Why the Super Bug is no substitute for the F-35: a technical comparison


Extrapolating on the Super Bug’s decisive inferiority to the F-35 (including its B and C variants), and in response to ignoramuses at POGO and elsewhere who delude themselves and others that the Super Bug is a substitute for, or even a plane superior to the F-35 (as POGO falsely claims), here’s a side to side technical comparison of all 3 F-35 variants with the Super Bug on a number of key characteristics:

Criterion F-35A F-35B F-35C Super Bug
Stealthy Yes Yes Yes No
Dry thrust (kN) 125 125 125 62.3
Thrust w/afterb. (kN) 191 191 191 97.9
Internal fuel cap. (lb) 18,480 13,500 19,750 13,000
Service ceiling (ft) 60,000 60,000 60,000 50,000
Max takeoff weight (lb) 70,000 class 60,000 class 70,000 class 66,000
Combat radius (nmi) 584 469 615 390
T/W w/50% fuel 1.07 1.04 0.91 0.93
G limit 9G 9G 9G 7.6G

As you can clearly read from the table, the Super Bug is decisively inferior to all three F-35 variants on all counts, except that it has a slightly higher thrust/weight ratio with a 50% fuel load than the C model and its maximum takeoff weight is 6,000 lb higher than the B model’s (but still 4,000 lb lower than the F-35A’s and C’s).

Other than that, it is decisively inferior to all three F-35 variants – in terms of the G limit, combat radius, internal fuel capability (i.e. how much fuel can it carry internally, without external fuel tanks, which increase its RCS), dry thrust, thrust with afterburner, and stealthiness (and thus survivability), which is necessary to survive in today’s threat environment infested with modern IADSes and fighters. Also, while all three F-35 variants can pull 9Gs with a full combat load, the Super Bug can pull only 7.6Gs and only in a clean configuration – that is, without any missiles, conformal fuel tanks, jamming pods, or any other external stores. If any external stores are added, it can pull even fewer Gs.

But why do the characteristics other than stealthiness matter?

Thrust, and more importantly, T/W ratios affect planes’ speed, maneuverability, climbing ability, and other aerodynamic performance. Internal fuel capability affects the plane’s combat radius, and as we see from the table, all three F-35 variants have a combat radius significantly larger than the meagre CR of the Super Bug, which is only 390 nm. The F-35 can also fly much higher than the Super Bug, and therefore, launch its missiles from a much higher altitude to increase these missiles’ range significantly. A higher G limit means the F-35 can withstand higher forces of gravitation, and therefore more violent maneuvers, than the Super Bug.

Cancelling the F-35 and using the Super Bug and the F-16 instead would practically be a death sentence for the USN, USMC, and USAF pilots who would be flying these aircraft against the enemy, just like flying the Brewster Buffalo, the F4F, and the P-38 against the Japanese was a death sentence for the unfortunate pilots flying those aircraft. By suggesting that the USN and the USMC go down this route, POGO and NTU hacks are effectively showing their utter disdain and contempt for USN and USMC pilots and demanding that they be consigned to death.

It is utterly unacceptable to force brave American pilots to fly such inferior aircraft and consign themselves to a certain death from enemy fighters. They deserve the best aircraft available – and for the USMC and the USN, this means the F-35B/C.

The Super Bug is, plainly, no substitute for, let alone a plane superior to, the F-35. Not even close. Making such claims only reveals the utter ignorance of those who make them.

If all people around the world who pontificate about issues they know nothing about would shut up, this would be a much better and much quieter world.

The sources: for the F-35 and for the Super Bug.

32 thoughts on “Why the Super Bug is no substitute for the F-35: a technical comparison”

  1. I agree on most counts, but you have not included wing loading, which is another thing determining maneuverability (as long as G limits are not exceeded; admittedly, too low speed and aircraft turns into a sitting duck which means that F-35 most likely is superior), costs (both procurement and maintenance) and maintenance downtime. In Croatia we have an expression – most likely taken from Bosnia or Serbia – that “two bad have killed Milos”. Sometimes two bad fighters are better than one average.

    1. Picard,

      Defense issues are not ones of agreement or disagreement. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with me or not, what matters is what the facts are.

