxmire assert that the F-14 program cost of $16.8 million per plane is grossly excessive and that the program should therefore be cancelled.”

Sound familiar? Read further into that analysis – you’ll find EXACT parallels of what we the general public today are whinging about, new technology costs more, uncertainty around the program’s management, funding, and progress/milestones – but that was FORTY THREE YEARS and roughly TWO MONTHS ago as of today.  The old adage “what’s old is new again” is truly a gem of wisdom.


An F-14D Tomcat deploys its fuel probe prior to aerial refueling during a mission over the Persian Gulf Region. (US Navy/released)
An F-14D Tomcat deploys its fuel probe prior to aerial refueling during a mission over the Persian Gulf Region. (US Navy/released)

Imagine that – and yet, we consider the F-14 (and other programs mentioned in the study) to be nothing more than a RESOUNDING SUCCESS, and most of them are battle-tested.

Notably, this report PRECEDES the most quoted and least understood portion of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1982, the Nunn-McCurdy Amendment (1983), which stipulates notification to the US Congress if a Major Defense Acquisition Project (MDAP) exceeds 25 % of projected per unit cost by original estimate.

In other words, outrage and noise around defense program costs is NOTHING NEW. Legislation put in place to monitor cost, and the Internet’s ability to access (and conversely, the manufacturer’s transparency to post– take that for what you will) is what enables the peanut gallery to make such Monday Night Quarterbacking possible.  Everyone’s an expert in the Age of the Search Engine. But like many amateurs, such analysis is bereft of two pieces – insider access, and historical context.

‘Nuff said.

This is not a J.K. Rowling novel – Stealth is not an Invisibility Cloak

The Harry Potter reference is not accidental – readers of the series know that while the eponymous character is the main protagonist, he is by no means a super-powered individual driving the narrative. He collaborates with his friends and allies to defeat the threat. In much the same way, Stealth has never been a solo diva player in the Final Four. Even in Desert Storm, many of the opening moves to take apart Saddam’s IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) involved team players. Before the Bandits (F-117 Nighthawks) even went downtown, Army AH-64 Apaches brought a rain of Hellfires onto early warning networks just across the border – that disrupted Saddam’s decision cycle and made eyes turn West, while the F-117s came in from other directions. While the popular media narrative is that Stealth is an invisibility cloak and lets one dance between the raindrops, that is and always will be a load of Hollywood rubbish. Stealth has ALWAYS operated cooperatively, as part of a LARGER effort to dismantle an opponent’s military capability. What Stealth brings to the table is uncertainty and disruption.

 U.S. Air Force F-117 Nighthawks from the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing are lined up on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, with canopies raised following their return from Saudi Arabia where they took part in Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force Photograph/Released)
U.S. Air Force F-117 Nighthawks from the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing are lined up on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, with canopies raised following their return from Saudi Arabia where they took part in Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force Photograph/Released)

Knowing something is there isn’t good enough to kill it. Stealth was NEVER about invisibility – it was about making the aircraft more difficult to find. Here’s your first cocktail party phrase – Kill Chain. Destroying something in military terms means being able to find it in a way that you can put ordnance on it – we call that a “Weapons Quality Track.” You’re not going to fire a hundred thousand (insert your currency here) weapon on a whim. This isn’t WWII where we have thousands of these things bunkered away. People will be surprised, modern war will eat up ordnance (and people) like candy at Halloween. Suffice it to say, knowing someone just penetrated your airspace isn’t the same as being able to track it, put fighters on it’s tail or fire ground based missiles at it. Low Observable/LO technology gets you that uncertainty. It lets the Stealth driver get CLOSER to the target, SURVIVE to complete the mission, and DEPART intact.

Disruption is the key.

As a cooperative player, Stealth lets you do several things, but the most important function in this day and age is NOT KINETIC. It does not involve delivering a bomb, missile or cannon shell on target. It will however lead to that and much more. The most important function to succeeding on the modern battlefield are three un-sexy words – Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).  As a combat commander, you’ll never have enough of the following – people, platforms, weapons and time. But ISR lets you resolve three out of the four – if you know WHERE the critical targets are and HOW they’re defended, you can use your limited resources to kill things that pave the way for less capable systems to continue the fight. What are those? Things that are well-hidden – Command and Control centers, communications facilities, and infrastructure that support the enemy’s war machine. Defensive capabilities like his air defense coordination centers, or radars and other sensors that let him see you coming.  If you can destroy or disrupt those lynchpins, your non-stealth platforms will likely be more survivable to complete their missions.

To repeat: Stealth is NOT a Magic Bullet. It is a trade-off that lets you get closer to the enemy to observe or destroy his abilities. And it NEVER. EVER. OPERATES. ALONE.

The F-35 is Actually Transforming the Way Air Combat is Fought

As stated by people close to and within the Low-Observable Community (i.e., Stealth pilots and crew – there’s your second cocktail-party phrase) often note “Stealth is the price of admission for 21st Century Combat.”  That shouldn’t be a surprise to any students of modern conflicts – Operation Desert Storm proved that an LO-capable aircraft could penetrate what was considered a poster child of Soviet Integrated Air Defense Systems, hit targets hard and return virtually unmolested.  In much the same way the Nighthawk made nation-states aware of their vulnerability to Stealth in the 90s, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II *have changed* the way air combat is conducted today.

