Watch the video of the F-35 flying in formation (at high AOA) with the Thunderbirds

Short but interesting clip.

A couple of days ago we have commented an image that had appeared on Facebook showing a U.S. Air Force F-35A forming up with the Thunderbirds for a photo session in the skies over Ft. Lauderdale.

Even though it did not say anything special about the controversial stealth plane, some people bashed the F-35 over the cool image just because it showed the 5th generation fighter jet flying with a high AOA (Angle of Attack) close to the Thunderbirds.
The following video provides a different point of view over the same scene: taken from inside the cockpit of the F-16 #1 of the U.S. Air Force demo team, it show the F-35 keeping a “high alpha” on the Viper’s right wing, leveraging its well-known (or alleged, depending on the “party”) high AOA capabilities.Needless to say, this post is not pro or against the F-35, it’s just about an interesting footage showing two jets belonging to different generations flying together.

H/T Miguelm Mendoza for the heads-up

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. Just to understand the discussion: What does it mean if 2 planes fly at the same speed but one has to maintain a higher angle of attack then the other plane in order to fly straight?

  2. Overall the F-35 is not “that” bad.
    However enjoying +30 years of technological development over the F-16, considering its costs and looking at the result it’s simply labeled as poor.
    Its pilots, analysts and developers are still here struggling to justify how the F-35 is better than its predecessors while that should be totally out of the table and ruled out already! In the cold War era, no one would argue how better an F-4 was compared to an F-100 or an F-15 over an F-4! The technological advance over the latter was clear to everyone.
    The result for such a huge effort called JSF is poor.
    The program name itself says it all. It tells you why it failed somehow. “Joint Strike Fighter”: the goal of the program written in the Nineties was to make a Joint (all forces), Strike (able to attack), Fighter (able to Air to Air)… and that’s exactly how the 4th generation was shaped by Desert Storm and all the following conflicts. Would anyone be surprised if an FA-18 takes off from a carrier, shot a MiG down with an AMRAAM, drops a couple of 500 lbs bombs with different seekers against different targets, ends into the merge with a helicopter downing it with an AIM-9 and landing on at a FOB in the desert as part of a routine redeployment to an inland base?
    Not to mention its design is obsolete already. Not because Russians or Chinese has any super technology, but because battlefield reality put it in the corner of obsolescence before it joined the fight.
    Its expensive stealth isn’t of any use against enemies with no radar coverage. Or even against the ones who have access to radars you can easily jam by existing ECM systems… and that represents 90 percent of the opponents of the Western World… And still I give credit to the Russians and Chinese about their radar abilities in a heavy “Israeli class” ECM environment. I frankly doubt their radars; even their most modern ones. Russians do not know how to put together some basic consumer goods like day to day electronics such as a mobile phone or a modern TV. Their most upgraded Su-24s are flying with off the shelves Western GPS systems taped to the cockpit… That means something about their real field capabilities.
    On the other hand the F-35 gave up an internal gun (B and C variants), delegated so much of the flight information to the helmet, does not have WWII self sealing fuel tanks… and so on. That’s stuff you need. In the past 13 years it was needed, while stealth was not as ECM covers that.
    The last US combat jet lost to enemy action is an A-10A downed over Baghdad in April 2003.
    An F-15E was hit by AAA over Syria in 2014 and an F-16 was hit by small arms fire during CAS in 2015 over Afghanistan. They were not facing advanced “space alien grade” Air Defense… but they survived. Could the F-35 survive those hits? Or in the past 13 years instead of one jet shot down to enemy action, the US would count 3? How many times F-15Es, F-16s and FA-18 went low and fast strafing and saving lives, not to mention the A-10? Could a Gucci F-35 do that? Would you risk an F-35 to small arms fire to perform a show of force, flying fast and deploying flares? US fast movers may have performed more of that stuff than any actual “kinematic” attack as they love to call actual air raids. It does not have a fire suppression system… what happens when a 7.62 x 39 AK-47 bullet hits it?
    This is reality vs plans.

    • “Its pilots, analysts and developers are still here struggling to justify how the F-35 is better than its predecessors”

      You need to read somebody besides David Axe. Maybe, like, you know, the people who actually USE the thing? Nah, that would make too much sense and probably wouldn’t paint the picture you’re looking for.

      • There are still two big parties. One say it’s good and trying to prove “wow it can dogfight with an F-16” “wow it can drop bombs”, and the other saying “yeah, the previous ones could do that, even better under certain circumstances, then what?”… that’s kind of trying to justify it, isn’t it?

    • Blablabla…boring..not mentioning the fact that the 4th generation spans from the 2nd half of the seventies to the first half of the eighties, 4+ members were conceived at the end of the eighties so Desert Storm shaped nothing, dear professor..
      Furthermore you cannot expect a new plane to be much more manoeuvrable than the current..the 9g limit is determined by the pilot in the cockpit not by the airframe, what should be expected is that a new plane is on par with the presents in term of sheer performance (speed, accel, turn rate, climb rate..) but much more capable in terms of avionics, sensors and sensor fusion, netcentric capabilities…the JSF simply came out with inferior flight performances because of the constraints imposed by stupid requirement of jointness, the avionics and sensors advancements are outstanding on the other hand..

      • You just did not get the point…
        and yes the forth generation was shaped over the years by different conflicts. It was shaped because it had tons of room to grow… That may be the biggest conceptual revolution it brought, over sheer aerodynamics performances…

  3. Look at this F-16 in formation with a propeller plane, and must maintain a slight AoA to keep the same speed, after that, at 2:07, a russian Su-27 close to formation with the same propeller with the greatest ease in the world, without forcing a high AoA, due to its aerodynamics

    • That’s because the F-16 is a sh–y aircraft. Everybody knows that. Did you know the F-22 often has to deploy partial flaps to fly in formation with F-15s? What kind of crappy planes is the US turning out these days? Ever since the P-51 it’s been one long slide downhill. You know how many P-51s we could buy for the price of a gold-plated F-16? Hundreds. Hell, close to a THOUSAND. Clearly we should scrap the F-16s and buy P-51s. And P-47s. P-47s killed WAY more tanks than that pretender the A-10. And it had EIGHT guns not one little peashooter. Yeah, the A-10 uses a 30 and the P-47 EIGHT 50s. FIFTY. Fifty is higher than thirty ergo it’s better.

    • Are you really comparing a clean SU-27 to an F-16 with conformal tanks, 3 drop tanks, and a targeting pod?


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