Friday, June 16, 2017

Why the F-35 Fighter Was Doomed from the Outset #Science

Lockheed Martin F-35A. Credit: Erik Simonsen Getty Images

The general premise is the F-35 was designed primarily to be stealthy but that was at the expense of its other capabilities.  The result is a non-competitive fighter whose stealth system isn't all that effective either.

Scientific American: What Went Wrong with the F-35, Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter?

But that’s not how the plane has turned out. In January 2015, mock combat testing pitted the F-35 against an F-16, one of the fighters it is slated to replace. The F-35A was flown “clean” with empty weapon bays and without any drag-inducing and heavy externally mounted weapons or fuel tanks. The F-16D, a heavier and somewhat less capable training version of the mainstay F-16C, was further encumbered with two 370-gallon external wing-mounted fuel tanks.

In spite of its significant advantages, the F-35A’s test pilot noted that the F-35A was less maneuverable and markedly inferior to the F-16D in a visual-range dogfight.

- SA

It can't fight but don't you worry about that since the sell is it will sneak right around that and kill the bad guys first.

In other radar frequencies, the F-35 is not so stealthy, making it vulnerable to being tracked and shot down using current – and even obsolete – weapons. As far back as 1999 the same type of stealth technology was not able to prevent a U.S. Air Force F-117 flying over Kosovo from being located, tracked and shot down using an out-of-date Soviet radar and surface-to-air missile system.

- SA

The problem behind this aspect is the stealthy aspect of these aircraft is in the context of making small or insignificant reflections to X-band radar but apparently the stealth doesn't hide much of anything when other bands are used.  Flying such aircraft over unsophisticated targets in the Middle East doesn't mean much relative to sending them up against Major Contenders.

Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon say the F-35’s superiority over its rivals lies in its ability to remain undetected, giving it “first look, first shot, first kill.” Hugh Harkins, a highly respected author on military combat aircraft, called that claim “a marketing and publicity gimmick” in his book on Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35S, a potential opponent of the F-35. He also wrote, “In real terms an aircraft in the class of the F-35 cannot compete with the Su-35S for out and out performance such as speed, climb, altitude, and maneuverability.

- SA

There you see the crux of it in the cost in performance of the emphasis on stealth.

The article continues with How Did We Get Here but you already know what happened as with just about any military boondoggle but the interested student is invited to review it.

The F-35 has been a favorite target for blasting at the Rockhouse and this article is to give some background to the why of it.

Other critics have been even harsher. Pierre Sprey, a cofounding member of the so-called “fighter mafia” at the Pentagon and a co-designer of the F-16, calls the F-35 an “inherently a terrible airplane” that is the product of “an exceptionally dumb piece of Air Force PR spin.” He has said the F-35 would likely lose a close-in combat encounter to a well-flown MiG-21, a 1950s Soviet fighter design. Robert Dorr, an Air Force veteran, career diplomat and military air combat historian, wrote in his book “Air Power Abandoned,” “The F-35 demonstrates repeatedly that it can’t live up to promises made for it. … It’s that bad.

- SA

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