Copyright: Alan Kenny, 2016. www.alankennyphotography.com
Copyright: Alan Kenny, 2016.

The F-35 is not just a Day One deep strike platform; its sensor fusion – the capability to integrate multiple on-board sensors as well as sensors on other planes, stealthed or not – to deliver a massive series of fires on airborne and ground targets, is unparalleled in military history. A single F-35 can call upon any other platform to enhance its own firepower. It may have used up all it’s missiles on it’s primary target, but it can command other planes further away to fire their ordnance, and direct that payload onto a designated target. The US Navy calls this NIFC-CA and the Joint Strike Fighter plays a major role in delivering the so-called cooperative targeting by operating deep inside contested airspace, delivering targeting information to other “shooters” further away – such as F/A-18 Super Hornets loaded up with precision bombs and air-to-air missiles. While the Super Hornets would have a difficult time surviving deep inside enemy airspace, they don’t have to – the F-35 will deliver the necessary targeting so all they have to do is point in the right direction and pull the trigger.

Yeah, it’s that simple.

And deadly.

Secondly, the fight is no longer about just trading missiles and bombs. The Wizard War started in the 1940s when boffins on both sides started playing with primitive radars. Today, that electromagnetic conflict expands into the consciousness of everyday life – cyber warfare is here, and it’s not just about being unable to check your balances or re-order your yoga mat on Amazon. Modern militaries have relied on communications to coordinate, inform and otherwise maneuver hundreds of disparate units to the single goal of closing with and destroying the enemy. An enemy that can’t see, talk or coordinate on the modern battlefield is dead – they just don’t know it until it’s too late. Now give one side the ability to penetrate DEEP into hostile territory to disrupt that communications and control capability.

That is just one example of what Stealth today can do.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, the F-35 needs to be given a fair shake, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t be critical of the program when criticism is warranted. Delays and the aforementioned cost overruns, along with the general air of confusion over the aircraft’s purpose and mission should definitely be brought forward and the contractors involved held accountable. It is, after all, taxpayer money that’s being spent in massive amounts on such programs, and given the constant mismanagement that has manifested itself throughout the past 16 years, sweeping such issues under the rug just won’t do. But “hurr durr durr F-35 sucks!” isn’t a valid argument anymore, nor is “but can it BRRRRRT!!?”. Far more intelligent arguments on the aircraft can be made, going one way or the other.

23 thoughts on “Opinion: Hating the F-35 Has Become a Fad

    1. Hate may be be a tad strong, but dislike intensely certainly isn’t. Just ask anyone living under the flight envelope for the F-35B at Beaufort MCAS in South Carolina. That beast is LOUD! It isn’t supposed to overfly Beaufort, but it sure does, as long as the long runway is closed for re-paving.

      Another thing, the notion of arranging for an alternate landing site has been either ignored or lied about by our illustrative political representatives. At a meeting with Mark Sanford (R – SC 1) well over a year ago, I asked him specifically whether North Field, about a hundred miles from Beaufort MCAS, was being considered as an alternate landing site, eapecially for night, vertical operations. He knew nothing about it but agreed that it was a good idea. He further stated that he would look into it and that he could help with it. That was the last we heard anything about it from Representative Sanford. Meanwhile, the long runway was closed for paving, and it appears the local F-35b drivers are oblivious to the prohibition of flying over Beaufort.


  1. its good to see somone is actualy trying to speak up and debunk these stupid claims and arguments. great job!


  2. The little problem is that the passive stealth is extremely costly (especially when it comes from US aircraft builders), every plane needs about 50 hours work between each flight to re-coat it between each flight making its disponnibility extremely low like 1 flight every 3 days when, i.e., Some Rafale-M (Navy version) were going back to the aircraft carrier, didn’t even stopped their engines, reloaded weapons, refueled in the air and so performed +10 missions a day attacking both Gadaffi’s air-bases and SAM-sites. They’re not supposed to be as ‘stealth’ as F-22 or F-35 : their radar cross section is the size of a seagull (so pretty small) but not a single one was spotted : not a single SAM was shot, not a single jet-fighter took off following an alert, so a low observability added with serious EW-suite like SPECTRA or russian Khibiny which totally distrupted the state of the art Aegis systems of an Arleigh-Burke frigate are more than effective at the point of 40y old Su-24M2 with Khibiny, after having simply been seen for less than a second by the Aegis system disappeared from all the screens then both plane simulated a dozen of low-flight attacks buzzing the bridge of the frigates as close as 30ft. It didn’t happened just once but the black-sea case led 27 sailors to resign. One of them was questionned by a journalist then just answered “I’m not interested into dying”. Even worst, during a common US/Russia drill in the sea of Japan that occured about 8/10y ago, just 4 Sukhoïs in formation buzzed the US aircraft carrier. Nobody seen them coming. It is said that the admiral was fired.The Rafales are known to flight just over the more than dangerous S-300 complex without being ‘seen’ at all.

