Four of the most experienced USMC F-35B pilots speak about their aircraft. And they say it’s exceptional.

Dec 08 2016 - 57 Comments
By Todd Miller

The voice of the pilots is clear – the platform is working exceptionally. The F-35 is a platform with the ultimate level of sophistication, made simple. And therein lay the beauty of the F-35, and just why it will be so deadly, it’s simple.

The combined F-35 fleet now has over 75,000 flight hours, yet many continue to question the performance and value of the aircraft.  Much of this can be expected given early program challenges, and the reality that many of the F-35s capabilities are classified.  Add that many do not grasp the war the F-35 was designed to deter – or fight.  21st century warfare and capability has about as much in common with wars of the past as your 1970’s land line has to your smartphone.  It is in this “smartphone” battlespace that the F-35 is designed to fight and to do so with a distinctly unfair advantage.

To understand the significance and value of the F-35, cut through the complexity and noise.  Simplify.  Put aside the politicians “it does not work!” the ideologues, the self-proclaimed experts and listen to the voice of the pilots.  The pilots will take the aircraft into combat, their own lives in the balance as they penetrate contested space and are wildly outnumbered by adversary aircraft.

The USS America (LHA-6) with 12 F-35Bs on board (2 in Hangar) during "Proof of Concept" demonstration November 19, 2016.  Aircraft from VMFA-211, VX-23 and VMX-1 particpated with MV-22Bs and an AH-1Z & UH-1Y in a "strike exercise" off the coast of CA.

The USS America (LHA-6) with 12 F-35Bs on board (2 in Hangar) during “Proof of Concept” demonstration November 19, 2016. Aircraft from VMFA-211, VX-23 and VMX-1 particpated with MV-22Bs and an AH-1Z & UH-1Y in a “strike exercise” off the coast of CA.

The Aviationist and a handful of journalists recently had the opportunity to visit with four such pilots during a “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the USS America, Nov. 19, 2016.  The four pilots are some of the most experienced F-35B pilots in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and their previous experience provides valuable context to their statements.

  • George “Sack” Rowell, Commanding Officer (CO) of VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron). Prior to the F-35, Rowell spent appx. 3000 hours over 18 years of flying the F/A-18 Hornet.  Previously the CO of VMFA(AW)-533
  • Col. Chad “Mo” Vaughn, CO of VMFA-211. Prior to the F-35, Vaughn spent a couple 1000 hrs over 13 years in the F/A-18A-D Hornet, as well as time in the F-16A-B Fighting Falcon/Viper and F/A-18 Super Hornet at NAS Fallon.
  • Col. Rich “BC” Rusnok, slated to become the CO of VMFA-121 in March 2017. Prior to the F-35, Price spent appx. 7 years flying the AV-8B Harrier II with additional time in the F/A-18 Hornet.
  • Col. John “Guts” Price, slated CO for VFMA-122 (2018). Prior to the F-35, Price spent appx. 1200 hrs and 10 years flying the AV-8B Harrier II, and has about 400 hrs in the F-35 over the past 3 years.

The pilots provide unique insights, a different perspective on the F-35 and its unique capabilities.  The comments have been edited for readability with best efforts made to maintain context and integrity of intent.

F-35B launchs off the USS America (LHA-6) during "Proof of Concept" demonstration November 19, 2016.

F-35B launchs off the USS America (LHA-6) during “Proof of Concept” demonstration November 19, 2016.

On a personal level as pilots, coming from other platforms and stepping into the F-35, do you have an “aha” moment that you can share?

Guts;  My first “aha” moment was a seemingly simple thing.  I was executing a familiarization flight near MCAS Yuma.  I was coming back to the airfield and I basically just turned the jet and pointed its nose at Yuma.  Immediately the jet is providing me the information of all the traffic that is out there in the airspace.  When I talk to approach for the first time they are telling me about the traffic that is out there that I already know about and I see it.  I can tell who everybody is that he is talking about and the jet also saw traffic that ATC hadn’t seen yet and I asked about it.  And I thought, “Holy Cow!” here I am coming back to the field from a simple familiarity mission and my jet is telling me everything about the operational environment I am about to go into.  In this case, something very simple, the traffic pattern coming back there, but I didn’t have to do anything to have that level of SA [Situational Awareness].  I can start making decisions about what altitude I wanted to go to, if I wanted to turn left or right, speed up or slow down.  There’s somebody coming up next to me, I want to get in front of them – or whatever.  It is a very simple example, but I thought WOW this is amazing that I see everything and can do that.

The other was the first time I vertically recovered the airplane.  The flight control law that the airplane has is unbelievable and I always tell the anecdote.  Flying AV-8B Harrier IIs, I only had one specific aircraft I felt like I could kind of go easy on the controls and it would sit there and hover.  I love the Harrier, love flying that aircraft, but there was work involved to bring it back for a vertical landing.  The very first time I hovered an F-35B I thought, I am the problem here, and I am just going to let the jet do what it wants to do.  The F-35 was hovering better than I could ever hover a Harrier without doing a thing.  That’s back to that workload comment I said earlier.  I am performing a vertical landing, and I have the time to look around and see what is taking place on the pad and around me. It is a testament to the jet.

