“No way an F-35 will ever match a Typhoon fighter jet in aerial combat” Eurofighter test pilot says

Feb 11 2013 - 180 Comments

In an interesting piece by Flight’s Dave Majumdar, Bill Flynn, Lockheed test pilot responsible for flight envelope expansion activities for the F-35 claimed that all three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter will have better kinematic performance than any fourth-generation fighter plane with combat payload, including the Eurofighter Typhoon (that during last year’s Red Flag Alaska achieved several simulated kills against the F-22 Raptor) and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

“In terms of instantaneous and sustained turn rates and just about every other performance metric, the F-35 variants match or considerably exceed the capabilities of every fourth-generation fighter,” Flyinn said.

According to the Lockheed pilot, (besides its stealthiness) the F-35 features better transonic acceleration and high AOA (angle-of-attack) flight performance than an armed Typhoon or Super Hornet.

RNLAF

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

As Majumdar says in his article, such claims are strongly disputed by other sources. Among them an experienced Eurofighter Typhoon industry test pilot, who tried to debunk all Flynn’s “theories” about the alleged superior F-35 performance.

Here’s what he wrote to The Aviationist:

No doubt the F-35 will be, when available, a very capable aircraft: its stealth design, extended range, internal carriage of stores and a variety of integrated sensors are definitely the ingredients for success in modern air-to-ground operations.

However, when time comes for air dominance, some other ingredients like thrust to weight ratio and wing loading tend to regulate the sky. And in that nothing comes close to a Typhoon, except an F-22 which has very similar values. The F-35 thrust to weight ratio is way lower and its energy-manoeuvrability diagrams match those of the F/A-18, which is an excellent result for a single engine aircraft loaded with several thousand pounds of fuel and significant armament.

But it also means that starting from medium altitude and above, there is no story with a similarly loaded Typhoon.

Dealing with the transonic acceleration:

Transonic acceleration is excellent in the F-35, as it is for the Typhoon and better than in an F/A-18 or F-16, but mainly due to its low drag characteristics than to its powerplant. That means that immediately after the transonic regime, the F-35 would stop accelerating and struggle forever to reach a non operationally suitable Mach 1.6.

The Typhoon will continue to accelerate supersonic with an impressive steady pull, giving more range to its BVR (Beyond Visual Range) armament.

For what concerns AOA:

Angle-of-attack is remarkably high in the F-35, as it is for all the twin tailed aircraft, but of course it can not be exploited in the supersonic regime, where the limiting load factor is achieved at low values of AoA.

Also in the subsonic regime, the angle-of-attack itself doesn’t mean that much, especially if past a modest 12° AoA you are literally going to fall of the sky! Excessive energy bleeding rates would operationally limit the F-35 well before its ultimate AoA is reached.

Eurofighter superb engine-airframe matching, in combination with it’s High Off-Bore-Sight armament supported by Helmet Cueing, has already and consistently proven winning against any angile fighter.

Last, the F-35 is capable of supersonic carriage of bombs in the bomb bay, but the fuel penalty becomes almost unaffordable, while delivery is limited to subsonic speeds by the armament itself as is for the Typhoon.

Concluding (highlight mine):

[…] it is in the facts that while the Typhoon can do most of the F-35 air-to-ground mission, vice versa the F-35 remains way far from a true swing role capability, and not even talking of regulating the skies.

Provided that the F-35 will be able to solve all its problems, and that the raising costs will not lead to a death spiral of order cuts, both the British RAF and the Italian Air Force will be equipped with both the JSF and the Typhoon.

Mock aerial combat training will tell us who’s better in aerial combat.

MM7274_Typhoon

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  • R Valencia

    F-35 is able to maintain Mach 1.2 for a dash of 150 miles without using afterburners(1)

    Source
    1. Tirpak, John A. (November 2012). “The F-35’s Race Against Time”. airforce-magazine.com. Air Force Association. Retrieved 6 November 2012.

    picard578 is using a quote from 2011.

    • Picard578

      That quote from 2011 is the only direct quote avaliable and is actually a basis for what you provided.

      http://www.defensenews.com/article/20110613/DEFFEAT04/106130302/F-35A-Testing-Moves-Into-High-Speeds

      “What we can do in our airplane is get above the Mach with afterburner, and once you get it going … you can definitely pull the throttle back quite a bit and still maintain supersonic, so technically you’re pretty much at very, very min[imum] afterburner while you’re cruising,” Griffiths said. “So it really does have very good acceleration capabilities up in the air.”

      • R Valencia

        No, it’s not based from it. O’Bryan is not Griffiths.

