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 4450 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

5 Comments

  1. It’s really not though. Our stealth cat has been out of the bag for three decades now. To this day their still isn’t a system that can both see the aircraft AND que weapon systems. Seeing it is only half the battle. And even when they do see it, its 200 miles closer than you expected or wanted. No, it’s not a one trick pony. Nobody HAS EVER said its LO characteristics will be the F-35’s be all/end all. It’s part of the equation. Something that has turned into a really good equation, regardless of it’s troubled procurement and to the MASSIVE consternation of all the critics. They whine more everyday as more and more of their trash gets laughed at.

  2. You have to take the 1000 foot view and truly understand the importance of stealth and software in this arena. This F35 is going to bring about a paradigm shift in ariel warfare. Throw out the old metrics, manuverability, dogfighting, cost vs combat effectiveness. They are not relevant anymore. Consider the f35 likan iphone. Wanna improve things….download the latest Software.

  3. There is no doubt the F-35 is one of the best fighters in the world today and more than a match for any military system besides the F-22, and maybe the Typhoon and latest Rafale. However, there is one aspect that really amazes me about the critics and other nay-sayers of the F-35, and I am still haven’t seen an answer to this question:- If stealth technology is so easily defeated by VHF / X-band radars systems, then why are the Chinese and Russians working so hard to make modern stealth aerial combat gen.-5 platforms (PAK FA, PAK SA, a Rusiia concept F-35 type, J-20, J-32)? Surely, if the critics were correct, the two nations would be wasting their money in a big way (like they criticize the F-22 and F-35 programs of doing)?

  4. Hi to all.If counter aircrafts cant see from far the f35 (even with AESA)its simply a game over for them.No need to dogfight,manuvravility high Gs and top rolls.BVR is what matters.Simple as that.

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