    Another point is that passive stealth only works with X-band radars and partially against S-band radars, so even a WW2 british homeland defense radar can ‘see’ them. F-22s are clearly spoted patrolling China sea by the S-400 Triumf China has bought from the russians, worst of all are the trans-horizon radars : the France-based Nostradamus radar was simply following the B-2 and F-117 over Yugoslavia and B-2 and (the few) F-22 strikes over Syria as it follows ESA Ariane rocket launches as far as Guyana. With a networked A2/AD, local defenses could have been feed with radar data from a +3000km based trans horizon radar and the 3bln$ B-2 blown in the air. And now Russia has built several “Container” radars which are much bigger than Nostradamus or their old Duga-3.
    Another bad news : All jet-fighters have X-band radars… Sukhoï has added to it a L-band radar in the wings of the PAK-FA…

    Add to this that the modern EW-suites are more than enough to disrupt any radar-guided missile if not fry its electronics, thus, leading ANY ‘stealth’ into a WVR if not dogfight combat, anyway, any pilot which isn’t a kamikaze won’t be enough stupid to put his radar “on” in a disputed area as, once you’ve done it, same thing for IFF or transponder, it’s nothing else than saying “hello, I’m here” and so, just receive fastly a bunch of missiles guiding themselves on your own radarwaves first then, once in range where stealth doesn’t operates, switch to their active radar or IR seekers… So, once again, no BVR missiles : you will ONLY be able to rely on passive systems and with ‘just’ the most powerfull jet engine and a bulky airframe, you are the pride and joy of infra-red and noise and so being the delight of all passive sensors…
    The other point is that, in order to lessen the risks to be seen, a F-35 or F-22 have to rely on their internal bays, thus limiting the number of missiles you carry. You may just face more classic aircrafts with active-stealth and ‘just’ low observability face you as you will be forced into a WVR engagement, but, with theit multiple-pylons, they may have 20 or 24 missiles aboard. At best, it will end into a dogfight as the F-35 won’t be able to flee with is only Mach1.6 capability. I can’t tell about its dogfight capability, but, during dogfight drills, although having vectoring thrust, the F-22 has been beaten by EF-2000, Rafale and even the old greek Mirage2000s, none of them having vectoring thrust but, not for long for the french ones : the new Snecma M-88 will be for sale very soon and has vectoring thrust. As the M-88 is a modular engine, older can be upgraded… Although having a very powerfull engine, the F-35 is still heavy, bulky with high wing load. In case of dogfight, it will have serious problems against much lighter planes like all Euro-canards or even Mig-29/35 which is more manoeuvrable than a F-16 and when F-35 will at least be fully combat ready, nonetheless Rafales will have vectored thrust too and still a serious threat to both F-22 and F-35, but low observable/stealth Sukhoïs, Shenjyang and Chengdu aircrafts will be on the market and for much cheaper, add to this that as russian S-500 is about to be fielded, russians are begining to offer the S-400 to export, making any passive stealth aircraft useless but also seriously endangering fighter support like E-3 Sentry (AWACS) or KC-135/KC-10 refuellers…

    At my level, it’s not a question of hating F-35 but I’m really concerned that our NATO neighbours like Italy, UK, etc are going to have their air-forces filled of F-35 that at best will be able to have a 30% availability due to the high maintainance, rely on a stealth technology that is simply outdated, have flying characteristics more than damped due to this seeking of passive stealth and, the worst thing, due to completely crazy high prices and low ordnances capacity, will be fielded in small numbers with smaller number of weapons aboard and as, at best, as a F-35 may not flight more than 15/20 hours a month, pilot skills will shrink.
    Let’s consider a wahhabist war, Italy with the few F-35 they will have would totally be defeated by Saudi Arabia with F-15s and Typhoons, simply by swarming… In case of a major attack against Europe, UK will flee as in 1940 and being an island, they’re less likely to be invaded. US? They are already trying to undermine/interfere in E.U. politics, we can’t rely on them except for backstabbing, so, as always, Europe will have to rely only on russians and frenchs!
    So yes, we are very concerned about the fact that F-35 is simply about to jeopardize E.U. security for the sake of Lockheed-Martin making nonetheless 1.5 trillion $ from the USAF but probably as much from NATO for something that would have been interesting if fielded around Y2K and the 3rd of the price.
    In fact, F-35 shoulf be renamed A-35 : it’s a strike aircraft. It could be interesting for first strikes as I’m sure that it will have active stealth too, so having SEAD or anti-airfield bombs in internal bays can maybe have some interests then, maybe once the A2/AD broken, it can act as a classic strike aircraft, maybe disregarding the coating maintenance… But as a air dominance thing, clearly, if you don’t have F-22, you’re doomed and if the oponnent has Sukhoïs with Khibiny or Rafales with SPECTRA, even the F-22 may be seriously challenged. I just hope our govt won’t be enough stupid to accept al-Jubeir proposal to buy 60 Rafales : KSA has spent around 70 to 100 billions $ since 1979 in the spreading of their sick wahhabist ideology. I’m not delighted about the sales to Qatar as they’re not better but they’re too small to, as a country, being a real threat and I’m not liking the sales to al-Sissi to : his wife and daughter are wearing hijab, when he lived in the US, his wife used to wear niqab… All right, he overthrowed Muslim Brotherhood, but, considering these point and how he cracks on the freedom of the press or against protests, I smell the taqqiyya from a jihadi puppet to get modern weapons systems from the west then turn them against us.


