“F-35 super stealth plane will get pilots shot down in aerial combat” new leaked report says

Mar 07 2013 - 30 Comments

According to an article published by the Washington Times, the F-35A, the Conventional Take Off and Landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter, would be defeated in aerial combat because of his current shortcomings.

Mentioning a leaked Pentagon report made available by POGO, the article explains that “out-of-cockpit visibility in the F-35A is less than other Air Force fighter aircraft” thus limiting a pilot’s ability to see aerial threats surrounding him.

The problem is in the large head rest that impede rear visibility and the ability of the pilot to check the aircraft’s 6 o’clock for incoming aerial or surface threats.

Another shortcoming is the aircraft adveniristic helmet mounted display system (HMDS Gen. II), that has not yet solved focal problems, blurry and double vision in the display and misalignment of the virtual horizon display with the actual horizon.

The HMDS Gen. II integrates FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and DAS (Distributed Aperture System) imaging, and night vision (without somehow uncomfortable NVGs – Night Vision Goggles) into a single helmet in which essential flight and weapon aiming information are project onto a virtual HUD (Head Up Display) on the visor.

F-35A EG

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Few weeks ago in a Flight Global piece by Dave Majumdar, Bill Flynn, Lockheed test pilot responsible for flight envelope expansion activities for the F-35 had 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 and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Such claims were strongly disputed by a Eurofighter Typhoon industry test pilot, who tried to debunk all Flynn’s “theories” about the alleged superior F-35 performance.

Considered the above mentioned F-35’s flaws (and all the shortcomings highlighted by the report…), the kinematic performance of the (recently, once again, grounded) stealth fighter, is the least problem.

Aviation journalist David Axe has published an insightful piece about Lockheed Martin’s marketing efforts to keep up “the much-delayed, over-budget” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter reputation.

Enhanced by Zemanta
  • Terence

    Let’s let all of the pundits and “experts” have their say if only for entertainment value. Lockheed, remember, is the home of the F-104, the SR-71, the F-16 and the F-22. I think they know a bit about how to engineer an aircraft. Yes, they are pushing the boundries, this is what drives progress. There will be delays and problems, all new technologies have them. Lets wait until we have the actual input from actual flights before we trash anything.

    • Euro

      They got input from actual flights.

      That is why the sustained turn rate have been reduced, the acceleration time to Mach 1.2 extended, the combat range requirements relaxed and why pilots are complaining about the ergonomics of the aircraft.

    • The F-16 was engineered by General Dynamics not Lockheed. Lookheed acquired General dynamics in 1993.

    • Phoenix88

      No Kelly Johnson knew how to engineer an airplane. Sadly he is gone and this is what we are left with!

    • I tend to agree, Terence. if we scrapped every program that’s had problems at this stage of development, we would still be flying Mustangs and Corsairs. We will never iron out every winkle before the jet becomes operational and some issues CAN’T be discovered UNTIL its operational. I think the bigger problem is the entire procurement process and the clout the defense industry wields on Capitol Hill and how much politics influences defense procurement vs operational requires. Classic example is the dual engine situation with the F-35 – ridiculous. On one hand the military is saying they didn’t need 2 engines but politicians demand they except 2 engines until the public got wind of it and the 2nd engine was scrapped.

  • Dmega

    Billy Flynn is one of the few pilots who’s flown in both the F35 and Typhoon (also the f18 and f16) so I will take his word a little bit more seriously than a pilot who has not even flown the F35 and is just speculating on that planes performance.

    With due respect to the writer of this article, it should be mentioned this fighter is not yet operational and still going through the developmental stages. To have a title that suggests the F35 short comings will get pilots shot down before the plane is ready to even be in combat comes off as being an alarmist.

    The f16, F18, F14 F15 etc all have had problems during development and even sometimes crashes. The F35 is far more advanced then anyone of those 4th gen planes so its expected there will be greater challenges to getting everything to work properly.

    People are justified to question the program going over budget and demand LM to take responsibility. But at the same time there are no other 5th gen fighters (we know of) being designed. So the US has really no choice but to continue perfecting this program if they want to have a relevant fighter industry and multi role fighter over the next 40 years to compete against what the Russians and Chinese will be producing in the next 10.

