According to an F-35 test pilot, the F-35 isn’t a capable dogfighter, unable to turn or climb quick enough to keep up with a fictitious adversary. The single engine, fifth generation joint strike fighter is currently being deployed across several services, including the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, replacing a number of aging weapons platforms.
“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 U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — not to mention the air forces and navies of more than a dozen U.S. allies — are counting on the Lockheed Martin-made JSF to replace many if not most of their current fighter jets.
The Pentagon counters that the F-35 wasn’t designed for close-in knife fights that form the essence of a one-on-one dogfight. They claim that because of its advance avionics, stealth, and other characteristics, the plane was actually designed for stand-off combat, in which the aircraft would take out a target from a distance of several miles. Frankly, this was the same logic that was put forward when the F-4 Phantom II was introduced in the Vietnam Conflict, as many argued that the days of the dogfight was over in favor of advanced missile technology. The result proved so disastrous that the F-4 eventually had to be configured to carry a gun pod below the fuselage so it could deal with enemy aircraft should its missiles fail, which oftentimes proved the case.