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.

7 Comments

  1. “If you knew F 117 was in the area then with enough luck you could have shot it down with anti aircraft gun. ”

    Actually, we flew most of our F-117 missions at an altitude where you would need an INCREDIBLE amount of luck to get a ‘golden BB’ hit with AAA.

  2. The very fact they feel the NEED for drones/decoys screams the fact the military knows it is far from undetectable.

    • LOL, I love the way you turn “capability” into “need”… You might be the first person in history to think that additional capability is a liability.

    • Another derp from a supposed former/current USAF personnel. You probably haven’t heard of future USAF plans to pair drones/decoys with multiple manned platforms (not just the F35)…..I guess not. Why don’t I find that surprising?

  3. From DefenseNews:

    WASHINGTON — The US Air Force is looking into the possibility of replacing the Martin-Baker ejection seat on the F-35 joint strike fighter with the United Technologies ACES 5 model, Defense News has learned.

    While still in the earliest stages, such a move could have have massive repercussions for the F-35 supply chain, impacting the workshare strategy that forms the backbone for the international fleet of the Lockheed Martin-designed fighter.

    Air Force Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, confirmed the service’s interest in the ACES 5 design in response to an inquiry from Defense News, but stressed that the Air Force had only just sent a letter to the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) in order to gather information on potential costs and challenges for switching the seat.

    “We believe it is prudent to look at what it would take to qualify the ACES 5 seat as a potential risk mitigation step if additional things happen as we go through the testing of the Martin-Baker seat,” Bunch said Friday. “We believe it’s prudent to determine what it would cost, how much [impact on] the schedule, what the timeline would be, if something else happened and we wanted to go a different way.”

    At the core of the Air Force’s move is concern over pilot safety following the discovery that F-35 pilots under 136 pounds were at increased, potentially fatal, risk of neck damage when ejecting from the plane aboard the Martin-Baker US16E design. The service has also acknowledged an “elevated level of risk” for pilots between 136 and 165 pounds.

    Defense News first broke the news of that issue in October. As a result of the issue, pilots under 136 pounds are prohibited from operating the fifth-generation fighter, which went operational for the Marines in 2015 and is expected to be operational for the Air Force by the end of this year.

  4. LOL, it would work out even better as those aircraft are already inferior to the F15s in the test.

Comments are closed.