    • Actually it went operational back in Nov 2012, the Marine Corps got the first Fleet jets on the 21st, VMFA-121, MCAS Yuma

      • Anthony

        They aren’t an operational unit, they’re going through integration management. The code isn’t yet ready for full ops, and hacked code being reconfigured in an effort to mitigate information Russian and Chinese planners may have gained.

        • magic3499

          The Marine Corps doesn’t have integration squadrons. We have Training Squadrons (VMAT), Attack Squadrons (VMA) and he have Figther Attack Squadrons (VMFA). Once in the fleet, it’s tactical and can be sent to war. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, there’s no “integration” in their unit designator.

        • magic3400

          “…November 20, VMFA(AW)-121 was officially redesignated VMFA-121, accepting delivery of their first three F-35B aircraft to become the first operational F-35B “Fleet” squadron in the Marine Corps and the first operational F-35 squadron in any service.


    • James B.

      Billy Flynn is also on the Lockheed payroll, so if the F-35 program took a hit, it would probably cost him his job. There are two main problems with the F-35, the excess baggage of jointness, which makes the plane too heavy, and the over-reliance on immature technology for the avionics. The weight issue will never really be conquered, and the avionics boondoggle has eaten up billions of dollars which could be better spent elsewhere.

  • Brian

    So let me get this straight:-

    The jet has no lightning protection, the ejection seat may drown the pilot, it’s thrust-to-weight ratio has plummeted, its sustained turn performance has been reduced from 5G to 4.5G, 2 of the 3 variants have no gun, none can carry heat-seeking missiles internally, it has poor visibility from the cockpit and pilots struggle to see other aircraft, it has cracks in the engine, it has cracks in its aluminum bulkhead superstructure, its radar doesn’t work properly, its helmet mounted sight has a jittery / stuttering display making eye controlled targeting unreliable, its touch-screen sporadically responds, its electro-hydrostatic actuators overheat, its STOVL post-roll actuators overheat, the computer that feeds panoramic display into HMS overheats, its radar causes its nose to glow hot making it very non-stealthy vs enemy jets equipped with FLIR (even the F-22 has been passively detected by Eurofighter’s from 50km away with the newest generation FLIR cameras and the F35 is less stealthy than that), its Navy tail-hook doesn’t work and still can’t land on a carrier as safely as Super Hornets, its stealth skin around the exhaust “peels and bubbles” (reducing rear aspect stealth), its Integrated Power Package fails (one blew up puncturing a nearby fuel tank), its lift-fan (Marine variant) wears out much faster than expected, its fuel dump doesn’t work (sprays fuel over the wing reducing stealth & creating a fire hazard upon landing), its EO-DAS has a higher than expected latency, its Night Vision Goggles are worse than some 4.5 Gen jets (20/80 vision vs 20/25 = 3x worse), much higher than expected buffet loads causes huge stress / fatigue to the tail of the jet, automated logistics give false information, it can’t use IFF, it can’t use aerial refuelling, it can’t use the radar to track ground vehicles or ships accurately, it can’t take off or land in formation, it can’t use real missiles, pilots are not allowed to move the stick or rudder’s “too rapidly”, and it can’t fly supersonic, at night, in the rain or near storms…

    And this is an “upgrade” to a 1/3rd of the price F-16? Dear God, what a screw-up…

    • TeaBagObamaChin

      Sounds like an Obama plane! Huge F up!

  • Phoenix88

    Navy could have used all this money upgrading and advancing the f-14 tomcat airframe and power plant. Shame we have to live with this dud

    • Ah…no, the Tomcat had reach its limit, too big, too heavy, a non-stealthy platform which was becoming to expensive to fly. The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour (source: military.com – TR Traps Last Tomcat from Combat Mission, 15 Feb, 2006)

  • IAF101

    As long as the US taxpayer can be sucked dry, the Military industrial complex, abetted by their stooges in the US Congress, Senate and administration, will gladly continue to waste billions making promises they can’t match.

  • Not sure why this jet is called a “stealth” fighter, it’s not, it’s never been and was never designed to be. The program has been, from day one, a “stealthy platform” not a “stealth platform”. The plan has always been to use true stealth platforms like the F-22/F-117/B-2 fly the SEAD missions to punch holes in enemy IADS followed by F-35/F/A-18/F-15 & 16 to the serious strike warfare mission.

    I’ve never liked the Marine Corps version, too many moving parts for a frontline combat jet, particularly, a Marine combat jet whose primary mission will be supporting Marines in the mud flying CAS & interdiction missions. The plane (all variants) have serious issues, but so did every jet before it, including the F-15 which has become the most successful post WWII fighter in the world.

