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

May 11 2016 - 26 Comments

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

  • sferrin

    OMG look how steep the F-35 has to fly just to stay in the air with the F-16. Clearly it is about to fall out of the sky and is a world-class POS. The horror, the horror.

    • McPosterdoor

      OMG yourself, that grab is from the :26 mark where the f35 is pulling out (heh) of the formation.

      I however agree, the AOA looks really high (heh) in the more relevant :06 mark.

      • sferrin

        1. I was mocking the usual idiots. 2. Meh. So what if it is? If you’ve read what actual F-35 pilots have to say about it they love it. Lastly, since we don’t know what the conditions were, a few seconds of video clip are meaningless. That you’re actually getting defensive about it suggests you’re one of those who would be screaming for the F-35s cancellation if it got a flat tire. I guess we should cancel the Hornets too over than OBOGs issue eh? (Look it up.)

        • max

          “THEY” are PAID, and PAID very well, “to love it “

          • Cody3/75

            What? They aren’t paid to love it. There is absolutely no reason for them to not voice their opinions. It has never ever stopped service members from calling out a piece of equipment or training when they feel like it is compromising their ability to complete the mission or if they feel like whatever issue is needlessly risking their lives or their buddie’s lives.

            Nor are they paid well. Much less “very well.” What they get “paid” means absolutely nothing to these guys. The reward for all of their hard work is the job. There isn’t a fighter pilot alive that wouldn’t do it for free. So to sit here spewing lies is pathetic. These pilots accomplished more by the time they were 18, then you will in your entire life.

            You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Don’t come here with these moronic lies and assumptions. You’re an embarrassment.

        • McPosterdoor

          Good one. Funny you should say that though, it does get flat tires…

  • empire32

    Big difference between CAN fly at high AoA and HAS to fly at high AoA

    • sferrin

      Really? What is that? Do tell.

  • Cody3/75

    This certainly paints a different picture. Notice how the “fat, slow, unmaneuverable” F-35 goes into a vertical climb at the end? Yeah. I guarantee an F-16 couldn’t follow…Not without punching the afterburner and even then it’s doubtful.

    Just like everything F-35, there’s a vocal group out there just desperate to slam the F-35 for anything. Like this photo, nine times outta ten it’s absolute horse shit. Wonder where all these naysayers will be when the F-35 meets and exceeds standards. Probably talking into a banana, on a conference call with Pierre Sprey, whining about how shit the jet is and how all of this is just a big conspiracy by the “MIC”. That’s military industrial complex (oooo spooky) for all of you idiots out there not smart enough to be wearing your custom hat, made out of anti-spy satellite metallic sheets.

    • AstroNautilus

      It will not exceed standards: the test reports from past years stated that the max sustainable turn rate in inferior to goal values, transonic acceleration as well is slower than required, weapon bays overheat during high speed flight below 5k ft..flight sciences test gave poor results in general, it’s all written in the test reports which are public knowledge, just type on google and search for them.

      • sferrin

        And yet the pilots love the plane and have nothing but praise for it, with countries lining up to buy it. Try harder.

        • AstroNautilus

          Why would an Air Force pilot trash talk it in public, a soldier is not supposed to openly criticize his equipment, you are a bit naive uh, born yesterday? Or paid by LM?

          • R Valencia


            To quote Norwegian F-35-pilot, Major Morten Hanche

            Critics have argued that the F-35 by definition is a slow aircraft, based on the balance between thrust from the engine and overall weight. However, when interviewed after my first flight, I said that I was impressed with the engine power of the aircraft. How can that be true? Am I bought and paid for by Lockheed Martin, or is it the Ministry of Defence that threatens government reprisals if I don’t provide «the official story»? I know that many have doubts regarding the F-35 when it comes to both maneuverability and engine power.

      • Cody3/75

        I’ve read just about everything published about the F-35…it’s my job.

        I’m telling you, most of this stuff is blown wildly out of proportion or is patently false. You don’t have to listen to me. Just wait though and remember “I told you so.”

        • sferrin

          I imagine in the coming years crows are going to become an endangered species with all the people eating them. ;-)

  • FrankW

    It really doesn’t matter if it is at a higher Alpha. THE MAIN QUESTIONS ARE: Would you rather have a jet that is brand new, has a very small RCS, state of the art avionics and sensors OR a jet that is from FY 92 (Block 52’s), general design dates back to the mid 1970’s, has a far larger RCS, older avionics, and has limited air-frame time remaining?

    I grew up in the mid/late 1980’s with Block 10/15 F-16A and Block 30 F-16C Vipers flying over my house in the pattern (currently we have A-10’s). I love the Viper, it is my favorite jet next to the Phantom II. But everyone on this site does not get the main point of the problem: THE TEEN SERIES JETS ARE OLD!!!!!

    We do not yet know the true capabilities of the F-35 in WVR, I am willing to bet they will remain classified for years. But the point is even if the F-35 cannot turn like an F-16, it has a QUANTUM LEAP in sensors, avionics, SA, and RCS. And the air-frames are BRAND NEW-

  • Joey JoJo Jr.

    The F-35, when coupled with well-trained pilots and motivated maintainers, will probably end up being able to do everything they say it will, and then some…but it costs TOO DAMN MUCH for what it does. We’re spending money we don’t have for a gold-plated platform that will be only able to drop guided munitions on bad guys with about the same performance as an F-16, or a drone, no matter its performance at high angles of attack.

  • PG

    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?

  • Marco

    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.

    • sferrin

      “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.

      • Marco

        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?

    • SasukeUchiha

      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..

      • Marco

        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…

  • Pepe Le Cox

    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

    • sferrin

      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.

    • Cody3/75

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