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June 30, 2015

It Is Time to Scrap the F-35 And Simply Begin Building Somewhat Updated F-15s Again

Have you heard the bad news? We have spent one trillion dollars on the F-35, which is intended to be the main battle plane across three different services (Navy, Air Force, Marines), filling at least two different roles (air superiority, that is, dogfighting and radar-destroying, and ground-striking) and the thing is an absolute piece of shit which will kill our pilots.

This is not some niche plane. This is intended to be the main airframe in use by all of our military. This will end up being 70% of the planes we fly. (Note: I just made that up, but I really want to push that this is not just some niche flier we can afford to limp along with.)

A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet canít turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemyís 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 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 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.


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.

I am not even close to expert. One caveat I'd note here: Dogfighting is not everything. Agility is not the most important thing. Speed is. For example, I remember in the nineties some lesser plane -- maybe the F-16, maybe some British fighter -- would routinely beat F-15s in dogfighting.

But the F-15 pilots laughed. They said, basically, this: "We lost because we were under the artificial conditions where we had to dogfight. In real life, we get to decide whether we have the superiority and thus whether to engage at all. And in the air, speed, not agility, is king: we can close on them if they flee, and we can flee them if they close on us. Add in our ability to hit them from very far away, and it all shakes out that the F-16's advantage in dogfighting is trivial, and not one that will make a difference on the battlefield very often."


But no one hears anything but one problem after another with this plane. (See video below for more.) Australia's going a little big wiggy that they've contracted to buy this lemon.

There is no doubt that the US fighter fleet could use a refreshing -- but this plane seems to be awful.

We need some brave voices to stand up to the serious Career-Momentum of this thing -- that is, everyone who shepherded this piece of shit along is going to suffer a career-ending embarrassment if we pull the plug on it, or put it back on to the chalkboards -- to take a stand and say that our boys, and our security, are more important than some Pentagon Procurement Asshole's career.

Put the F-35 back into the chalkboard stage, and begin designing some incremental, evolutionary changes to the F-15.

No, a slightly upgraded F-15 will not give us the sort of dominance we need.

But the F-35 sure won't, either, and at least we know, with the F-15, we're getting a reliable and effective platform.

We do need more stealth. Fine. Use the money saved from canceling the F-35 rollout (and buying cheaper upgraded F-15s) to buy some extra stealth planes.

But this F-35 seems to be a disaster, and Washington seems to be doing with this disaster what it does with all disasters of its own making: Pretending it's not happening so that no one actually has to (gasp!) get a demotion over the catastrophe.

For a contrary take, see Defense Tech, quoting pilots who claim flying the F-35 is "like magic."

I don't know.

There's a certain rah-rah that happens when you're in a group project and you want it all to turn out all right...

New Video Added: Dave in Texas recommends the below video-- from the co-designer of the F-16.

He calls the F-35 "dumb," and the whole F-35 plan a "stunt" and "public relations campaign."

digg this
posted by Ace at 04:55 PM

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