BC;  I was conducting a strike mission and Red Air was coming at me.  In a 4th Gen fighter you must do a whole lot of interpretation.  You see things in azimuth, and you see things in elevation.  In the F-35 you just see the God’s eye view of the whole world.  It’s very much like you are watching the briefing in real time. 

I am coming in to perform the simulated weapons release, and Red Air is coming the other direction.  I have enough situational awareness to assess whether Red Air is going to be a factor to me by the time I release the weapon.  I can make the decision, I’m going to go to the target, I’m going to release this weapon.  Simultaneously I pre-target the threat, and as soon as I release the A2G weapon, I can flip a switch with my thumb and shoot the Red Air.  This is difficult to do in a 4th Gen fighter, because there is so much manipulation of systems in the cockpit.  All while paying attention to the basic mechanics of flying the airplane and interpreting threat warnings that are often very vague, or only directional.  In the F-35 I know where the threats are, what they are and I can thread the needle.  I can tell that the adversary is out in front of me and I can make a very, very smart decision about whether to continue or get out of there.  All that, and I can very easily switch between mission sets.

Mo;  I was leading a four ship of F-35s on a strike against 4th Gen adversaries, F-16s and F/A-18s.  We fought our way in, we mapped the target, found the target, dropped JDAMs on the target and turned around and fought our way out.  All the targets got hit, nobody got detected, and all the adversaries died.  I thought, yes, this works, very, very, very well.  Never detected, nobody had any idea we were out there.

A second moment was just this past Thursday.  I spent a fair amount of my life as a tail hook guy – [landing F/A-18s on US Navy Supercarriers] on long carrier deployments.  The last 18 seconds of a Carrier landing are intense. The last 18 seconds of making a vertical landing on this much smaller USMC Assault Carrier – is a lot more relaxed.  The F-35C is doing some great stuff.  Making a vertical landing [my first this week] on the moving ship, that is much smaller than anything I’ve landed on at sea – with less stress, was awesome.

Sack;  It was my first flight at Edwards AFB Jan ’16.  I got in the airplane and started it up.  I was still on the deck and there were apparently other F-35s airborne – I believe USAF, I was not aware.  I was a single ship, just supposed to go out and get familiar flying the aircraft.  As the displays came alive there were track files and the SA as to what everyone else was doing in the airspace, and I was still on the ground.  I mean, I hadn’t even gotten my take-off clearance yet.  I didn’t even know where it was coming from.  It was coming from another F-35.  The jet had started all the systems for me and the SA was there.  That was a very eye opening moment for me.

The second one, took place when I came back from that flight.  In a Hornet you would pull into the line and had a very methodical way in which you have to shut off the airplane and the systems otherwise you could damage something.  So you have to follow a sequence, it is very methodical about which electronic system you shut off.  In the F-35 you come back, you do a couple things then you just shut the engine off, and it does everything else for you.  Sounds simple, even silly – but it is a quantum shift.

F-35Bs stacked aboard the USS America (LHA-6) during "Proof of Concept" demonstration November 19, 2016. A total of 12 F-35Bs aboard.

F-35Bs stacked aboard the USS America (LHA-6) during “Proof of Concept” demonstration November 19, 2016. A total of 12 F-35Bs aboard.

The voice of the pilots is clear – the platform is working exceptionally. The F-35 is a platform with the ultimate level of sophistication, made simple.   And therein lay the beauty of the F-35, and just why it will be so deadly, it’s simple.

This article is but a small excerpt of the complete pilots discussion of our contributors full article found at The Second Line of Defense here.

The Aviationist thanks USMC pilots; Col. George “Sack” Rowell, Lt. Col. Chad “Mo” Vaughn, Lt. Col. Rich “BC” Rusnok, and Lt. Col.  John “Guts” Price; Captain Joseph R. Olson, Commanding Officer of the USS America and entire crew; Sylvia Pierson, Brandi Schiff, JSF/JPO PA; Capt. Sarah Burns and 1st Lt. Maida Zheng, USMC PAOs;  MV-22B pilots/crew and personnel of VMX-1.

Touchdown imminent during "Proof of Concept" demonstration on the USS America (LHA-6) November 19, 2016.

Touchdown imminent during “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the USS America (LHA-6) November 19, 2016.


  • Roland Delhomme

    This has to be the most visceral account of flying the ’35 that I’ve yet read, and you can tell from a pilot’s perspective, how much the avionics allow them to employ the jet tactically and to operate at a high level of situational awareness. Marine culture tends to bring out straightforwardness; this was an eye opener, from those who actually fly the thing. The trickle down and ancillary benefits of what was accomplished in F-35 cockpit and systems integration will likely raise expectations for future platforms if the sortie rates and fleet readiness can survive real world ops. If you can have all the conveniences and systems as reliable as the smartphone I drop every day, then you’ve got something.