      Both the F-35 and the Super Bug have a high wing loading (thus disqualifying them as fighters), but while the F-35 is more expensive to procure and possibly to maintain, it has a far smaller radar signature, better radar, a better heat-detection system (the DAS), more fuel capacity, and a more powerful engine. Furthermore, the B variant will have the capability to take off from short runways and land vertically.

      In any case, two inferior aircraft are not as good as one “good” plane and are no substitute for it. A good fighterplane like the F-22 would massacre 8 inferior aircraft such as F-16s, J-7s, J-8s, J-10s, or JF-17s any day.

      1. “Defense issues are not ones of agreement or disagreement. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with me or not, what matters is what the facts are.”

        I am well aware of that. Are you certain you have correct facts?

        “In any case, two inferior aircraft are not as good as one “good” plane and are no substitute for it. A good fighterplane like the F-22 would massacre 8 inferior aircraft such as F-16s, J-7s, J-8s, J-10s, or JF-17s any day.”

        Two or three, yes, eight, no.

      2. Yes, I’m certain that I have my facts right. As for the F-22, it could easily shoot down 8 – yes, 8 – inferior fighters such as F-16s, J-7s, J-8s, J-10s, or JF-17s, all of which are quite inferior in terms of max speed, max altitude, T/W ratio, wing loading ratio, weapon load, and avionics compared to the F-22. Heck, the J-7 and the J-8 are obsolete aircraft from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (the J-8).

      3. F-22 carries 8 BVR missiles max in VLO configuration – even with 50% Pk (highest ever achieved in combat), it won’t shoot down more than four enemy fighters before getting to the merge. And WVR, any force ratio above 3:1 is unsurvivable.

      4. It will shoot down more than 4 enemy fighters before WVR combat if those enemy fighters are obsolete aircraft such as the J-7, the J-8, or the MiG-29. These aircraft don’t have the ability to successfully outturn AMRAAMs.

      5. Can Australia assume enemy will use such aircraft and not more modern types?

        Also, 50% Pk for BVR missiles was only ever achieved against hopelessly underequipped and outnumbered enemy aircraft. I don’t think Chinese will send aircraft with no sensors and no jammers in combat.

      6. They won’t, but my point about the J-7, J-8, JF-17, and F-16 is valid. As for modern Chinese aircraft, the F-22 will dispose of them very easily. That’s all you need to know.

      7. And what I have been saying is that your analysis is incomplete. You are ignoring parts which are just as important as those you have shown, because they may hurt your case.

      8. No, I am not ignoring anything. My analysis is complete. The Super Bug is inferior to all three variants of the F-35 by all criteria – agility, maneuverability, radar signature, max speed, max altitude, weapons, radar, other sensors, countermeasures, combat radius, combat persistence, flexibility, etc. The Super Bug is a piece of crap, and the USN should stop further production of that crappy aircraft.

      9. Agility depends on:
        a) wing loading
        b) excess power (thrust)
        c) drag
        d) inertia (weight)

        Out of all four, you have only adressed thrust. And Super Bug may be crap, but F-35 is no better.

      10. I adressed WL and T/W ratio. As for thrust, the F-35’s engine produces far more thrust than the Super Bug’s engine, and the Super Bug cannot, even in a clean configuration, pull more than 7.6Gs, while the F-35 can pull 9.99Gs with a full combat load. It can run circles around the Super Bug all day. The F-35 is VASTLY BETTER than the Super Bug.

      11. You have adressed wing loading but you haven’t compared the numbers. You also haven’t compred their air combat weights.

      12. The MTOW of the Super Bug (66,000 lbs) is similar to that of the F-35A and C (70,000 lbs), but significantly higher than that of the F-35B (60,000 lbs). In other words, the F-35B is significantly lighter than the Super Bug. The wing loading is 459 kg/m2 for the Super Bug and 446 kg/m2 for the F-35.

      13. I have ran numbers on F-35A, and it is 526 kg/m2 loaded and 428 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM; for F-35B, it is 434,2 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM and for F-35C it is 338 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM. F-18E has wing loading of 402,6 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM.

      14. No, the Super Bug’s wing loading at 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinders, and 2 AMRAAMs is 446 kg/m2. Thus, it’s higher than is the case for all three F-35 variants, ESPECIALLY the F-35C.

