Even though F-35 program cost overruns continue to mount and its numerous flaws are manifest, Lockheed Martin’s PR wing continues to spew propaganda in its defense. If BS were currency, they could pay down America’s national debt by themselves!
So let us recount why the F-35 is the worst fighterplane currently on the market.
The F-35 is, in short, totally unsuited for A2A, A2G, or CAS missions. In this article, I will focus only on the former type of mission.
Success in A2A combat is determined not by “stealthiness” and not by fancy gizmos, but by four factors which have been true throughout aviation history – with Mach 2. jetfighters as much as with WW1-era biplanes:
1) SURPRISE: Throughout aviation history, 65-80% of all fighter aircraft shot down went down without their pilots knowing what hit’em. It is therefore crucial to detect the enemy before he can detect us. Thus, the bigger and hotter an aircraft is, the more chance it stands of being detected by the enemy. Using one’s radar increases the risk of being detected to 100%, because American and Russian radar operate at totally different frequencies and pulse rates, and if you lock a radar-guided missile onto an enemy, he’ll know it thanks to his RWR and duck it (or launch countermeasures). Leaving smoke, like the F-4, F-15, and F-16 do, or contrails like the F-35 does, is an even deadlier giveaway.
2) NUMBERS: While a nation should not procure cheap but decisively inferior aircraft, being able to significantly outnumber the enemy is a great advantage. In WW2, 2,000 Allied prop fighters defeated 200-400 German jet-powered Me-262s. The F-35 is by far the most expensive fighter in the world, costs more to buy and operate than any other, and spends more time in maintenance than any other (50 hours for every hour flown – even more than the Rafale). Thus, even with a larger US military budget (which will only be cut, not increased, in the years to come), fewer aircraft can be bought and flown compared to competitor aircraft. The Rafale spends only 8 hours in maintenance for every hour flown; the Gripen, 9 hours; the Typhoon, 10 hours.
3) MANEUVERABILITY: The F-35 sorely lacks it, Michael’s false claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Even at 50% fuel + ammo, the F-35A has a mediocre (by today’s standards) thrust/weight ratio (1.07:1) and a very high wing loading ratio (526 kg/sq m, or 107.7 lb/sq ft – far higher than ANY other fighterplane on the market!)
At full fuel and ammo, the F-35A’s thrust/weight ratio drops down to a pathetic 0.87:1, and its wing loading ratio climbs to an absurdly high 745 kg/sq m!
ALL competitor aircraft, and all contemporary US fighters, have a MUCH lower WL ratio at full fuel than the F-35A does at 50% fuel + ammo! The wing loading ratios for these aircraft at full fuel are:
Rafale: 305 kg/sq m
F-16: 431 kg/sq m
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: 459 kg/sq m
Su-27: 444.61 kg/sq m
Su-30: 468 kg/sq m
Sukhoi PAK FA: 444 kg/sq m
Chengdu J-10: 381 kg/sq m
MiG-29: 403 kg/sq m
All these aircraft have MUCH lower W/L ratios at FULL fuel than the F-35 does at 50% fuel!
a) At 50% fuel +ammo:
F-22 Raptor: 1.26:1
Chengdu J-10 (with the WS-10A engine): 1.095:1
b) At full fuel + ammo:
No figures yet for the Shenyang J-31 – the future Chinese stealth fighter – but because it doesn’t have a STOVL fan, isn’t even designed for one, and doesn’t have room for one, we should assume it’s much lighter and much more maneuverable than the F-35.
Please note these are figures for the F-35A variant; the figures for the B and C variants are even worse.
A lower wing loading ratio, coupled with a higher T/W ratio, enables an aircraft to turn faster and easier. F-35 marketers’ claim that the F-35’s body generates lift is utter nonsense and only shows they know NOTHING about aircraft. In aviation, aircraft need LIFT to fly, and lift can ONLY be efficiently generated by wings – that’s why aircraft (and birds) have them.
To see how the above-mentioned fighters can easily outturn the F-35, one doesn’t have to be an aviation expert. A lay person can see that after watching these aircraft maneuver and compare them to the clumsily-turning F-35 turkey.
4) TRANSIENT MANEUVERING: The fourth key factor is transient maneuvering, that is, the ability to transition quickly from one maneuver to another. This is determined primarily by an aircraft’s raw weight. The heavier the aircraft, the harder it is for it to execute. The F-35 being one of the heaviest aircraft on the market, it is utterly uncompetitive in that regard.
Regarding LF radar, F-35 supporters are utterly wrong to claim that it’s inaccurate and doesn’t know where the F-35 is or how it’s flying, and he’s also utterly wrong to claim it can easily be jammed. Modern (and even late Cold War era) Russian and Chinese radar is VERY difficult to jam – and was explicitily built to be tough to jam. This is true even of their LF radar, but even more so of their HF and VHF counter-stealth radar, which can easily detect and track down an F-35 (and even an F-22, but the Raptor is fast enough to avoid being shot down by simply running away fast; the slow F-35 turkey doesn’t have that option).
F-35 supporters are also dead wrong when he claims the F-35 is stealthy in many frequencies and from all directions. It isn’t. It was never even designed or intended to be. It’s stealthy ONLY in the frontal section, and only in the X, and to a lesser extent the S and K/Ku, radar bands. It’s absolutely not stealthy in any radar band – or even in those radar bands from any aspect but the front.
An aircraft’s stealthiness (low observability to radar) is determined in 95% by shaping and only in 5% by radar-absorbent materials. An aircraft has to be shaped properly to be stealthy – no bumps, no fat bellies, no radar-reflecting curves. The F-35 has a round donut-shaped engine exhaust nozzle and a deeply-sculpted belly – perfect radar return points. By contrast, the F-117, the B-2, and the F-22 all have flat underbellies and slit engine exhaust nozzles.
Claims that the F-35’s engine exhaust nozzle is somehow stealthy are utterly false. No matter the fuel flow system and the materials, it still “exhales” a HUGE amount of heat produced by the engine and is NOT LO to radar because of its shape – a perfect radar wave returner. This only increases the F-35’s already huge thermal signature resulting from its size, energy consumption, and all the heavy, exquisite gizmos it carries (the APG-81 radar, the EOTS, etc.)
And no, the F-35’s critics are not all laypeople. Among them are fighter pilots like John Stillion, Scott Perdue, and WGCR Chris Mills. As for Dr Carlo Kopp, whom the F-35 lobby has attacked here ad hominem, he’s a world-recognized expert on Russian fighters and air defense systems, and his knowledge of these is encyclopaedic.
Last but certainly not least, it is idiotic to spend $400 bn on a short-ranged tactical aircraft that can barely carry 4 small bombs internally when ALL US forward bases are within easy range of enemy ballistic and cruise missiles, as are carriers in the Persian Gulf and within at least 1,700 kms of China’s shore. That money would be better invested developing and procuring the Long Range Strike Bomber, the Virginia class of submarines with the Virginia Payload Module, laser missile defense systems, Prompt Global Strike weapons, the UCLASS drone, and hardening American and allied bases.