    1. 2 years overdue but gotta say it, this is a very misinformed post. Long-winded as it may be.


  3. Oooops, I forgot : I consider F-35B is a very nice replacement for Harriers… But at near 300M$ per aircraft, maybe not so : a Harrier III could have been studied, using composites instead of metal, some arrangements to reduce RCS, add payload and using active-stealth would have been enough.
    In fact, I consider that F-35 is nothing else than a revamped Yak-141 (Lockheed to shares into Yakolev when USSR colapsed!): just 3D redesign the airframe to add internal weapon-bays and to get close of the F-22 to reduce the RCS and you got it! Even the size, including wing area, or the performances look like a Yak-141 and the F-35B jump jet system is exactly the same… In other terms, LM modelized the Yak-141 into Catia (Dassault’s 3D CAD. All western aircraft buildes use it) then began to rebuild the airframe around to approach the F-22 thing and all the issues come from the fact that they’de better have begun with a blank sheet, now, add to it that the DoD wanting a single aircraft for both the USAF, the Navy and the USMC, the USMC needing a jump-jet, then you have to work around the jump-jet which is a stike aircraft to make it multirole and multirole CATOBAR for the navy… So they’ll have a non-jumpjet Yak-141 that looks like a small-scale F-22 that won’t perform a lot better than a KAI T-50 or HAL Tejas at the end (if you don’t consider passive stealth)…

    Except my concerns about our alliees buying the F-35 thus jeopardizing our security, and to be frank, I’m not fearing the russians : they don’t need land-grabs -except if the US backs a coup d’état in Ukraine that threatens their access to Sevastopol russian navy base, anyway, Crimea is nearly only populated by russians- the danger is more in the middle-east with the spread of an ideology that merges nazism and religion and has half of the oil of the planet to fuel it and everyone is making a shitload of money arming countries with rulers that may look being western friendly but are in fact in this ideology and if they don’t do it themselves, they close their eyes on the funding and arming of terrorists that are attacking us, they may even do false flags against themselves to make us believe they fight these terror groups. It’s not a problem to gain access to their ideology… The day they’ll be able to compete for real, they will unify and…


    1. A rather long and misinformed post that lead off with misinformation. Seems you are a bit behind since the F-35 does not have coatings as you began your claims. It is all composited panels and you have assumed the F-22 and the F-35 had the same components. And while we are on that subject, did you miss the Carbon nano tube patents Lockheed had approved for the F-35 structural components?
      As for all the other misinformation you included, I don’t have time to catch you up in this forum. It appears you are more than a few years behind or consuming intentional misinformation Just going to move along and let you enjoy your Bliss…


  4. I mean totally crap this article.

    The F-35 will be the world’s most appalling air power asset, effectively vulnerable to enemy air defences, beatable in air combat and bringing in a host of unreliable sensors etc.
    The F-35 is not the all-singing, all dancing platform that was once envisaged or expecting in some quarters, though at the same time it will be much more incapable and inflexible aircraft than any tactical aircraft that has gone before.

    The F-35 advocates/supporters have wrongly and continue to be proven wrong to point out that close-in dogfighting is the sine qua non of air combat. I emphasize that the F-35 pilot unaffords its pilot with no opportunity to see and kill the enemy at Beyond Visual Range (BVR). Because the nose geometry of the F-35 limits the aperture of the radar. This makes the F-35 dependent on supporting AEW&C aircraft which are themselves vulnerable to long range anti-radiation missiles and jamming. Opposing Su-30/35 aircraft have a massive radar aperture enabling them to detect and attack at an F-35 long before the F-35 can detect the Sukhoi. The F-35 will be hopelessly outclassed in Within Visual Range (WVR).

    It is an unmitigated disaster in the history of air warfare.


  5. The F-35 doesn’t have half of the ground attack capabilities of the Warthog.

    1. Doesn’t carry as many bombs (if that’s your only point) because if it does then it won’t be as “stealthy” as advertised, and the wings can’t simply sustain the weight (ft-lb) because they are simply too small, period, it’s simple physics.

    2. Can’t sustain the punishment of small firearms like the A-10, a’s a matter of fact it doesn’t have a Titanium bathtub like the A-10 nor its fuel tank have a anti flame system like the A-10 does.

