The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter cost over $1 trillion dollars to develop, but it can’t beat the plane it’s replacing in a dog fight. At least that’s what a secret report obtained by the website War Is Boring seems to indicate.
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” an unnamed pilot said of his experience in a simulated dogfight with an F-16D. "Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement.”
To make matters worse, the design of the F-35’s cockpit provided limited visibility, which allowed the F-16 to sneak up from behind.
“The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft.”
Given the cost of the plane, news of the F-35’s poor performance is alarming. However, according to aviation expert Andrew Linstead, the technological advantages of the F-35 make its poor performance in the dog fight irrelevant.
“Previously pilots might have had to fight their way in to a hostile area,” Mr. Linstead, who flew for 27 years in the RAF, told The Telegraph. "The battlefield picture they now have means they can avoid their adversary or choose to fight in a way that will give them a better outcome.”
In other words, an F-35 will be able to pick and chose when it wants to engage, and should be able to avoid a dogfight in the first place.
“It would be trite to say dogfights are over,” Linstead said. “But if an F-35 got into a dogfight situation then the pilot would have probably done something wrong.”
While that is somewhat comforting, it’s worth pointing out that Linstead is currently employed by Lockheed Martin, the company behind the F-35. So while I certainly hope he’s right, his opinion on the matter might be a tad biased.