Posted on Jul 1, 2015
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From: "War is Boring" blog on Medium.com
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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.

“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.

https://medium.com/war-is-boring/test-pilot-admits-the-f-35-can-t-dogfight-cdb9d11a875
Posted in these groups: F35 F-35Usaf_logo Air Force
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Responses: 26
SFC Mark Merino
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How dare he (or anyone) speak ill of the F-35? Isn't that considered a stoning offense by the people around the big table?
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Col Joseph Lenertz
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Aerodynamically, the F-35 is a pig compared to the F-16. F-35 pilots have begun calling it the "Super Guppy". The F-16 will keep beating it in dogfights, because dogfights are about turning radius (pitch rate), specific excess thrust, and wing loading (assuming equally capable pilots). If the F-35 hasn't killed the enemy fighter long before the merge (the first turn in a dogfight), it has failed, and deserves to be smoked.
But, in a real air-to-air fight between the F-35 and F-16, my money is on the F-35. weird, huh?
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MSgt Robert Pellam
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I am looking at this in a few ways. As a retired MSgt who worked Aircraft Structural Maintenance on all sorts of aircraft including F-15's, F-16's and A-10. I have seen the effects of flying these magnificent birds, in a maintenance environment. I would love to see the maintenance sheet on the F-35 after this flight. If it over 'G"ed, if it had stress cracks. I know with composites they have a lot more give and are better over all but the F-16 was an Engineered Beast. Had a few weak points but overall it was a pleasure to work on.

Now from a History Major's point of view. This is very disappointing news. During the Vietnam War, the introduction of the F-4 Phantom was supposed to revolutionize air combat. Relying on missiles it was supposed to take out the opposition before they were ever seen. That didn't happen. The F-4 was built without a gun. It proved a fatal flaw. The Missile was not the end all weapon. It still isn't 100% either. Each day we develop new Missile systems and new ways to defeat missile systems. Our aircraft needed to be able to dog fight.

Enter the F-16. The F-16 was the F-4's replacement. It could out turn, out maneuver out fight the F-4 in almost every way imaginable. It was the appropriate replacement and served with distinction for decades.

Enter the F-35. This cash cow for Lockheed Martin makes me wonder.
It can't out dog Fight the aircraft it is supposed to replace.
One touted feature, the Super smart helmet, seems to have a size problem, which should have been addressed before production ever happened. (I wonder if the engineers talked?)

I understand these are just the Con's of this test. The article is very one sided, and while the test pilot is talking all the bad stuff, we don't get the full debrief.

Still this does not give me the warm fuzzes that all the money being spent on this weapon system is worth it. We are cutting members, and military benefits to put cash into the pockets of big business so then can give us inferior products? I hope this plane lives up to the hype. Peoples lives are on the line.
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SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
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Your points about the F4 Phantom and the lack of guns was certainly true. The USAF ended up having to add the 20mm, Gatling, Vulcan cannon pod on the underside mid line of the fuselage to make up for that lack of guns. Th enemy had guns and once inside a certain range the missile often couldn't lock on the target and were useless. There were still dogfights and guns were still needed. It to bad these back room planners didn't consult the users, the Pilots to determine what they needed.
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