    3. At the altitude of ground support it is “VERY” easy 2 employ a heat Seeker missile (just ask the F-117 that was shot down over Yugoslavia during the ’90’s)

    4. Flying at higher altitudes certainly doesn’t fix the problem. As a matter of fact it increases it because what Soldiers need is a “Close Air Support”. A JSOW (like the AGM-154) can be launch from any air platform, even the Wright Flyer (sarcasm)

    5. Its exaggerated overpriced (over 400 billion program for a flying target)

    6. The so called capabilities of the F-35 can be easily implemented on other planes (info sharing, cameras under the fuselage so the pilot can see through them in their helmets) if Lockheed ever gets the software right.

    7. I would prefer see a new F-15 block with all the newest technologies (4++) that would be by far more capable than the F-35 fiasco.

    8. The F-35B version is even less maneuverable than A and C versions. (The G load of these A and B models even barely pulls 6.5 g’s, the F-16 is 9! for god sake)

    9. Su-27/30 family (even Su-34 and Chinese J-11) will have a festival with this “still not ready jet” aircraft. It will be like clubbing baby seals and not only pilots lives will be lost but Soldiers on the ground will also suffer the fiasco of bad equipment.

    10. The only mission were the F-35 excels is on making Lockheed blue-sky marketing.

    Because the reason the Pentagon wants to drop the A-10 is to replace it with the infamous F-35, an aircraft that it’s not going to accomplish the ground support mission (or any mission as a matter of fact).

    And because I know that eventually going to be evolved in a future conflict is the reason I don’t want to see an inferior plane like the F-35 that’s going to lose make many pilots (and infantry that’s supposed 2 receive their “close air support”) lose their lives.

    The fact of the matter is that the F-35 airframe is going to be responsible of too many different missions, all the way from a helicopter to Air Force One and everything in between (sarcasm), and that’s the perfect recipe for disaster.

    USAF propaganda is putting our allies and the U.S. air power at risk on many levels.


    1. 1: the SDB has been built for exactly this purpose. The F-35 can carry plenty of bombs.

      2: CAS mostly takes place at high altitude. It’s rare for anything (including the A-10) to risk doing a gun run.

      3: As previously stated, CAS is 99% orbiting at 30,000 feet, waiting for JTAC to pass you some coordinates for you to put a JDAM on, I don’t know why everyone has the idea that only the A-10 can do CAS because it’s not true. Also, the Nighthawk shot down over Yugoslavia was hit by an SA-3, which is radar guided, not heat seeking.

      4: The fact that it can be launched from other platforms doesn’t mean it’s obsolete; the F-22 and the F-16 can both fire the AMRAAM, doesn’t mean they’re equal in terms of performance.

      5: Yes it is expensive, whether or not you think it’s worth it is subjective.

      6: I think the systems you’re talking about are far more complicated than that. I’m no expert, but given that the F-22 doesn’t even have JHMCS, I’d dread to think the gigantic pain in the arse (and incredible expense) retrofitting the systems already functioning in the F-35 into older jets not designed to accommodate them would be

      7: An upgraded Eagle would be great, something to supplement the slightly undersized Raptor fleet, but the Eagle and the F-35 are not equivalent in role, comparing them is unhelpful.

      8: The G loading you’re talking about is the restrictions placed on aircraft in testing. when the aircraft are fully operational, the G limit will be much higher, probably 9G as well.

      9: This one isn’t even an argument, this is just hyperbole and conjecture.

      10: See point 9.


  6. The F-35 aircraft designs will not meet specification nor the operational requirements laid down in the JSF JORD (Joint Operational Requirements Document) by significant degrees, noting that these operational requirements and resulting specifications, themselves, were predicated on the capabilities of reference threats from an era past and subsequently subjected to the illogical and deeply flawed process known as CAIV (Cost As and Independent Variable).

    The designs of all three F-35 variants are presenting with critical single points of failure while even the most basic elements of aircraft design (e.g. weight, volume, aerodynamics, structures, thermal management, electrical power, etc.) will almost certainly end up in “Coffin Corner”.

    In essence, the unethical Thana Marketing strategy used to sell the F-35, along with the acquisition malpractice of concurrency in not only development, production and testing but the actual designs of the F-35 variants, themselves, have resulted in the F-35 marketeers writing cheques that the aircraft designs and F-35 Program cannot honour.

    Lockheed Martin is a tremendously effective marketing organisation and they acquire all kinds of political influence both through the route of politics of the country, contributing to parties, through retired officers, and through their own marketing organisation which is extremely effective. It is an amazingly good marketing organisation backed by a company that doesn’t build very good aeroplanes.

    Its thana marketing strategy which is basically designed to enable Lockheed Martin to rape any nation’s plundering taxpayers money in the western world for the next 40 to 50 years.

    Why do you think the F-35 program will ever succeed? The problem is the F-35 is not a good enough reason to keep it going. Saying the F-35 is too big to cancel is a complete excuse. Size is not relevant to failure. The F-35 has already failed, so cancel it. Because if you keep on going ahead with the F-35 you will weaken your defence and the allies defence as well.