        From
        http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/f-35-yeah-baby-it-super-cruises.html

        The F-35, while not technically a
        “supercruising” aircraft, can maintain Mach 1.2 for a dash of 150 miles without using fuel-gulping afterburners.
        “Mach 1.2 is a good speed for you, according to the pilots,” O’Bryan said.

        Your not factoring time progression and engine improvements.

        Are you claiming F-35 is static? If it’s static, what’s the point for R&D?

        Might as well sell the F-35 at Block 1 instead of Block 3F and repeat F-16/79 export failures i.e. not one copy of F-16/79 was sold to export customers.

        Around year 2012, F-35 was at Block 2A state.
        Around year 2015, F-35 would be in Block 2B state.

        IF F35 reaches Block 3F and it doesn’t perform as advertised then complain like any other mad customer.

        • M&S

          Mach 1.2 is a lousy speed for the F-35 or -any- jet because half the airframe is still immersed in transonic flow. Around 1.35 that flow cleans up and goes pure supersonic with a noteable lurch that signals the jet is able to either again accelerate towards VMax or pull back off the throttles and sustain the cruise point at a lower throttle setting. Nobody supercruises at 1.2 because that’s a _lousy_ point to be stuck at, for want of thrust.
          Indeed, even at 1.3+, the problem becomes what you can do with that energy state vs. what it does -to- you.
          Mach 1.35 is starting to get a stagnation temp off the bow shock which is sufficient to show up on IRST at double the nominal detection range of say 15nm. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the F135 is already a very hot-plume engine and even ‘minimum burner’ is going to spike that up through the detection threshold. Making it -easily- possible to EID targets with ‘no radar signature but one helluva heat bloom’ for torpedo-down-bearing preemptive fire by any jet with a PIRATE/OSF/IR-OTIS/OLS IRST. i.e. every jet -except- the U.S. radar based platforms.
          Mach 1.35 or 746 knots also provides you about 5-7 seconds and -200 knots of bleed in a Pump or Chainsaw crank off maneuver before you are back subsonic; after a ‘very bumpy ride’ with all manner of TRO and buffet limits on commanded G.
          At which point you have to start all over again on the supersonic acceleration phase. Compare this to an F-22 which can truly sustain a 6G pull at 800 knots use burner to hold that G through a split ess reversal (escaping the seeker cone through maximum rate displacement in altitude) and _still be supersonic_ at Mach 1.3, from a Mach 1.6 start. At which point, at 30,000ft from 50,000ft, it simply starts high stepping away, in military power, back to it’s initial SSC point and height.
          The F-35, with it’s bumblebee wingspan, will never see 50,000ft and it will certainly never have /time/ to sprint up to 1.6, even with an unload, to get max pole on it’s own shots or evade and extend from others.
          Finally, the F-35 is intended to be a 700nm interdictor in the A/C models and a 460nm airframe in the B. Best achieve radius thus far is actually only about 585nm but the fact remains that the farther you go out on your tether, the less you can afford to yank it with excessive amounts of burner usage before it snaps and you don’t have the gas to even get back out, over the fence, to a tanker.
          This is again, particularly true with an engine like the F135 which has a TSFC of .9lbs/lbs/hr fuel burn (the F100 is around .76). It sucks fuel like a pig, even in IRT, largely because it has the residual STOVL torque generator requirement inherent to a huge mass flow fan and very high TETs to sustain the stochios needed to turn the spools.
          Only an idiot would put an ocean liner steam turbine in a tugboat and stack fuel drums six stories high on the foredeck to feed it, ‘expecting good things’. It’s just not practical.
          Because of it’s design compromises, the F-35 is neither an endurant goose nor a speedy falcon but suffers from the attempt to make it a hybrid Goocon or Faloose.

      • R Valencia

        It doesn’t serve as the basis for quote since it’s a direct quote from O’Bryan instead of Griffiths and there’s a change with time i.e. mid 2011 vs late 2012.

        From
        http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/November%202012/1112fighter.aspx

        The F-35, while not technically a “supercruising” aircraft, can maintain Mach 1.2 for a dash of 150 miles without using fuel-gulping afterburners.
        “Mach 1.2 is a good speed for you, according to the pilots,” O’Bryan said.

        “without using fuel-gulping afterburners” is a direct conflict to “min[imum] afterburner”

      • R Valencia

        It doesn’t serve as the basis for quote since it’s a direct quote from O’Bryan instead of Griffiths and there’s a change with time i.e. mid 2011 vs late 2012.

        From

        http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/November%202012/1112fighter.aspx

        The F-35, while not technically a “supercruising” aircraft, can maintain Mach 1.2 for a dash of 150 miles without using fuel-gulping afterburners.
        “Mach 1.2 is a good speed for you, according to the pilots,” O’Bryan said.

