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. I could be wrong but, I don’t think it’s supposed to “dog fight”. I thought it’s profile was to shoot the crap out of you from over the horizon without you ever actually knowing it was there?

    Edit: or pass data back to an arsenal ship to remotely deploy for it.

  2. Fine , Have any around that can fly???????? We’ll wait………………………..no?

  3. People keep forgetting the purpose of the F35. It is not designed as a close-in fighter. It is designed to be an integrated defence system. 1 F35 against a modern 4+ gen fighter will probably see the F35 losing the encounter. However this is not going to happen. The F35 will be used in conjunction with other aircraft to form a massive radar network which can identify and shoot down targets from range.

    I have no doubts the F35 will perform exceedingly well in its role as a cog in what is essentially a giant antenna. This is the US doctrine for modern air combat. At least it will perform well against those countries that cannot counter such a threat i.e. countries with antiquated anti-air systems.

    • People keep forgetting the purpose of the F35. It is not designed as a close-in fighter. It is designed to be an integrated defence system. 1 F35 against a modern 4+ gen fighter will probably see the F35 losing the encounter. However this is not going to happen. The F35 will be used in conjunction with other aircraft to form a massive radar network which can identify and shoot down targets from range.”

      You ARE kidding, right?

      If not, what scenario are you assuming for this massive radar network? An attack on the continental US. And what sort of numbers of F-35s are you assuming? And how are you going to maintain them?

      The F-35 shows every sign in the world of going down the same tiresome road the F-111, F-15, and F-22 went down, where cost overruns drove up unit cost which caused congress to cut back production numbers which cost economy of scale which drone up unit cost even higher, rinse, and repeat. Only it’s actually worse for the F-35.

      The aviation community always was cursed with one of the worst tooth to tail ratios of any part of the military, but the F-35 drives it up even higher. Look at the projected maintenance hour per flying hour numbers for this aircraft. They are HORRIBLE, even if they eventually achieve them which THEY ARE NOWHERE CLOSE TO DOING. Look at the current mission-capable rate. They are terrible. Yes, I realize it’s early in the IOC of the aircraft, but look at their eventual long term goals. They are only marginally LESS terrible.

      Perhaps this aircraft wasn’t designed as the maintenance pig it has become, but all of these additive “quick fix” solutions to problems identified during the development have sure made it one.

      Even if all the bugs can be gotten out, by their own maintenance estimates over half the fleet are going to be hangar queens because neither the Air Force, the Navy, and most assuredly not the Marines, have the aviation logistics and maintenance personnel necessary to provide the manpower required, even if those requirements are eventually pared down to those goals.

      It is readily apparent that the whole program was designed for the purpose of garnering political support in as many legislative districts as possible, not for ease or efficiency of maintenance.

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