    • James Brown

      Boom. You just hit on the one thing that really has not yet been proven, whether it can stand up to the rigors of a combat operations tempo. You are correct, if it is not reliable enough to be ready to go at mission time then it will be a failure. The one really good thing, from what I’ve read and heard, is the ease of maintenance that was designed into it through modularity etc…etc… All it’s systems are turnkey and of a modular design, just troubleshoot to the bad box and replace it, quick and easy. Of course only time will tell.

  • CharleyA

    Hmm, all O-5s and O-6s. That says something right there.

    • James Brown

      They’re the most experienced pilots, that’s why they’re CO’s of combat squadrons. These guys are warriors, they’re much different than the moron’s that come through personnel and staff jobs like that State Department Spokesman Admiral John Kirby, from whom not a word should ever be believed. But the guys that are actually on the point of the spear are cut from a much different cloth. If the warriors say its a good aircraft and it will dominate, then I believe them, they actually have to fly it in combat, their lives actually depend upon the F-35 being as good as they say. So again I’ll take the pilots word about the quality of the aircraft rather than the know nothings that write nothing but negative Nellie articles about it.

    • sferrin

      Yeah, that they know what they’re talking about.

    • Uniform223

      What exact does that say?

    • displacedjim

      Yes, your comment certainly does.

  • leroy

    Unbeatable. Simply unbeatable. If China or Russia instigate a war they can expect their fighters to quickly swept from the skies. The critics of this planes were either paid disinformation specialists or just plain damned fools. And BOY have we read many a comment about F-35 from those who have no idea what they’re talking about. No understanding whatsoever for what a pilot needs when making split-second decisions in deadly air combat.

    The international envy and jealousy towards U.S. dominance in stealth fighter technology is palpable. Many foreigners cannot accept the fact that America reigns supreme in the air, and no other nation on Earth even comes close to matching us. Those in the U.S. who call for the purchase of 4th generation over this 5th gen marvel are simply fools who have no business commenting on a subject for which they have zero understanding. To them I say soak it up boyz, because for you, the reports from the field are just gonna get worse. F-35 is going to own the skies, and there’s not a damn thing Russia or China or anyone can do about it. How does that make you feel? Me? It makes me feel … well, giddy! : )

    • Cocidius

      Yup – the DOT&E who are engineers with YEARS of real world experience & get paid to test advanced military systems, ships, and aircraft don’t know what they’re talking about but you do? LOL

      • leroy

        Yes, that’s true. Fascinating isn’t it! Well not to me.

      • Phil Verhey

        here you go a complete list of US service F-16’s Mishaps & Accidents (not in chronological order), with details such as pilot interviews.

        AND, a bar graph by year …
        96 aircraft were active by 1979 and in that year 2 aircraft were written off .. as the fleet grew and flying hours increased, attrition grew, as the problems with that generational leap in technology (fly-by-wire) were also challenging, BUT NOT NEARLY AS WELL HANDLED AS THE JSF HAS BEEN BY Lockheed & THE Joint Programme Office.
        … a fact only pronounced by the disparity in what the pilots think of the jet; the F-16 was called the “LAWN DART”, the F-35A, B & C is called “Amazing” & “the game changer”

        attrition numbers of aircraft destroyed, never to fly again (TTD:”total to date”)
        1980 – 5 – TTD-7 in 2 years service
        1981 – 12 – TTD-19
        1982 – 19 – TTD-38
        1983 – 21 – TTD-59 in 5 first 5 years service
        1984 – 16 – TTD-75
        1985 – 19 – TTD-94
        1986 – 23 – TTD-117
        1987 – 19 – TTD-136
        1988 – 26 – TTD-162
        1989 – 27 – TTD-189 in first 10 years in service
        1990 – 18 – TTD-207 .. over 200 jets completely written off …
        1991 – 36 – TTD-243 .. includes Jet shot down in desert storm.
        1992 – 31 – TTD-276 .. that said.. it wasn’t a fluke or because of DS
        1993 – 33 – TTD-309 .. as it only continued ..
        1994 – 23 – TTD-332
        1995 – 23 – TTD-355
        1996 – 11 – TTD-366
        1997 – 19 – TTD-385
        1998 – 19 – TTD-404
        1999 – 19 – TTD-423
        2000 – 20 – TTD-443 .. in the new millennium 20 jets lost…*this is including 1 pilot who was doing loop over his in-laws barn and clipped the roof showing off.

        .. they continue, but actually reading write-off reports (first link) past 2000 starts a trend, fatigue of airframes and parts; losses are non-contextual to the DOT&E argument vs the F-35A, B & C jets.

