“A-10 will always be better than F-35 in Close Air Support. In all the other missions the JSF wins” F-35 pilot says

Apr 09 2015 - 52 Comments

…and (quite obviously) the F-22 will always be better in Air-to-Air combat. But, in all the other missions the F-35 wins.

It’s wrong to compare the F-35 with any other asset that was designed to perform a specific mission: this is, in simple words, what a U.S. F-35 pilot said in an interview he gave to the Danish website focusing on military topics Krigeren.

Interviewed at Luke Air Force Base, by Christian Sundsdal, Maj. John Wilson, an F-35 pilot with an F-16 background clearly explained something that is quite obvious to everyone: an A-10 Thunderbolt II will always be better in CAS than the F-35 because it was designed to perform that kind of mission. Similarly, an F-22 will always be better than the JSF in air-to-air combat, because it was designed for that role. However, the F-35 is better in all the other missions.

For sure, aircraft designed for a specific role are going to be more effective in that one than other multi-role platforms. The problem in this case is that the F-35 is going to replace these assets, even though many believe this is not cost-effective, and could even cost some human lives as far as CAS missions, with Troops in Contact is concerned.

Furthermore, according to Wilson, once all the limitations are removed and it can carry weapons, the F-35 will be as capable as the F-16 in the CAS role.

According to Wilson, the majority of CAS missions that have been flown in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, were flown by Predators, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s and F-18s.

“The A-10s make up a very small percentage [and the fact that] every JTAC or guy on the ground that has been saved, has been saved by an A-10, that’s just not true” Wilson says.

“If the guys on the ground are concerned about that…I’d say they shouldn’t be. They should only be concerned that the pilots of whatever aircraft it is, is properly trained and doing his job, dropping the right bomb, on the right target, at the right time.”

Wilson admits the aircraft is expensive, but he says that maintaining several different types in service is even more costly.

Here’s the interview.

Interview with F-35 Pilot from Krigeren.dk on Vimeo.


  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    Lookin down from on high

    Actually, in close in dogfighting, I have seen the F-15 waxed the F-16.

  • Another Guest (from Australia)


    I also doubt to see new price ever coming down to $95M for the F-35A.

    The actual F-35 unit costs are today multiples of what Lockheed Martin, The Pentagon, USAF says they will be. If you think it is reasonable to expect them to plummet to the $95 million or whatever the price Lockheed glibly promises (thanks to the ubiquitous “learning curve” and other manipulations), please consider a somewhat different analysis, also in Time magazine, available here.


    The cost estimates in the NDAA for the cheapest version of the F-35, the Air Force’s F-35A, are the following. (Note these costs as just for production and do not include R&D.)

    The 2014 procurement cost for 19 F-35As will be $2.989 billion. However, we need to add to that the “long lead” money for the 2014 buy that was appropriated in 2013; that was $293 million, making a total of $3.282 billion for 19 aircraft in 2014. The math for unit cost comes to $172.7 million for each aircraft.

    To be fully accurate, however, we should add the additional procurement money authorized for “modification of aircraft” for F-35As for 2014; that means $158 million more, bringing the total unit production cost to $181 million per copy or higher.

    None of that includes the 2014 R&D bill for the F-35A; that was $816 million; calculate that in if you or anyone wants to find out further costs.

  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    The reports I’ve seen and notified about the F-35A’s price tag will certainly cost $175-$200 million per plane, if the production ramps up it won’t come down at all.

  • TheRedLeaf

    *Nods head*
    Yes, in many ways it is the F-35’s design to be in multiple branches of military with differing requirements thats dilutes some of its own characteristics. Its mostly the radar, low signature, “skin”, internal architecture coming with it that makes it notable, the missile themselves are dependent on A. the production quality or B. the aircraft sensors = radar but an over-reliance on just the equipment doesn’t make it a true seller.