    I make it very clear that if you put against newer aircraft from Russia and China, I guarantee the F-35 will not survive the future conflicts up against the Su-30/Su-35S variants, MiG-29/35 variants, PAK-FA, J-20 and J-31 aircraft in Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) engagements.

    There is another problem. Are you aware that stealth technology can already be detected by long (low band) wave VHF/UHF radar? Stealth is a myth, a scam, a multi-billion dollar boondoggle and is based on a lie. Because quite frankly I’m starting to talk about other areas how very vulnerable the F-35 will be up against the anti-access & area denial threat environment.

    A growing trend in Russian and Chinese radar could make U.S. stealth fighters easier to see and — more importantly — easier to target for potential adversaries. The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II — are protected by stealth technology optimised only for higher frequency targeting radars in the Ku, X, C and parts of the S bands. BTW the F-35 is partially stealthy only in forward quadrant. A conservative estimate for the frontal RCS (Radar Cross Section) of the F-35 would be 0.0015 square metre which is only stealthy in the front, this is what I call “Partial Stealth”. Parts on the fuselage of the aircraft will be detectable from the behind, the upper side and from the lower sides.

    It is supposed to reduce radar detection (like a bird or an insect) which it never was. It just reduces the cross section and visibility, making the plane look smaller on radar than it is. Nothing more or nothing less. The only problem is precise location which is already slowly been resolved by computerised signal processing and integrations of other radar wavelengths for search, location and targeting, with improved computing power, low frequency radars are getting better and better at discerning targets more precisely.

    Stealth is useful only against short-wavelength radar of the kind that might be carried on an interceptor or used by a radar-guided missile. Physicists say no amount of RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) coating will protect you from 15ft to 20ft wavelength radar of the kind the Russians have had since the 1940s.

    If you are putting F-35 up against the newer generation of much, much more powerful long-wave length Russian radars, as well as the P-14 Tall King, P-18 Spoon Rest-D family of Cold-War era radars, some Nebo series of radars and some of the newer Chinese radars of a ground-to-air unit that would have no difficulty detecting and tracking an approaching F-35, F-22 and the B-2 aircraft.

    There is also a JY-26 Skywatch counter-stealth radar was on display at the Zhuhai Air show in China which I’m sure you are aware of it. China’s Nanjing defence electronics technology group is unveiling a new phased array radar iterating in the VHF/UHF waveband, designed for long range air surveillance and target acquisition role. Operating in the long wave band – VHF/UHF which enables the JY-26 to detect targets presenting low radar cross section (stealth aircraft) at the decimetric, centimetre and millimetre wave bands. The use of phased array technology also provides users the ability to increase the power transmitted at a certain location where a target presence is suspected, thus increasing the probability of detection of low-RCS targets.

    The manufacturer also claims the radar is designed with robust anti-jam and electronic counter-countermeasures, enabling it to face strike forces conducting advanced anti-access/area denial (a2/ad). It is using advanced, two dimensional digital, active phased array system, enabling high accuracy, target tracking and separation as well as operation at long ranges of up to 310 miles (500 km).

    The US was currently deploying advanced stealth aircraft in the Pacific, including B-2 stealth bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. Both have also deployed on missions near China, providing the Chinese the opportunities to test their new radars against those planes. Chinese designers at the Airshow in Zhuhai, China, claimed the JY-26 radar has already spotted the F-22 Raptor, as it flew in South Korea on exercises. The radar is being developed at Shandong, located just across the Yellow Sea, separating the Korean peninsula from mainland China.

    The F-35 will also be detected by the L-Band AESA which will be equipped on the Su-35S and PAK-FA. It is used for targetting which they’ll be able to track LO/VLO stealth aircraft, as well as the F-35.

    Unfortunately the large exhaust nozzle of the F-35 will be extremely hot and has a very big heat signature. The back end of the F-35 in full afterburner is something like 1600 degrees (Fahrenheit). In terms of temperature, aluminium combusts at 1100. You are talking about something really, really hot. If you have got a dirty big sensor on the front of your Su-35S or your PAK-FA or whatever, it lights up like Christmas lights and there is nothing you can do about it. The plume because of the symmetric exhaust, is all over the place. It is not shielded, it is not ducted in any useful way. The Sukhois will be able to seek and destroy the F-35 when using the heat seeking BVR (Beyond Visual Range) AA-12 (R-77) Adder air-to-air missiles.
    The Su-35S Super Flanker-E and the T-50 PAK-FA now in development and about to enter mass production is expected to be much more lethal in air-to-air combat against the F-35. The Su-35 and T-50 made appearances at the Russian aerospace industry air show known as MAKS. Both aircraft will include sensors and networking which can minimise the effects of the limited low-observable qualities of the F-35. They will also have higher performance, longer range (without refuelling), more powerful radars, advanced sensors, networking, data fusion capabilities and carry more air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons than an F-35.