        “Without using fuel-gulping afterburners” is a direct conflict to “min[imum] afterburner”

      • R Valencia

        http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/November%202012/1112fighter.aspx

        The F-35, while not technically a “supercruising” aircraft, can maintain Mach 1.2 for a dash of 150 miles without using fuel-gulping afterburners.
        “Mach 1.2 is a good speed for you, according to the pilots,” O’Bryan said.

        “without using fuel-gulping afterburners” is a direct conflict to “min[imum] afterburner”

  • Joe Schmoe

    You mean without the pilot on board.

  • R Valencia

    F-35 has 360 degrees ultra long range IRST.

  • R Valencia

    For point 1

    The problem with rear mounted delta wings is the lift’s center of balance. A mid-mounted wing’s lift’s center of balance is nearer to the center.

    Early LM JSF was forward canard + rear delta wing model and it lost against mid-mounted wing + quad-rear stablizers model. Your not factoring rear mounted delta wings has to also provide lift, while quad-rear stablizers can be allocated pitch controls.

    F-35 has following additional lift devices

    i. Angled twin tails for extra lift and acts like another pair of rear stablizers.

    ii. Chinned forward fuselage in place of LEX.

    iii. From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/F-35A_three-view.PNG
    Notice F35’s wing like shaping from engine inlet to the rear.

    iv. Over size rear stablizers.

    v. Carefully shaped engine cowls in place of LEX.

    “Here is a nice comparison of the F-16, F-15 and F-35 put together by an Aerospace engineer”
    http://www.f-16.net/forum/download/file.php?id=19295

    F-35A’s effective lift area is 828 ft^2.

    3. On what basis for your calculation?

    Does your F-35 calculation factor in engine upgrades from 43,000 lbf to 49000 lbf?

    EF2000’s Mach 1.5 super cruise speed drops to Mach 1.3 with typical air-to-air weapons load while F-35 remains clean. The point here is air-to-air weapon loads impacts EF2000’s performance.

  • R Valencia

    EF2000’s Mach 1.5 super cruise speed drops to Mach 1.3 with typical air-to-air weapons load while F-35 remains clean. The point here is air-to-air weapon loads impacts EF2000’s performance.

    • Picard578

      Don’t forget that Typhoon’s “clean” configuration includes 4 AAMs. IIRC, Typhoon achieves Mach 1,3 with centerline tank, and Mach 1,4 with air-to-air loadout.

  • Steve Perreira

    If the F/A 22 is so magical and supreme, why has it been on the sidelines while A10’s and F16’s have been doing the real work for the past decade? The truth is, the F22 is too expensive to risk losing in combat, so it is a hold out unless we become desperate. Even a buck sends the does out of the brush into the open first when hunting season starts.

    • Steve Johnson

      The F-22 hasn’ been on the sidelines, it’s just not pointlessly committed to assymetric warfare. Why would you want to exhaust service life bombing bunkers of people armed with AKs and RPGs with an airplane designed to infiltrate and dominate contested airspace and destroy high-tech integrated defense systems?

  • Steve Perreira

    The smartest of all F35 pilots will opt for the air conditioned bunker and drone joystick.

  • Steve Perreira

    Good, let’s save money and drag and remove the wings.

  • stig781

    The trouble is the Typhoon isn’t a “fourth generation” fighter nor is the F-35 a fifth, as these nonsensical labels conjured up by Lockheed are irrelevant.

  • Carl Marqs

    All these so called 3rd generation combat
    planes are still nice and all, but the need to replace them with a newer
    type is based not on its competitiveness with other combat planes but
    more on its survivability. With the new missile system in the horizon,
    none of the non stealth combat planes will be useful. Hence we need to
    develop the 4th generation which incorporate stealth technology but less
    expensive than the $412 million F22 raptor price tag.. depending on
    which version (Air Force $148M,navy $337M,Marines $251M and generic
    $178M), an F35 is definitely cheaper than F22. And I believed its not an
    option for US not to get into this new flat form..You must! if you want
    to keep your superpower status.You must! if you want to stay alive!

  • Vijay Mehra

    Dose he not account for the fact that his Typhoon is Not stealthy, and will be a burning hunk of metal because he cant find the F35?

  • Joe Schmoe

    In spurts? Gotcha.

  • valorius

    It is reasonable to expect the F-35 with an internal AAM loadout will have excellent performance due to its clean config, however, the F-35s internal AAM loadout of just four missiles is completely insufficient for an actual combat aircraft.

  • valorius

    If the F-35 actually expects to perform CLOSE air like the A-10 does, that gun will be a critical component of the aircraft.