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

F-35A of the RNlAF (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin claims F-35 kinematics are “better than or equal to” Eurofighter Typhoon. A Eurofighter test pilot disagrees.

In an interesting piece by Flight’s Dave Majumdar, Billie 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,” Flynn 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.

 

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 its High Off-Bore-Sight armament supported by Helmet Cueing, has already and consistently proven winning against any agile 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

About David Cenciotti 4429 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

4 Comments

  1. “Mock aerial combat training will tell us who’s better in aerial combat.” Not necessarily; I think actual combat is a better test.

    I am really skeptical of the idea that stealth will make up for dogfighting. The argument made by proponents is that dogfighting won’t matter, because the adversary either wouldn’t be able to find the F-35, or the F-35 would have already shot it down with BVR missiles.

    My concern is that, once AWACS and arsenal planes have been eliminated by enemy stealth fighters salvo-firing very long range missiles, the F-35 will be in danger (I’m specifically thinking about the South China Sea here). VHF radars have a good chance of locating the F-35 approximately, and presumably could then vector in a larger number of fighters, possibly led by older ‘decoy’ fighters to absorb missiles. The F-35 detects the incoming aircraft and launches BVR missiles. There are reasons to doubt that BVR missiles will be as effective as advertised, so they may have to be salvo fired. The F-35’s small capacity for missiles(four!) ‘stealth mode’ (no pylons) will be a serious problem, and for each missile you carry, there is one less hardpoint for attack stores!

    Adversary planes, after absorbing the F-35’s AMRAAMs, then use visual/ IRST (and the direction the non-stealthy missiles came from), to find the F-35 and fire long-range IR-seeking missiles, which the US doesn’t have. Adversary fighters will then close, fire dogfight missiles, and finally merge with the F-35. Poor dogfighting, limited capacity for short-range missiles, lack of a gun (F-35B and C) will leave the F-35s vulnerable in this scenario.

  2. Billie may be a fine test pilot, but he’s a pretty poor demo pilot. He over-rolled and over-rotated. He was hesitant. Both his stick and throttle work on final seemed to bounce off extremes. As far as the airplane is concerned, what did we see here that we have not seen before? He made a great airplane look like a good one.

  3. “Match” as in the wow factor at an air show or penetrating an IAD system and taking out targets?

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