“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.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. 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.

    • 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?

    • http://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/_files/F22AssertionsAndFacts.pdf

      Assertion: The airplane is proving very expensive to operate with a cost per flying hour far higher than for the warplane it replaces, the F-15.

      Facts: USAF data shows that in 2008 the F-22 costs $44K per flying hour and the F-15 costs $30K per flying hour. But it is important to recognize the F-22 flight hour costs include base standup and other one-time costs associated with deploying a new weapon system. The F-15 is mature and does not have these same non-recurring costs. A more valid comparison is variable cost per flying hour, which for the F-22 in 2008 was $19K while for the F-15 was $17K.

    • Weird….Cuz I keep reading about Raptors bombing ISIL nearly daily in Syria (in case of MANPADs or other IADs)

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

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