F-35s played the US Army’s primary CAS providers during Green Flag. And were not shot down in the process

Jul 01 2015 - 49 Comments

Two F-35 Lightning II took on a primary role as Close Air Support providers during GF 15-08.

For the first time, F-35s belonging to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron played a major role during one of the 10 yearly iterations of Green Flag, an exercise conducted on the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, where more than 5,000 U.S. Army soldiers against simulated enemy forces in a 14-day long pre-deployment trial by fire.

Although the JSF has sporadically taken part in past Green Flag drills in the past, this was the very first time the F-35 had the primary exercise role of CAS providers: the pricey stealth multi-role planes penetrated a “contested and degraded battlespace” waiting for calls for support from JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) and liaison officers on the ground.

According to the Air Force, the F-35s did the job effectively “just like those that came before it,” a comment that seems to suggest that F-35 is already as capable as the an A-10 or an F-16 in the CAS role, at least in the type of support with Troops in Contact required during a Green Flag exercise.

“The roles played by the two operational test fighters seem relatively modest when examined within the immense scale of a National Training Center rotation. Fourteen days of maneuvering against adversaries in vast desert mountain ranges makes Green Flag a test of the mind and body alike. But when help from the air was called upon, F-35 pilots from the 31st TES communicated and used their systems with precision. They created strategic effects that left troops on the ground largely unaware and unconcerned of what airframe they might be using — seamless integration at its finest,” says the release by the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.

There is a widespread concern that the pricey, troubled multirole F-35 will not be as effective as an A-10 Thunderbolt II or any of the other aircraft the JSF is about to replace but the Air Force seems to be enthusiastic about its new combat plane, especially in the much debated CAS role.

According to AW&ST the Lightning IIs achieved an important result during GF 15-08: not a single F-35  was “shot down” during the drills, a significant achievement for the JSF at its first active participation in a major exercise, especially considering that A-10s and F-16s were defeated in the same conditions.

On the other side, several other analysts claim the participation of two test aircraft in the exercise was just a PR stunt, since the aircraft is still quite far from achieving a combat readiness required to really support the troops at war: it can’t use the gun, it is limited to a couple of JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) and it is still flawed by a long list of serious issues, including those to the 400K USD HMD (Helmet Mounted Display).

The debate between F-35 supporters and critics was made more harsh by a brief obtained by War Is Boring, according to which the JSF was outclassed by a two-seat F-16D Block 40 (one of the aircraft the U.S. Air Force intends to replace with the Lightning II) in mock aerial combat.

Although we have already debunked some theories about the alleged capabilities of all the F-35 variants to match or considerably exceed the maneuvering performance of every fourth-generation fighter, to such an extent we already highlighted that there is no way a JSF will ever match (for instance) a Eurofighter Typhoon in aerial combat, it must be remembered that the simulated dogfight mentioned in the unclassified report obtained by WIB involved one of the very first test aircraft: the AF-02 is quite a basic JSF that lacks a mission systems software to use all the onboard sensors, does not have the special stealth coating that makes it virtually invisible to radars and it implemented an obsolete software code full of limitations.

This does not mean the F-35 will ever be as maneuverable and lethal in aerial combat as an F-22 or an F-16, but it will probably perform a bit better than AF-02 did during its simulated dogfight against the F-16D Block 40.

 

  • rats123

    Unless you are privy to some classified information I say BS.

    The F-35 AESA is one of the best in the business. Datalinked with other F35s it is literally like a net from which nothing can escape.

  • Prince Edward

    To add, to modern AESA radars within AMRAAM range, the F-35 shines like a Trophy Wife’s Diamond Necklace (also to IR Scanners). The F-35 is only stealthy to low end, 60s/70s era radars.

    • Daniel Glass

      I think you have it backwards. The radars that can pick up stealth aircraft are weather radars, that can’t do identification or targeting.

  • Prince Edward

    What, the guy behind the ZSU-23-4 is blind? Stealthy, not invisible.

  • Prince Edward

    But the PAK-FA has 3-D Thrust Vectoring. It’s possible for a Mach .9, 9G Aircraft to outfly an AIM-9X. The other way, not as possible as the F-35 is less agile.