      15. F-18E:
        21 320 kg loaded AtA
        18 721 kg with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM
        14 552 kg empty
        6 780 kg fuel
        Wing area: 46,5 m

        Super Bug’s wing loading is 458 kg/m2 when in AtA configuration. Difference in wing loading between your figure and AtA figure would translate into 581 kg of total weight, which is possible weight difference between single- and twin- -seater (it is 700 kg for Eurofighter Typhoon).

      16. The A2A configuration was precisely the configuration I was speaking about. And, as I said correctly, the WL ratio of the Super Bug in that configuration is higher than the WL ratio of any F-35 variant, ESPECIALLY the carrier-borne one.

        Intercepting and defeating attacking fighters will require an agile carrier-based fighter. In that respect, while the F-35C is not perfect, it is far superior to the Super Bug.

      17. As you have incorrectly stated, since 458 kg/m2 is for aircraft with full fuel. In same configuration, F-35 wing loading is 526 kg/m2 for A variant.

      18. Yeah, sorry.

        Still, take a look at this:

        F-18E:
        Wing loading: 402,6 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM
        TWR: 1,07 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM

        F-35A:
        Wing loading: 427,9 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM
        TWR: 1,07 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM

        F-35B:
        Wing loading: 434,2 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM
        TWR: 1,05 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM

        F-35C:
        Wing loading: 338 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM
        TWR: 0,93 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM

        F-18E is better in wing loading than any F-35 version with exception of C, and is better in TWR than any F-35 version. It also costs less than any F-35, and can be upgraded easier.

      19. No. The F/A-18E’s wing loading at 50% fuel, 2 AIM-9s and 4 AIM-120Ds is 459 kg/m2 (according to Wikipedia), NOT 402.6 kg/m2.

        Thus it is higher for the Super Bug than for all 3 F-35 variants, ESPECIALLY the F-35C.

        With 50% fuel plus the goodies, it has a T/W ratio of 0.93:1, not 1.07:1.

        That the Super Bug costs less than any F-35 variant is irrelevant, because it is also decisively inferior to all 3 F-35 variants in all criteria, and its inferior characteristics cannot be changed with upgrades. They are inherent in the Super Bug’s design.

        The Super Bug is the worst combat aircraft flown by the US military since the Brewster Buffalo.

    2. You can’t take Wikipedia for granted without checking figures and claims yourself. And my calculations, based on weight, fuel capacity and missile weight, clearly show that SuperBug’s wing loading is 458,5 kg/m2 loaded AtA and 402,6 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM.

      It wouldn’t be first time Wikipedia editors manipulated numbers either. Wikipedia is hardly a reliable and neutral source, so you have to be careful what you take from it.

      1. “And my calculations, based on weight, fuel capacity and missile weight, clearly show that SuperBug’s wing loading is 458,5 kg/m2 loaded AtA and 402,6 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM.”

        And in this case, your calculations are wrong. It’s as simple as that. The Super Bug is not, and will never be, even nearly as agile as the F-35. Here’s a clue for you: the Super Bug, even flown clean, can’t do more than 7.6Gs. The F-35 can pull 9Gs with a full combat load.

      2. You don’t even bother to do your own calculations, obviously. And yes, I know about G limits, but, AFAIK, 7,6 G is operational limit, so Super Bug should be able to pull cca 9-10 G in override at the expense of airframe life. Of course, Typhoon or Rafale would be far better choice than Super Bug.

      3. Actually, I DO bother to do my own calculations, and no, the Super Bug cannot do 9 or 10Gs, even in an emergency, even in a clean configuration.

      4. This is true for these F-35 variants with a full combat load. The Super Bug, even without any combat load, without any external stores, can’t do more than 7.6Gs. WITH external stores, it performs even worse.

      5. Then you should throw in “with AtA loadout” values; aircraft with no missiles and no bullets isn’t going to dogfight anyone.

      6. Of course they’re not going to dogfight anymore. And the fact is that, with an A2A loadout, the Super Bug is STILL decisively inferior to the F-35.

      7. Point isn’t in Super Bug being superior or inferior; if you have decided to make a table, it should not be incomplete.

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