    The Lighting will be leaps and bounds more advanced than our enemies, a jet whose need will be surely questioned given the program’s cost and the rise of the drones, but history has shown that nearly every 4th and 5th gen American aircraft to date zooms right to the top of the list as the best fighters in the world, so will the F-35 in spite of the shortcomings and design flaws.

    • Anthony

      Code is being written for the F-35 to be a drone control platform. So it’s a program that’s clearly considered the drone factor, and probably will be one of the last manned combat jets.

      • magic3499

        I think “the last man aircraft” is debatable. We’ll still have to insert and extract ground forces by air, unmanned drones will not be doing those missions.

        • gop4ever

          Isn’t it strange how none of our enemies have Radar except N Korea?

          • magic3400

            I suspect that’s a sarcastic comment since the SA-2 has been a thorn in our side for a very long time.

            • gop4ever

              As long as you stay away from Ivan’s bomb factories those shouldn’t be a problem

              • magic3400

                Why on god’s green earth would we do that? Oh, sorry, just saw the elephant on your avatar, the universal sign for chickenhawks.

  • The plain technical faults will surely be solved. The real question is if this combination of pretty good stealth, mediocre dynamic capabilities and fine electronics will turn out to be super in a combat situation. Also the durability of its parts may also be questioned.

  • It will probably work well as an air to ground and air to ship combat platform. It will possibly have problems when the task is to dominate the airspace. Is it fast and agile enough to successfully meet an airborn enemy in the air and then flee away from a counterattack? Perhaps it can be used to lauch fast long-range missiles from a safe point, so that the issue does not exist.

  • Anthony

    Why o why do people continue to report industry propaganda spread by competitors without any background on the sources? There’s a great deal of negativity about this program, simply because so many noses have been put out of joint. The fact is, there is no other aircraft that has so much 360 visibility in so many spectra, And I’m hearing folk continue to bang on about technical issues long since resolved. It is still in development phase, and what do people think happens when any project is under development? That’s right, alterations are made, and problems resolved. A lot of BS being put about by people not thinking of how such programs develop. The fact is, this is a revolution the Chinese and Russian’s are trying to copy, but are making a botched job of it with stupid new tail configurations that are breaking hard rules of aerodynamics and flight stability that are far far worse than anything the ‘bitching about the F-35 corps’ could ever imaginate.

  • Anthony

    Many forget code being written for drone control. Thus stand off weapons in the Network Centric Warfare model will in effect change the manner in which strike warfare is carried out, with drones buffering F-35 defence, and punching holes through enemy air defences. Also the ability to hand drones over to ground units in the future in ferry mode. The true aims and full impact of this aircraft have barely been considered by the cometariat.

  • TurboNFRStwoK .

    It turns out that not only was the exercise unrepresentative of the way USAF operates and how air combat is waged, the rules of engagement were set to assume that F-22 pilots and operational planners would actively cooperate in getting themselves killed by:

    1) Not using the F-22′s powerful APG-77 AESA radar.
    2) Not using any AWACS aircraft.
    3) Not following current American fighter doctrine and tactics.
    4) Flying at low speeds and low altitudes.
    5) Not using the AIM-120D missile with its over 180 km range.
    6) Not using any jammers of its own.
    7) Not using any towed decoys, chaff, or flares to spoof enemy missiles.
    8) Not using a Missile Approach Warning System.
    9) Not using the F-22′s kinematic capabilities to outturn enemy missiles.
    10) Sending single aircraft rather than groups of 3-4.

  • jim

    Bitch and moan, bitch and moan. When the F4U Corsair entered service it was criticized that it couldn’t be used as a navy carrier plane. Too big, lousy visibility over the nose etc. etc. The US Navy declared it inadequate for carrier operations and released it to the marines At first it was restricted to land based Marine Corps squadrons. The Brits took the plane and learned to use it successfully in carrier operations. America followed suit and the plane is now considered a classic war bird. In short every plane in the American inventory had problems in their development. Just give them time to sort out the problems.

    • James B.

      And in the hands of land-based squadrons, the Corsair was very effective, because it’s speed, protection, and guns all worked. The F-35 is still having problems getting the basic functions of a fighter to work, and it was supposed to be in service 10 years ago.