    Further, new foreign rival warships are increasingly being built with both high and low frequency radars. Prospective adversaries are putting low frequency radars on their surface combatants along with the higher frequency systems. Even the Chinese warships like the Type 52C Luyang II and Type 52D Luyang III have both high and low frequency radars. I don’t see how you long survive in the world of 2020, 2030 or beyond when dealing with these systems and if you don’t have the signature appropriate to that [radar], you’re not going to be very survivable. The low frequency radars can cue the high frequency radars and now you’re going to be a dead duck.

    Another problem with stealth aircraft is you’re getting a super complicated aeroplane that won’t be able to fly very much. The two main features of stealth design include a radar absorbent material coating and overall aerodynamic design changes that reduce the reflection of radar. Both of these approaches create tremendous challenges. Because stealth aircraft spend a lot of time around 50 or 100 hours inside in a special atmosphere controlled facility, which need to be retreated after every flight by applying RAM coatings and to prevent rain or dust from damaging them, which goes to show you how unbelievably expensive and very labor intensive. Further, the treatment requires the handling of toxic materials by workers. A lawsuit was filed in 1994 by five workers and the widows of two others alleging that the coating treatment from the B-2A Spirit strategic bomber caused the worker’s illnesses. Also pilots won’t get enough flight hours in the real aircraft (to refine their skills). Look at the cost per flight hour for stealth aircraft vs. non-stealth. You’ll be talking about somewhere $50,000, $60,000 or higher.


  7. “What Stealth brings to the table is uncertainty and disruption”.

    Yes that is true in some ways, but when one says air defence radars, it is important to say what kind of radars we are talking about. Fire-control radars from fighter aircraft tend to only work at high frequencies (X-band). Stealth shaping and RAM are designed to be effective only in the X band. Search radars work at lower frequencies (L band, for instance.) At lower frequency stealth shaping is less effective and so it is RAM. At very low frequencies (VHF) stealth shaping and RAM are totally ineffective. The Russians and the Chinese have lots of VHF radars, some of them modern phased-array radars. A VHF radar will see an F-35 at the *same* range as it sees any other plane with a similar size.

    Also in air-to-air combat in BVR and WVR engagement, you will have no choice if your enemy is at your 6 o’clock position and sees F-35’s enormous heat signature if it is in full afterburner to try to gain energy. Remember you have got a dirty big sensor on the front of the Su-35S, MiG-29/35, PAK-FA or whatever, the F-35 will light up like Christmas light which will be spotted at a distance away. Because of the symmetric exhaust, is all over the place. It is not shielded, it is not ducted in any useful way. That is not very stealthy due to the conventional airframe design.


  8. Further HALE drones like Chinese Divine Eagle and aerostats will be able to spot stealth jets with IR and UHF, range detection unknown but a cluster of stealth jets in a real world attack scenario like US F-22, F-35 combo will increase the chance the clusters of heat emissions from the tail will become visible, including to satellites perhaps.


    1. The F-35 doesn’t have the internal missile payload needed to ensure kills against enemy flights that will likely have 2-3x the number of aircraft in them. Each of which will carry more air-to-air missiles than four F-35’s.

      Internal weapons bays for the F-22 and F-35 limit munition sizes and numbers, and the lack of external fuel tanks limit range if you want to be stealthy.


  9. Due to their better capability and the lack of F-22s procuring additional “modern” F-15s is the best approach to get more “bang for the buck”.

    Saudi Arabia paid for the development F-15SA and it is 98% of what the “SE” proposal was. The only differences were the canted tails, RAM engine blockers, stealth coating and CWBs with the armament bays. From my point of view the CWBs with the 4 armament bays aren’t worth it but can still be developed for use since they are separate units. The rest can be easily added to a new production F-15SA derived run. Plus Boeing has identified SA+ improvements which include a more modern internal IRST vs. the antiquated 80’s F-14D-derived IRST pod. The Selix IRST is much more advanced and compact for internal use.

    In addition, the F-15SA run is hot with 84 new SAs in production with an additional 70 Saudi F-15s that will be upgraded. Plus, as part of being compensated for the Iran nuke deal Israel has requested 1-2 squadrons of new F-15s from the US. These would likely be equivalent to the SA with SE features. So we have an opportunity for a large production run with lower unit costs due to economies of scale. Therefore, the USAF procuring an additional run of F-15SA+ equivalent aircraft is the most logical choice vs. the very less capable F-35 option.

    The F-15SA+ has a longer range, a larger weapons load, is more powerful, is faster, and more versatile than the F-35. Plus once new production advanced F-15s are in service older model F-15Es can be upgraded like what the Saudis are doing. In the meantime upgrade the F-16 fleet with AESA radars and any life improvements needed.

    Lastly the USA needs to make all their fighters capable of using the MBDA Meteor LRAAM to complement the AIM-120D, and provide for longer range engagements.

    These aircraft need to be viable for another 30+ years to supplement and interface with the F-22 in light of increased challenges in Europe and eastern Asia.


    1. Oh I forgot to add about the F-15SA+ can be equipped with the underdevelopment supercruising F100-PW-232 or F110-GE-132 engines with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles for enhanced agility & to avoid missiles & gunfire.