    The real question is, will BTV Range AMRAAMs against highly agile, excellent countermeasures nimble fighters work the same as they do on Export Grade 1960s model MiG-21s without threat detectors flown by half-trained pilots?

  • Prince Edward

    The problem is there are only a couple of hundred F22s. The Air Force has been billing the F-35 as an all-around replacement for just about everything, even the F-15 and F-16 eventually.

  • Prince Edward

    Have one of it’s engines knocked out by an ATOLL and then limp back to base, to fight again within 24 hours. The F-35 would buy the farm.

  • Prince Edward

    BRRRRRRRT! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Renato Dallarmi

    the next queston is why those missieles need to be tied to an inferior airframe. If they coud be fired by an F15 for example they would make the whole ting a joke, built just to get paid.

  • Renato Dallarmi

    so as you can put an AIM-)x on other frames, what is the puspose of the F35?

  • Renato Dallarmi

    as the F35 is supposed to replace all F16 and F15 and rhino, your statement is incorrect.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    It is stealt”ISH” not stealth.. It has a HUGE IR signature.. ALL modern fighter planes have advanced IR sensors thus AIM-9X came 10 years AHEAD of its scheduled time of deployment so even Russians are gaining in that game the newest manpad “VERBA” is to address this issue with multi spectral IR sensors. SO! There is F-22 that WORKS and there is F-35 that would be “nice” if it WILL work.. (EVER)

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    IRST is NOT “inferior” check the new generation installed on SAAB JAS-39E/F Gripen it is an PASSIVE detector (TODAY when you turn your radar “on” and you start to ADVERTIZE your presence there as an ASPIERING “RAOAD KILL”.. everyone who dislikes you in the “hood” would be more than happy to take you out of your misery.. Passive radars are real “cool things” on the F-22 and queuing multiple “pals” (other F-22 or F-18G’s) into the virtual array antenna it does a virtual miracle it EXPONENTIALY increases distance of the target detection and with the new AIM-9X and EU’s Meteors Target Acquisition Range as well Swedes did similar thing with their newest IRST utilized for the 3D triangulation cueing to the target) F-35 has a huge IR signature F-35B literally melts the runway.. Still US Solution as the way or the placement of IR sensors still have to be addressed (specifically space management for cooling, power and the assembly management; Swedes did a decent job on their Platform JAS-39E/F. Russians were first to aggressively implement with DUE respect to their IR sensors above just upfront the cockpit, SU-27-35, MIG-29, Typhoon, Rafale all of them have the similar solution It also has to have relatively unobstructed view, nor the unnecessary thermal “noise” (heat from the surface friction while on the high speeds pursuit’s) SO in short this DUD is aspiring PINTO or a “sparky” (its engine just kind of burst into a flame for no apparent reason but for its faulty DESIGHN on the III stage fan’s passive streamliner,, so as a “sparky” and the light show provider for our enemies has not much of a “terror factor” to anyone but to our boys who have to place their fate – lives into the hand of that wanton MISTAKE. Functionality on CAS is a FANTASY.. payload, single engine, no cannon, and foremost not a iota of a COMMON SENSE.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    Let me state the OBVIOUS. When the SOLDIERS on ground ask for the CAS and the A-10 COMES they KNOW that they actually HAVE THE CAS.. as opposed when they call for CAS and IF the “Sparky” (F-35) actually show up.. it is doubtful that this DUD will do ANYTHING as the present record STANDS with ISIS “operations” in over 75% of the little ordinance that “Ultra” high performance DUD DISENGAGES and RETURN its ordinance back to its base.. So this aspiring “Swiss Army Knife” will fly-by perhaps without troops even be aware of their presence as opposed to the A-10 whose presence is CLOSE AND PERSONAL.. ACKNOLOGED by our troops with high cheers while the enemy is PAINFULY AWARE of its PRESENCE.. too close for comfort? So by my humble OPPINION F-35 is perfect only for the Obama’s “stratigery” of defeatism and a perhaps “perfect reason” why the over 75% of the FUTURE platforms “ordinance” is going to be returned back to the base as opposed of being delivered as requested on ACTUAL targets.. Actual soldiers do not give a damn how “cool” this toy might look on the “air shows” but they are actually bleeding on the account of that EXPENSIVE folly. Today Obama’s “stratigery” ends up with under-utility of expensive assets which are unable to get close and PERSONAL WITH THE TARGET.. so they have to disengage (UNABLE TO DO THE JOB) because there might be a case (or two) of the “collateral damages”. A-10’s not so much they are close with our troops and even closer to the enemy (few surviving ones could even recognize the smile of those pilots.. it went a big time in story telling amongst the Saddam’s boys so they were more than HAPPY TO GIVE UP to only one airplane from amongst the whole arsenal of air power coalition forces provided.. A-10 was the only one which accomplished that. I wish that Army should have its OWN AIR POWER.. I doubt that it would deliver ONLY 20% of its ordinance on the REQUESTED targets of engagement.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    I have to clarify on previous statement vis a vis “presence” of the platform and or luck of it? Presence of WHAT? And WHERE? Exercise in CAS? To fit to the reality or the “stratigery”? When the SOLDIERS on ground ask for the CAS and the A-10 COMES they KNOW that they actually HAVE THE CAS.. as opposed when they call for CAS and IF the “Sparky” (F-35) actually show up.. it is doubtful that this DUD will do ANYTHING as the present record STANDS with ISIS “operations” in over 75% of the little ordinance that “Ultra” high performance DUD DISENGAGES and RETURN its ordinance back to its base.. So this aspiring “Swiss Army Knife” will fly-by perhaps without troops even be aware of their presence as opposed to the A-10 whose presence is CLOSE AND PERSONAL.. ACKNOLOGED by our troops with high cheers while the enemy is PAINFULY AWARE of its PRESENCE.. too close for comfort? So by my humble OPPINION F-35 is perfect only for the Obama’s “stratigery” of defeatism and a perhaps “perfect reason” why the over 75% of the FUTURE platforms “ordinance” is going to be returned back to the base as opposed of being delivered as requested on ACTUAL targets.. Actual soldiers do not give a damn how “cool” this toy might look on the “air shows” but they are actually bleeding on the account of that EXPENSIVE folly. Today Obama’s “stratigery” ends up with under-utility of expensive assets which are unable to get close and PERSONAL WITH THE TARGET.. so they have to disengage (UNABLE TO DO THE JOB) because there might be a case (or two) of the “collateral damages”. A-10’s not so much they are close with our troops and even closer to the enemy (few surviving ones could even recognize the smile of those pilots.. it went a big time in story telling amongst the Saddam’s boys so they were more than HAPPY TO GIVE UP to only one airplane from amongst the whole arsenal of air power coalition forces provided.. A-10 was the only one which accomplished that. I wish that Army should have its OWN AIR POWER.. I doubt that it would deliver ONLY 20% of its ordinance on the REQUESTED targets of engagement. So reality vs. “stratigery” could be only MEASURED by the leaders of the platoon not the “brASS”