        MY POINT?
        is a the counter-point to yours, all jets have their issues, all new generational jets have the greatest of issues.
        the SMALL number of issues facing the F-35A,B&C which has not yet suffered a crash, or ground fatality is because the bar is set high, the task set before LM & the JPO is great.. but if you think that it’s ‘overwhelming’ or ‘too much’ for them, then please consider what history provided with the last generational leap in fighter technology, which today, is apparently a great jet…. years later … which no longer even resembles the original jet loaded for combat.

        ADDITIONALLY, F-16 attrition dropped as the years went on, it developed into a “great” jet and “the viper” instead of “the lawn dart” …. so, similarly as time goes on and the F-35ABC goes beyond the 200 odd flying jets with over 75,000hrs and no crashes or fatalities, that pilots call “a game changer” from IOC (instead of “lawn dart”), what will the F-35ABC develop into?

        What will the F-35ABC be called in 10 years?
        I am genuinely asking .. because i’m not sure what comes after “game changer” .. there’s not much left except “god in the sky”

      • Mali King

        Let me tell you a secret Cocidius….there are three types of people who work in DOT&E….bureaucrats, bureaucads and bureaucraps…..not engineers who actually built and test things PERIOD

  • ScoobiJohn

    i dont think anyone denys the software in it will be great once its done – and that the test sorties have been good in controlled circumstances – the problems with the f-35 are more routed in aerodynamics – namely its not fast – got short range, a small payload and its manoeuvring capabilities are debateble

    it might have a smaller rcs than the pak fa – but its packing L-band radar – which should spot the f-35 just fine and the irst should get the target lock – i have a feeling that these aircraft will looks great in peace time but the second we end up in a fight with an enemy that can fight back they will fail catastrophically – hopefully we will manage to avoid that fight though

    • James Brown

      That’s ridiculous. It is my understanding that testing is proving that the Russian and Chinese radars that have been hyped to be so able to detect and track US stealthy aircraft are exactly that, overhyped. The only time any Russian or Chinese radar system will pick up an F-35 is when they carry their ordinance outside the bomb bays. When weapons are inside the bomb bays and the doors are closed the F-35 is the stealthiest aircraft flying, don’t believe everything you read in the negative press about the F-35. Many of those articles are written by people who have always been, and will always be anti F-35 and in many other cases they simply do not understand what the F-35 was actually designed to do and more importantly how the F-35 will go about it’s mission. It is an aircraft so far advanced, with so many more capabilities than any other aircraft flying that new tactics and strategies are being developed to employ it to its greatest effect. The F-35 will engage in tactics never before seen in the history of air warfare, it is a total game changer with the capability to destroy air and/or ground targets with nearly 100% accuracy without ever having to use it’s own sensors, and without the enemy ever knowing an F-35 is in the area. The moment when air defense installations will know they’re under attack is when the first bomb explodes. And Russian and Chinese pilots will get their first Threat Warning that they’re under attack when the F-35’s missile activates it’s own targeting radar, about two seconds before the F-35’s missile destroys his aircraft.

      • ScoobiJohn

        your understanding of russian and chinese radar coming from where ?

        f-35 doesn’t even have an l-band antenna so it isn’t going to be able to jam l-band – and while the l-band wont get a lock it will alert the pilots to a stealth aircrafts presence and rough position – stealth does basically nothing to even crude radar systems operating in the l band – the f-35 runs HOT the IRST will have no trouble locking it up and the new russian missiles have about 100km range advantage over aim -120 – european foces are getting the meteor which will help but by all reports it will bed 20 years before they manage to integrate it with the f-35

        as for f-35 being the stealthiest thing flying well thats bullshit right there the f-22 is an order of magnitude more stealthy by all reports

        also all the sensor integration sounds great – but if your trying to enter an intergrated air defense zone they are going to jam the crap out of that

        and all teh awacs and tankers are going to get blown out of the sky by long range russian missiles

        as for misile warning systems typically they are infra red systems and unlike the f-35 the pak fa can turn quick enough to evade – once a missile is inbound of an f-35 youd be as well to punch out

    • Andrew Pearce

      Most stealth planes are visible at supersonic. Their IR signatures light up due to the friction. The F35 will most likely benefit from a mission WE would launch. Which would most likely be the scenario. The PAK FA is packing a L-band radar but F35 has some very high tech jamming and electronic warfare capabilities. In your scenario to, you forgot to take into consideration the AWAX, mobile radars, etc. All these things are connected and once one system picks up the PAK FA signature, which Indian officials complained about, that F35 can target salvo on him, even if the missile is on the rack of a F15.

      • ScoobiJohn

        until the enemy jams the f-35s coms system which as a high bandwidth system is very easy to do

        • Uniform223

          Given the FACT that NO ONE OUTSIDE OF THE PROGRAM HAS INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE F-35 or really truly knows about how complex and robust the F-35’s communication and integration, I am inclined you are speaking out of your arse.

