“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 4451 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.

11 Comments

  1. You said it.. “Mock aerial combat training will tell us who’s better in aerial combat.” We can talk stats: AOA, T/W ratio, all day, but in the air is where it’s decided.

  2. While mock combat exercises are (hopefully) the closest we are going to get to real air combat, they still fall short on a lot of factors that will really matter in bird on bird engagements.

    For example the USAF not loading out latest gen ECM even against NATO allies. You can have a superior T/W ratio or a more resilient air frame, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of good if your hardpoints are loaded with nerf missiles. The Meteor BVRAAMs still require a two-way datalink and active radar to make contact.

    The F-35 sensor fusion platform enables tracking and engagement well beyond the Typhoon’s reach. The design of mocks never allow this to become a factor.

    • One other thing people miss here the F35 is not a fighter its a multi mission weapons system. It acts like an awac giving it the ability to command and control the entire mission field. With unmanned systems ground and ship fired arms controlled by the F35’s sensor array. This thing is not a bird on bird dog fighter its a game changing weapons system. They will never give away all it can do but if it happens there will be only one other flight system in the air with the F35… Allies.

      • In a dogfight, the F-35 combines the High acceleration and high G capabilities of the F-16 with the high AOA and slow speed maneuvering abilities of the F/A-18.
        so it may not be a purpose built dogfighter like the F-16, but can out dogfight purpose bulit dogfighters in their own game.
        In the article above, I tend to believe Billy Flynn’s statements more since he has flown both the F-35 and the Typhoon, the Typhoon pilot on the other hand is simply speculating on the F-35’s capabilities

        • My assertion here is its not necessary to dog fight in this plane it will kill anything before they know its there and if they try looking for it it will send back erronious signals and trigger drones, shipboard weapons or its own weapons systems to kill the threat. Mini AWAC… A true 5th generation weapon like our 1970’s era planes that carried us through till today. Wow 40 years and people get pissy over 135 million which will come down in price. All of that to build a system that protects us till 2054 cheap at twice the cost…

          • I fully agree with you, with the ammount of Stealth and Sensors on the F-35, it will be difficult for it to face a dogfight.

            However Gen. Mike Hostage and other officers say
            “But Hostage says, as do other senior Air Force and Marine officers, that an F-35 pilot who engages in a dogfight has probably made a mistake or has already broken through those IADS lanes and is facing a second wave of enemy aircraft. The F-35, he says, has “at least” the maneuverability and thrust and weight of the F-16”

            http://breakingdefense.com/2014/06/gen-mike-hostage-on-the-f-35-no-growlers-needed-when-war-starts/

            So it is not imposible as mistakes happen all the time, no mission goes perfectly without a hitch all the time.
            and near peer adversaries are more than capable of sending 2nd even 3rd waves of enemy fighters.

  3. Stealth a/c like the F-35 aren’t really intended for traditional dogfighting. Low observability always comes with a performance cost. The fact that it has performance even close to a non-stealthy air superiority platform like the EuroTyphoon in impressive.

    • Unless future ROE allow pilots to fire BWR at anything I don’t think that the “performance cost” you say will be that easy to ignore. I don’t think that any F-35 will have an easy day dogfighting something like, for example, a Su-30

  4. People running mouth
    Look at Cope India 2008 for the example, Vipers and Eagles were all limited just to see the ability of the Su-30MKI.

    Same argument can be made with the Raptors and the Lightning, the dude don’t want to show everything so they limit it.

    I don’t see the problem of them keeping the secret.

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