    I see more of the f-35’s potential to be in the users utilization of these combined characteristics of a small group of planes sneakier and better equipped (western munitions) than the other potential adversaries. To be honest, I think some of the more tech savy countries are most interested in getting a F-35 just to have the top end on the market equipment, radar and stealth item to be used in example and new standard for any country wanting to enter the aircraft industry. *Hint, Hint Japan*

    Missiles… first thing that comes to mind regarding reliability was the infancy of the first pythons… either miss or never engage the rocket; today they get faster, better recognition & better G-tolerance; BUT I just don’t know how good the most modern missiles are today. Also, missiles and dodging & maneuvering also requires a pilot to know and understand WHERE the missile is coming from to properly react (or else fly nose in…). I know theres radar and other equipment that detect a “lock” but I don’t think they mark direction and origin of attack… which is harder when the enemy is a smaller target and probably first shooting from BVR and God-knows-where afterwards. In this case F-35 could utilize the “Boom and Zoom” if-I-got-that-right where they come in on attack vectors at high speed, punch out then swing for another go at long-range and cherry pick their options since initiative would fall to the F-35s and F-22s or stealth drone before the quicker but more short-sighted Mig/Su/Ju or possible American plane in the earlier BLOCK models. Speed is life, but seeing the enemy first is a deal breaker.

    In the world of stealth you get the chance to play a nasty game of “Hide-and-go-seek” which will spook anyone. That is the main advantage I see in such a craft (but dear lord does it have high “expectations” pulling it down).

  • Ben

    So what are all these other missions besides close air support and air-air combat? If he’s talking Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses what makes an F-35 better and what prohibits an F-22 from doing it? For strategic bombing, I have seen no claim of using F-35 replacing the B-1, B-2, B-52. 2 F-22s and 2 A-10s cost LESS to fly and maintain than 4 F-35s and provide more capability for what seem to be the two fighter missions CAS and air-air. Why would anyone want to do that?

  • Libor Chocholatý

    It is about losing ability to help your troops when went into problems with enemy at short distance. Then guided bombs will not help them. You have to use smaller caliber like Hydra’s.

    • Pooter Bilbo

      The F-35 will be able to employ a variety of precision air-to-ground missiles for close air support purposes. I agree, in a danger close scenario bombs aren’t ideal. But strafing runs and rockets have about the same accuracy and are danger close issues as well.

  • John

    Sorry, but the Gripen “supercruising” is a marketing gimmick. Many fighter jets do this gimmick, actually. They can only super-cruise when not carrying any missiles, which is in fact pointless, really. The F-22 and F-35, however, can truly super cruise with weapons armed (albeit the F-35 can only do it for about 120 miles).

  • Jorge_C

    Military officers don’t have such rights anymore, they were forfeit the second they become commissioned officers. They have some minor rights that allow them some forms of freedom of speech, press, assembly, protest but they are highly curtailed for military personnel.

    In this case I highly doubt a pilot for a still experimental/developmental aircraft has the right to divulge all information on its pros and cons. Obviously they would be allowed to extol its virtues as much as they can, they need to drum up support for this dog of a plane anyway. But to talk ill of the F35 might not only cost this particular pilot his job, but would also offer a negative impact on the whole public relations nightmare that is the F35.

    The mission of CAS is an incredibly important missions that I think the airforce brass aren’t as concerned with as they should be. We will be losing a critical capability wit the loss of the A10 and no aircraft current or proposed has the capability to replace the A10. Our troops on the ground don’t care that the F35 can or can’t dogfight or that it can supercruise. The only bullshit they care about is how long that plane can stay above giving them adequate cover. THATS ALL. So from a troops perspective the F35 is a horrible idea that will only make the lives of our troops on the ground more difficult. The F35 is a solution in need of a problem and It should have died over a decade ago when the project costs and time overran. We are going to end up with a plane that cost billions more than we expected, took decades longer to get to operational capability (still not there yet), AND it replaces planes that did their job better than the F35 does. A jack of all trades does none of them superbly. There is sparingly little information about the F35 that inspires confidence or even makes one feel less anxious about the prospects of our military’s future.