          • ScoobiJohn

            and you are too – but to assume that a high bandwidth signal and it has to be pretty high bandwidth for all the data sharing its doing in real time, cant be jammed is stupid – short of using point to point laser communications any rf signal can be blocked

            • Mali King

              Oh wait! MADL is a narrow beam point to point LPI network system….similar to a L…A…S….E…R (but in the radio frequency spectrum). Good luck with the enemy ESM/EW systems picking MADL up and jamming it. Seriously, educate yourself before you shoot off your mouth.

              • ScoobiJohn

                you dont need to pick it up to jam it – you just flood the entire spectrum with noise

            • Uniform223

              In the most recent Red Flag event out of Nellis AFB, the airspace was filled with a myriad of EW and even Cyber assets AGAINST the F-35 and even F-22. By all accounts (official and non official) the F-35 did exceeding well. I am not saying the F-35s can’t not be jammed but recent high level exercises and training has shown the F-35 to be far more capable than previous 4th gen aircraft in the same high density settings.

    • Uniform223

      That comment shows what you know. Run along and play your CoD or Battlesfield, grown ups are working.

    • OG_Locc

      “namely its not fast – got short range, a small payload ”

      Where on earth did you come up with this?

      • ScoobiJohn

        jsut do a quick search its top speed eh only 1900km/h compared with the pak fa which is 2400km/h – its range is 2200km compared with 5500 and whiel i grant you its payload is ok if you use wing pylons but that defeats the whole point of the aircraft

        • OG_Locc

          LOL. PAK FA? What are you, 12?

        • Mali King

          Huhuhuhuhu….what a night!

          Do you even know the difference between combat radius and ferry range? I doubt that the PAK FA has a combat radius (a plane usually flies back to its home base…it’s not a one way trip!) of 5500km. Actually give me some of the good stuff you are snorting…..I can believe it then.

          Do you realise that even a fighter aircraft does not fly at its top speed in most instances of air combat? You can flying a PAK FA at its top speed (2400 km/h apparently) all the time like a red hot donkey kong….you will need reheat.. you will run out of fuel quickly. …and then you will crash into someone’s dacha 10 minutes from base. You are definitely not reaching the 5500km “range”. Super cruising at high altitude is more efficient but you still ain’t reaching the 5500km “range”

          • ScoobiJohn

            the cruise speed of the pak fa – 1800km/h that is just 100km/h short of the f-35s MAXIMUM speed with no reheat needed

            and yes i know the difference between range and radius and the RANGE given for the f-35 was 2200km and the RANGE of the pak fa was given as 5500km – so i would assume the combat radius for both aircraft would be about half of that – if that information is wrong well blame google but i dont have access to sukhoi or lockheed’s files

    • displacedjim

      Except of course that with a working bombload it cruises the same (or slightly faster) than our current alternatives, can push to higher speeds for a short while than can our current alternatives, has longer range with that bombload than the large majority of our alternatives (open source seems to show the F-15E has a longer unrefueled radius), and all reports from testing show the F-35 will have outstanding maneuverability. It has a far smaller RCS than Pak-FA will have, its LO will still be extremely effective against small L-band radars on threat fighters of the future, and the F-35 has better IR detection capability than the Pak-FA will, thus maintaining the first look advantage with the F-35 by a long margin.

      • ScoobiJohn

        range 2200km top speed 1900km/h compared to 5500km and 2400km/h – pak fa cruises almost at the f-35’s top speed at 1800km/h – and the stealth will ahve no effect on L-band radar question of physics – the f-35 is just not designed to evade l-band no fighter size aircraft can – and russian irst is more that upto the job of finding the f-35 which has an engine that runs very hot – and top it off in a dogfight the pilot cant see behind him and the every time you try and fire the guns is yaws due to the door opening throwing the aim off

        tests on the f-35 show it has the ability to maintain control at high angle of attack – that does not mean good manoeuvrability – and while its doing that its loosing speed – and considering the pak fa has all moving tails and full 3d thrust vectoring and while not quite canards it does have control surfaces on the leading edge of the engine inlets – all combining to mean the pak fa will destroy the f-35 in manoeuvring

        • Mali King

          Huhuhuhu…..are you trying hard to be a comedian? You are actually succeeding :D

          Wow…let’s see…stealth (especially broadband stealth) have no effect on L Band radars….huhuhu…in other news….the earth is flat and has no gravity. L Band radar still relies on electromagnetic waves (radio frequency spectrum) which can absorbed by RAM/RAS and be deflected away from the receiving unit of the radar by proper shaping. L Band does not work on pixie dust and the PAK FA’s tiny L Band arrays won’t even detect Sergei Bodgan’s little finger. People make the mistake of thinking that the F35 is only X Band optimised… its more like fantastic in X Band and still quite decent in most other radar bands. Lockmart and the US DOD/F35 JPO would not outright admit this (classified and all) but if you read between the lines (I do wonder if you are capable of this) in regards to the F35’s superb performance in exercises against decent simulated IADS…..the non X Band radars didn’t do very well against the F35 to put it mildly.