    • veej7485

      The Army HAS hundred and hundreds of Apache’s who’s sole purpose is to support ground troops

  • Daniel Glass

    It’s still way better than trying to keep the Harrier in service.

  • Daniel Glass

    15th? Sure, if you include the X-35, and there’s already 105 production model -35A/C awaiting Air Force/ Navy IOC (Marines have already moved 10 Bs into service). By your same standard it took 16 years for the F-22 to reach IOC. If anything it’s a faster project than the F-22 considering how much more advanced it is.

    And what is underwhelming? You do know that that flight test with the F-16 was in an early prototype model missing pretty much all of the stealth and sensor systems current LRIP lines have, and was only up to determine where the maneuvering software restrictions are too conservative or doing funny things, right?

  • Daniel Glass

    Technically speaking, the RAM [i]is[/i] the surface of the skin, and pretty much impossible to damage without damaging the skin.

  • tek0801

    Just looking at the raw numbers, the F-35 doesn’t do anything better in any mission area. What a rip off considering the billions that have been wasted already and its still broken.

  • veej7485

    how would a typhoon defeat an F35…it wont be able to locate it. IR is only good for about 30 miles in the best of conditions….4 aim120s would have been rammed down their throats of any 4++ aircraft, or aim120s from a flight of Eagles, Falcons or Hornets 40 miles behind them, or from Standard missiles from warships 200 miles off shore.