F-15E Strike Eagles unable to shoot down the F-35s in 8 dogfights during simulated deployment

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II demonstration aircraft takes off during the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House at Langley Air Force Base, Va., April 24, 2016. The aircraft performed alongside and F-22 Raptor and a P-51 Mustang as part of the Heritage Flight Program, which showcases the evolution of air power by flying today's state-of-the-art fighter aircraft in close formation with vintage fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman R. Alex Durbin)

“0 losses in 8 dogfights against F-15E Red Air”

The U.S. Air Force F-35A fleet continues to work to declare the Lightning II IOC (initial operational capability) scheduled in the August – December timeframe.

Among the activities carried out in the past weeks, a simulated deployment provided important feedbacks about the goal of demonstrating the F-35’s ability to “penetrate areas with developed air defenses, provide close air support to ground troops and be readily deployable to conflict theaters.”

Seven F-35s deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to  Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, to carry out a series of operational tests which involved local-based 4th Generation F-15E Strike Eagles belonging to the 366th Fighter Wing.

In a Q&A posted on the USAF website, Col. David Chace, the F-35 systems management office chief and lead for F-35 operational requirements at ACC, provided some insights about the activities carried out during the second simulated deployment to Mountain Home (the first was in February this year):

“The F-35 recently deployed from Hill to Mountain Home where crews, maintenance and support personnel conducted a number of missions. During that deployment, crews attained a 100 percent sortie generation rate with 88 of 88 planned sorties and a 94 percent hit rate with 15 of 16 bombs on target.
These numbers provide a positive indication of where we are when it comes to stability and component performance.”

“Feedback from the events at Mountain Home will feed into the overall evaluation of F-35 capabilities. The second evaluation will take place in the operational test environment with F-35 mission sets the Air Force intends to execute after IOC. All reports will be delivered in July and feed into the overall F-35 capabilities report. The ultimate goal is to provide a needed capability to the warfighter to execute the mission. It is not calendar-based or event-based.”

“The feedback from unit operators in place today has been very positive for the F-35, not just concerning performance but the ability the aircraft has with other platforms. In particular at Hill, integration with the F-15E (Strike Eagle) has gone very well. We’ve also been demonstrating the ability to put bombs on target. All of that information will be provided to us in the formal IOC readiness assessments.”

The following interesting chart accompanies the Q&A.

It shows some stats about the deployment.

F-35 deployment

The fourth column shows something interesting: during the exercise, the F-35s were challenged by some F-15Es and suffered no losses.

Even though the graphic does not say whether the F-35s did shoot back at the F-15Es some analysts (noticing also the “pew pew pew” in the chart….) have suggested the JSFs achieved stunning 8:0 kill rate against the Strike Eagle.

However, the “zero losses” may simply mean that the F-35s were able to complete their assigned strikes without being shot down by the aggressors of the Red Air: considered that the F-15Es were probably equipped with the AN/APG-82 AESA radar and the Sniper ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod), the fact that the Strike Eagles performing DCA (Defensive Counter Air) were not able to “find” and/or “engage” the almost-IOC F-35s can be considered a huge achievement for the pricey, troubled 5th generation multirole combat plane.

Actually, this is not the first time the F-35 proves itself able to fly unscathed through a fighter-defended area: not a single Lightning II was shot down during Green Flag 15-08, the first major exercise conducted, more or less one year ago, on the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, during which the F-35 flew as main CAS (Close Air Support) provider.

At that time, several analysts claimed the participation of two test aircraft in the exercise was just a PR stunt, since the aircraft was still quite far from achieving a combat readiness required to really support the troops at war.

Let’s see what happens this time…

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. The F-35 wins against F15….8 to zip…..Hoorah….Hoorah….Hoorah….

    American missiles never miss and are one-shot-one-kill.
    Atomic weapons made war obsolete.
    SAGE eliminates the human factor in air combat.
    Drones eliminates pilots completely.
    Dogfights are obsolete because all air combat is BVR.
    5.56 x 45mm is better than 30 cal because it wounds not kill.
    Any other great (grating) trips down the memory lanes of defense contractor claims ?

    All aircraft are wonderful if used in the limits of their capabilities with proper tactics.
    The F-35 is a F-117 upgrade with added limited air to air abilities.
    In short a nighttime light fighter-bomber that can snipe air to air BVR.
    A F-18, F-15, F-16 or A-10 replacement it is not.

    That is why most air forces are cutting their F-35 buys and going with mixed type air forces.
    Lockheed Martin oversold the F-35 and it can not replace all the aircraft LM claimed the F-35 could.
    In fact its a good question if the F-35 could win a dogfight with a Mig-21 in a visual range daylight fight.

    • DAS+AIM-9X= you don’t need the Mig-21’s sustained maneuverability, you just need good pointing ability – the 9X can take you out BVR now, and with two of them once they are gone and the threat is still present, you can disengage – your systems are eleventy billion times more effective than a Sirena 3 in that MIG. You can bounce and how, with good combat durability, much bigger fuel reserves than a 21 – you can move around with impunity, the point defense interceptor 21 runs out of fuel fast, and any nation still flying those ancient deltas won’t be able to muster a large enough force of them to cause anyone concern. The era of the VFR GCI super simple lightweight fighter a is almost over, as even the poorest air forces have moved on to less hot rod but more practical aircraft. The MIG-21 can’t carry much ordinance, very far – try loading one up to the brim in DCS, it has a big impact – the F-35s large internal storage grants so many possibilities….they want to stick a laser into the area where the lift fan goes, they’ve had it in mind during design, which is what matters.

  2. The idea that an airframe and pilots can provide close air support, interdiction capability, dogfighting and attack capability is idiotic. The easy example is close air support. Do you really think that it makes sense to use a 200 million dollar airplane to strafe enemy positions? Without armor? And a hundred rounds of ammo? And those fighter jocks are really going to be happy doing all of those training drills against reinforced artillery positions.

  3. Yes there was a simulation and the “Red Team” did overwhelm the Blue Team… however, a lot of what you are saying is wrong. The Commander of the Blue Team screwed up badly, and made some major tactical blunders. That can happen with any military. That is in fact why you have these simulations, so you learn NOT to make those mistakes.

    As far as “They were told to knock it off and resort to tactics that would allow the US fleet to win” that is total urban legend. After the humiliating defeat on day one, it would make no sense not to “restart” the exercise a second time… after all what would you do for the next 2 weeks sit around? So the silly idea that they told them to let the fleet win rumor got started, but its not true.

    • Please point out and correct “a lot of what you are saying is wrong”. Thanks.

      Actually the Marine Corps general was admonished for not following the “rules of the game” and was told to conform to them in the Mulligan round.

  4. Way too many of you have fallen for this “propaganda”. Its like a Soviet Five year Grain Harvest report which always meets the goals of the newly published Grain Harvest report.

  5. So, you’re laughing critics’ attempt for a bit of common sense and oversight, confronted by your fanclub carrying PowerPoints in support of a program that’s years behind schedule and STILL can’t pull a real IOC until 3F is done… recently kicked out another 6 months – Tell us again what’s laughable?
    WHEN IT’S READY, buy it!… To NOT do that is just ignorant.of the history of this program, and demonstrates the same Liberal dumb-down attitude we see displayed every day – You know that. right?

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