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. …some say that the F-22 Raptor is ….12 hours of maintenance on the ground versus 1 hour in the air!….do you have that luxury time in a real war situation?

  2. may i remind you that the famous Su-27 have structure limit of 4.5G with full internal tank ( not even at development stage , but at the moment ) , do anyone say su-27 couldn’t win any dogfights ? nope

    • The new meteor will be able to pull 30-40g and avoid counter measures, conserve fuel until last stage of attack and then go at speeds in excess of mach 4 (maybe upto mach6) i dont think a dogfight matters any more. The interesting news is the f35 is in fact lethal at BVR and i would expect its going to surprise alot of naysayers in WVR encounters. Don’t knock this fighter just yet as their is so much bull going around and 90% is just not true. Lets just wait and see!

  3. If you are referring to David Axe’s explanation, then no! The f-16 fight scenario was not fully explained. It was fully misinterpreted which is not an explanation at all. David Axe cherry picked the pilot report distorting the intentions of the test and blowing what was happening to the F35’s energy state way out of context. So how is that an improvement over this article?

  4. This aircraft won’t fly 1,500nm, hold on station for 15 hours and come home.
    An MQ-9 Reaper ER with the longspan wing and droptanks will do that and is already doing a better job of CAS/BAI/OBAS than the F-35 _ever will_ because it is able to do what it does, over Syria, in highly…confused, airspace control conditions. Waiting on ISILs convenience to show up and get stomped. And it can do ALL THIS while equipped with twice as many guided shots having twice the standoff range as the two GBU-12s on the F-35..
    This aircraft will not replace the C-130 with MCALS launcher which is the primary
    ‘Weasel’ now in our service for truly high threat, A2AD, environments. A particular concern given the F-35 cannot carry internal ARM.
    The /other/ jets and particularly the EA-18 simply cannot survive as even standoff Jammer/SEAD platforms against a layered HQ-9/S-300/S-400 threat and have even less effective radius than the Lightning does which means that the Lighting cannot survive, even a medium level (Libya, Syria) Air Defense Environment (where it’s escorts /might/ survive) as they won’t be there to roll back the IADS. Something anyone who has ever looked at the number of pods and thangs dangling beneath a Growler should have guessed would be the case.
    If I had to compare the F-35 with any jet out there, it would be the F-100. Barely supersonic, with a very limited weapons load and a deepstall characteristics which utterly bely it’s supposedly ‘fighter like’ alpha pointing capabilities with the need to bring on FLCS limiters in the ‘transient’ mode almost 5 degrees lower down than other platforms, including the F-16 with it’s notorious 27.5` limiter.
    What this means is that the jet’s touted body lift drops off at a differential rate separate from that of it’s primary airfoils and thus, just at the point where you need that little extra oomph to defeat that missile or get that gun solution, you are instead looking at bleeding rate as transient becomes high alpha and even more strict limiters apply. Limiters which inhibit roll yaw and thus remove the types ‘pirouhette’ options as well.
    With a .89lb/lb/hr TSFC on the F135, the jet is going to suck gas like a pig and that will ALSO compromise it’s maneuver and particularly sprint capabilities as the pilot will not be able to count on a tanker being only 200nm behind him but will have to look at having a 500nm over-fence distance to get back across and thus _it cannot afford_ to maneuver.
    The F-35 is a rent seeking piece of junk.

    • You are using very specific scenarios that those aircraft would excel. From no radar, to multiple soft targets.
      And if you used those planes on F-35 specific scenarios, they would be lost. For example, deep strikes. The f-35 has higher range than the F-16, the combat ability is better than the F-16.


      A Norwegian F-35 pilot stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, speaks favourable of the F-35’s dogfigthing capabilities in a blog published on Tuesday 1 March. His statements describe how the aircraft performs better than the F-16 at low speeds. His findings are similar to those of a Dutch F-35 pilot written here on Airheadsfly.com and contrast earlier reports.


      PS: a new ARM is being developed.

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