          Oh wait…..the PAK FA has these things called jet engines……..two of them in fact….high performance units too….which means these engines turn jet fuel into very hot gas especially on reheat…..very hot……like a hot borscht…….oh did you know that the F35 has an IRST too……………………………………yeah, that’s right, the F35 can also locate, track and kill the PAK FA using its IRST (and awesome sensor fusion to boot) too. Didn’t think that one through did you?

          You better tell the Norwegian F35 pilots about problems looking at the aircraft’s 6’0 Clock……they have actually figured out how to do that well and there is this thing called EODAS. Oh wow!!!! You mean the door covering the F35A’s cannon is as big as a tail fin….damn!!! (sarcasm obviously) Hey buddy, have you heard of fly by wire control laws (CLAWS). You can tweak the control laws to counteract any disturbance in the aircraft’s aerodynamics by a relatively small panel.

          Wait, you are telling me good controllability at high angle of attack = it’s a brick/lead sled….damn!!! I knew it. Those Flankers and PAK FAs are lead sleds/bricks!! Seriously though, try telling fighter pilots who have scored kills (simulated or real) in high alpha manoeuvres that their aircraft has a manoeuvrability of a brick….prepared to looked at as if you have Pinocchio’s nose!

          I am sure the PAK FA will have decent manoeuvrability but it ain’t dodging an AIM 120D that just gone active a few seconds away from the aircraft or an AIM 9X which has thrust vectoring itself.

          • ScoobiJohn

            i will grant you ram works on l-band – but – ram is really pretty useless – shape is far more important and you CANT make an aircraft the size of the f-35 stealth in the L-band – the laws of physics say NO! counter intuitively you would need the aircraft to be significantly larger to make it stealth in the L-band

            and while the small size of the antenna on the pak fa will limit its use – i seriously doubt they put it on there if it cant do anything – all it needs is a hint – doesn’t matter how accurate it is – its just an early warning indicator

            yes i know the f-35 has irst – but it is slower and has shorter range missiles than the pak fa – meaning the pak fa can engage the f-35 when the f-35 CANNOT return fire

            as for the gun – well they haven’t managed to make the f-35 shoot straight yet so whats your excuse for that?

            and as for looking behind – yeah if they lean right forward in the cockpit then contort themselves they can see a little bit behind – hardly practical in dogfight – though if in a dog fight in an f-35 they are dead anyway – even lockheed martin agrees with that

            as for the high angle of attack – i didn’t say its a bad thing – i said its the only area where the f-35 is good – the rest it sucks – the sukhois etc also excel in other areas

            and do you know why they have missile lock warning systems? its because yes they can evade missiles – missile kill ratios are actually pretty damn low except in american exercises where they assume firing a missile is a sure thing kill – even newly developed missiles – decades ahead of aim 120 or aim 9 variants dont claim anything like 100% hit probability and thats where the f-35’s tiny weapons bay fails the aircraft – since a even a pure air to air loadout is only 4 missiles

  • sferrin

    LIES!!! LIES!!! PAID SHILLS!!! ;-)

  • sferrin

    “As the displays came alive there were track files and the SA as to
    what everyone else was doing in the airspace, and I was still on the
    ground. I mean, I hadn’t even gotten my take-off clearance yet. I
    didn’t even know where it was coming from. It was coming from another
    F-35. ”

    Okay, that’s pretty cool.

    • James Brown

      That’s an example of how networked the F-35 is. It will be completely networked with the targeting data from every sensor in the battle space, that alone gives the average F-35 pilot far more Situational Awareness (SA) than any other pilots flying. Then there’s the helmet. The helmet has many technologies and capabilities that are kept top secret but rumors in the industry claim that the pilot can manipulate many of the weapon and sensor systems through eye movements. It is true the F-35 is not as maneuverable in a dogfight as aircraft designed to be pure fighters but it still has two major advantages if it finds itself in a close-in dogfight, one is thrust to weight ratio meaning the F-35 pilot will usually enjoy an energy advantage against most opponents and, again this rumored, the F-35 has thousands of micro-cameras imbedded in its skin, these cameras are linked to the helmet and allow the F-35 pilot to never lose eyesight on his opponent, not even if the enemy flies under the F-35 where the structure would block the view, but because of the camera/helmet system the F-35 pilots view is not blocked he can literally see through his aircraft’s structure and keep his eyes on the enemy target. In a close in twisting turning dogfight keeping your eyes on the enemy is one of the most important aspects of the fight and usually determines who wins, there is an old saying amongst fighter pilots that’s been prevalent since the Great War, it goes like this: “Lose the sight, lose the fight”.

    • Cocidius

      Which all sounds wonderful until we hear this from the DOT&E:

      Test pilots have reported their F-35s are creating false multiple tracks when all of their sensors are turned on. For example, when a radar and an infrared sensor detects the same enemy plane, the two sensors display it on the helmet-mounted sight as two enemy planes. The same thing happens when two or more sensors detect the same ground target.