  10. I don´t doubt that the F35A will be a deadly fighter when the system is fully matured. It has never been my problem with the jet. My problem has been that the jet is totally unsuited a small air force such as the Danish. We simply cannot afford to buy let alone maintain a high enough number of jets to keep a credible air force flying. Of course I also have major issues with the level of “integration” between governments and Lockheed Martin. It seems ill-fated to support such a level of privatised monopoly on vital self defence infrastructure.

    In reality Denmark may only be able to afford 15-25 of these planes, and if we want more we´ll have to slash the armed forces beyond recognition. In short this purchase will make us weaker, and a weaker ally should not be a desireable goal just to make a buck.

    Denmark should have gone with the Swedes on this one back in 2008 and partnered up with Saab-group to help fund the development of the Gripen E fighter. Regional defence-alliances (Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Sweden, Norway and Finland among others) makes more sense when we look at territorial defence.


    1. Nemo, something very bad had happened at the point when Denmark will have to fight alone. That is the only situation when it makes sense to point out that 25 jets might not be enough. As a part of a mutli-national alliance, fleet of 25 of a-class fighter jets with well-trained pilots (no doubt) is no small contribution to the common cause.


  11. I keep hearing these comments over and over

    1) Jamming can leave the F-35’s missiles defeated
    2) VHF radars or other Low Frequency radars can see through the F-35’s stealth and shoot it down like the F-117 in Kosovo
    3) The F-35 has low gun ammo and doesn’t carry as many bombs as the A-10.

    1) First off, the AIM-120 missile is built with many ECM countermeasures along with an anti-radiation countermeasure known as home-on-jam. Also, the missile before it gets very close to the target for it’s seeker to be turned on can be assisted by midcourse upgrades on the F-35’s APG-81 AESA radar. This is a frequency agile radar, that has also it’s coded waveform to not know how the waves travel, along with very narrow tight beams(know as gain). The United States is master at this AESA technology, and it’s so good it can even be used for communications and jamming with it’s own radar system without the need for dedicated jammers. The French, only had AESA installed on their Rafale in 2012(which cannot be used to jam), the Brits are tying to install it, and the Russians only have it on the PAK FA,(yes they have it in ground radars) which we have little detail of. The F-35 has far more processing speed for accurate datalinks and radar agility. Remember it’s just not one F-35 guiding missiles. Multiple aircraft can network an launched missile on a single point quickly then switch targets. And if you don’t know where the enemy is at, it’s very difficult to pinpoint the location to launch your jamming beam at. Also the US is the first nation to have a dedicated AESA jammer(the NGJ).

    2) Low frequency radars, yes, can detect stealth, but they are too inaccurate for any sort of fire-control. The S-400 Triumf missile for example cannot use their VHF radars like the Nebo SVU to guide their missiles on targets, but rather need to use separate accusation and fire control radars to do that job, which all use the X-band which stealth is designed to defeat(along with all high frequency bands down the 3 Ghz region). VHF, UHF, and L-band, all need massive T/R modules to receive their long wavelengths and need to be super large in order to detect anything making them easy targets to destroy before the battle starts nor can they be mounted on fighter aircraft besides for communication purposes(. Also they are a lot more easy to jam. This job is specifically designed for aircraft like the EAG-18 Growler.

    3) The A-10 cannot carry more bombs than the F-35. The A-10’s max payload is 16,000 lbs, while the F-35’s is 18,000. Neither aircraft would carry that many weapons due to drag purposes, but the A-10 in Afghanistan usually has no more than 2 bombs or missiles, a rocket system, along with individual targeting pods, and countermeasures pods along with the GAU-8 cannon. With the F-35 all the chaff/flares are internal, the targeting pod which also is an IRST is an internal system, and can carry up to 8 Small diameter bombs internally(which has a range of 100 km, making it’s engagement distances far greater than the A-10) or 8 Brimstone missiles or 2 JDAMs..

    Yes the A-10 can loiter at low altitudes longer plus has the gun. However, in a contested airspace with enemies having short range SAMs like the TOR or Pantsir-S1 which can fire on the move, it can blunt a A-10 attempting to attack at low altitudes with it’s gun. This is what happened in the Gulf War, where F-16s had to do the A-10s job. Against insurgents it’s fine. The Air Force has stated of a direct A-10 replacement for this job.


  12. LMAO, F-35 is great… oh sorry you were serious. Let’s drop one more bit of tech on Stealth. I’m working on an old tech, new tech device. It takes the scatter from known spectrum within an area of conflict and looks for holes. This in most cases is a combatant. Its design has been finalized and we have working prototypes in the field. Guess what? it sees everything you cannot hide. So the F-35 is pointless, the only thing that will save you is your ability to get to the deck ASAP and make like a tree.
    Oh one other thing it doesn’t need all the computational muscle like you would need for quantum radar systems.


  13. You forgot about the special coating being vulnerable to bad weather and the 25 mm gun causing vibration damage.
    My impression so far is that it is a valid weapon system, quite capable within a somewhat narrow envelope.


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