      Test pilots have worked around this problem by turning off all but one of their sensors to eliminate the multiple tracks. DOT&E says this is “unacceptable for combat and violates the basic principle of fusing contributions from multiple sensors into an accurate track and clear display to gain situational awareness and to identify and engage enemy tracks.”

      It is bad enough that each individual F-35 computer struggles to create a clear picture of what is going on in the battlespace for the pilot. But the false target problem is compounded when multiple F-35s try to share data through what is called the Multi-Aircraft Data Link.

      What has been described as one of the F-35’s greatest advantages has yet to live up to expectations—and, to the contrary, has been increasing the pilot’s workload.

      • Mali King

        Cocidius, you just got owned by other posters who know much more than you. Nice try posting poor material. Relying on really old DOT&E reports which are a day late and a dollar short at the best of times or just shitty material. Cat got your tongue?

        I see that you are a fan of the Gripen aka F*cken aka hopped up F5 wannabe…… two can play the same game. Ahh the Gripen/F*cken……pissed on by Swiss voters……used in Mickey Mouse missions over Libya…….the only fighter where your G Suit ejects you instantly (wee!)……crashed twice because SAAB can’t sort out the FBW system like a Swedish Sauna.

        How is the vapourware F*cken E/NG going? Has it even flown or done anything useful yet!!?? And good luck with the F*cken E/NG sensor fusion working perfectly straight out of the gate! Perhaps SAAB can play us more trance/dance music and show random happy Scandinavian models to distract us from the fact that they are still fumbling a product that is suppose to only be an evolution of the F*cken C/D.

        As SAAB says…..We are F*cken pilots (oh cr*p, we are f*cked)

  • Spencerhut

    Thank the maker they like it and it is working for them.

  • Jacopo Siliprandi

    when was the last time pilots ~penetrated contested space and were wildly outnumbered~
    It makes sense to develop a good aircraft that can deal with a less than ideal environment. however there usually is a price to pay and perfection is enemy of good enough.

    • Silent Hunter

      If we’re counting ground assets in the outnumbering calculations, then probably 1999 or at the very least 1991.

    • David James

      I know god, its like, they didn’t have to make it THAT good!

  • Uniform223

    *sits around and waits for comments like these to show up*

    “But but according to the “Dr”. Gilmore, the DOT&E keeps making “reports” that the aircraft and many of its systems are sub-par. He even went on to say that even at block 3F the F-35 still wont be up to full functionality…”

    “According to a flight test report a F-35 lost to an F-16 in a dogfight”

    “Russian and Chinese weapons, systems, and platforms blah blah blah”

    “Stealth doesn’t work, look at ONE F-117”

    “Its too expensive and behind schedule”

    To those people all I have to say is this, “humble pie will be ready in a few minutes”

    • displacedjim

      Such an utterly freaking awesome post that is absolutely right on target. I’d add a few more examples of classic ignorant BS that immediately proclaim the author is a blogchair warrior or retired grunt with no experience calling for CAS within the last 10years–like comments about how there’s no brrrrt, or it’s too slow, or it can’t perform CAS, or the “inventor” of the F-16 sez, or the hook/cooling system/gun/helmet doesn’t work, or it’s one (or more) of the follow codewords: turkey, junk, garbage, lemon, boondoggle, turd, crap, or POS.

    • FoilHatWearer

      I love it. The people who are all jacked up over that report are too young to know the safety record of the F-16 between 1980 and 1989: 107 jets lost and 39 pilots dead. The F-35 has been around that long, have we seen anything like that? Also during the ’80s, Lockheed and the US government were spending millions and millions and millions on fixing design problems. The number of TCTOs (time-compliance tech orders) filled volumes. The F-35 had 7 major issues listed in the DOT&E report at F-35’s IOC (Initial Operating Capability). That would’ve been an absolute dream for the F-16, it had over a hundred.

      If the never-F-35-ers were running things back in 1978, the F-16 would’ve been killed before there was a fleet size of 20. There was no internet back then and whining via snail-mail letter-to-the-editor is not nearly as fun.

  • theworkingclass

    Ugly as the F-35 is, I appreciate that its pilots say it is easy to fly and they like to fly it. It’s usefulness to the country will be measured by its ability to avoid all attempts by Integrated Anti-aircraft Defense Systems to destroy it on its way to its target. And that, of course, remains to be seen.

    • James Brown

      Those air defense systems don’t stand a chance. The F-35 has many systems and capabilities that have not been made public and will not be made so for some time; needless to say, those systems and the fact that when its ordinance is all inside and the ordinance doors are closed the F-35 is the most stealthy aircraft in the world are the reasons no air defense system in the world can defeat the F-35.

    • displacedjim

      Although, of course, all exercises and testing on the ranges we used to simulate threat IADS all show its extreme ability in this regard.

    • James Robinson

      Ugly? The jet looks amazing, like it was sculpted as a piece of art.

  • Don1024

    “The F-35C is doing some great stuff. Making a vertical landing…”
    Umh… he doesn’t know which version of the jet he’s flying??! Or is this an error on the authors part?

  • b2

    Hmmm. Sounds so good and electrified maybe it doesn’t need a pilot? :-)

    C’mon, this is like asking Donald Trump if the Trump Tower is a sound building. The days of test pilots saying- ‘this aircraft is a pig” died by the 1970’s.

    This program has spent 1/2 trillion to date it is too big to be failure and anyone with 1/2 a brain knows it, especially if they are employed in the business like these pilots. I am not calling the F-35B a pig by any stretch but I am always unimpressed by pilots talking about the new digital displays and stuff and how easy it is to fly because of improved electronics technology. Wouldn’t you expect that in any product? As an example, I heard the same about the legacy Hornet back in the 1980’s but little at the time about areas of its performance like persistence and range, until after IOC when it was too late, which were actually regressive and still hurt the fleet.

    But as usual, our warriors will work with what they get and claim to love it. This jet will probably cost upwards of ~ $200 million, closer to the F-22 in todays dollars. Is the taxpayer getting his money’s worth for what it is supposed to replace (AV-8, F-16, F-18C) and for the relative niche mission(s) the USMC will perform with it? Think about it.

    • Mali King

      Except that the F35 actually has decent kinematic performance in go to war configuration (especially in internal carry only configuration… internal and external carry configuration -> the F35 can carry more useful stuff than most fully kitted out (EFTs, jammers, TGPs, ordnance etc) 4th generation fighters) especially in terms of range and persistence.

      Useful whizz bang cosmic networked avionics for the F35….of course! Boom!!! Done!

      And the per unit price of the F35A has already dipped below $100 million….and dropping further

      You have to look at this article about F35B in context. Try vertical landing (in a sim….in real life whatever) an AV 8B and then a F35B…’s night and day!! To a tired Marine Aviator landing back at the LHA after a mission, he/she would prefer to vertically land a F35B all the time….every time! The importance of an easy to vertically land aircraft to an USMC aviator can’t be emphasised enough!

  • David James

    Certainly some of the best news on the F-35…probably ever.

  • su-34

    everything exceptionalistan puts out is exceptional… even junk is exceptional junk, no less
    the corporate/pentagon lying culture has deep roots
    and is lucrative business for the insiders
    will the b-21 be the next big money making machine?

    • Mali King

      You mean as exceptional as the SU 34 landing upside down or having a RCS as big as the Rondina so that when it flies into Turkish Airspace….”shudder”….poor SU 34 air crew!

  • Phil Verhey

    the fact that it’s not been targeted at all by the world’s most advanced air-defence array in an ideal set of three-triangle in an integrated network in 3 years and over a dozen exercises, with dozens of Operational (close air support, penetrative strike and air interdiction), as well as, several loiter to view under the direction of the air defense operators (hey fly here, nope still can’t see you, go here, no, maybe over there? no.. rats).. is not amazing to you?

    or maybe you didn’t know that F-35 variants (primarily the not-as-stealthy-as-the-A-model USMC B model) have been flying vs a set of three PAC3 (latest patriot) since 2013.
    .. in fact it was an early green flag that the system was first tasked operationally for air-defence vs A-10’s, AV-8’s, F/A-18’s, F-16’s, F-15’s and their support aircraft like Rivet joints, Drones, E-2’s and EA-18’s as the exercises continued.
    .. all aircraft that have faired horribly against the Tri-PAC3 network, even when the network is used in parallel to the exercise air-defense system, to just put it out there and see what it can do passively when placed in less than ideal, or bad conditions for it during out-of-tempo flights or parallel testing taking place to take advantage of the presence of assets that are already there.

    to reply to another part of your comment, the Chinese HQ9 & S300 soviet system use not-actually-sealed missiles.. of which the internet is full of failed launches of every type.. it’s also old as hell.
    the S400 is an S300 with an electronics upgrade and different missiles… that is still out-of-date and non-competitive with the PAC3’s physical design, nevermind it’s throughput, computation, and array.

    the S400 is no more capable than the PAC3 and the PAC3 has come up empty in a networked triangle formation with the best conditions and directing the F-35B to fly where the PAC3 wants.

    additionally… the S300 & S400 has been logged and is included in the F-35ABC mission files that is used by the Cognitive Artificial Intelligence to recognise, electromagnetically observe and if requested to actively blind with realtime digital frequency recognition & emission jamming.

    a feature successfully tested an confirmed vs western ground and air based radars, and former soviet radars from countries like Germany, Poland, and the Ukraine.

    Soviet, Russian and Chinese radars are not unknown, they do not use a different set of laws of physics, they are not magic.
    and they’re also decades of development time behind the USA who never took it’s foot off the gas and was already far ahead of the soviet union when it went bankrupt.

  • ScoobiJohn

    you say the l-band wont work – show me one bit of evidence or even a suggestion that the f-35 is in anyway stealth in the the l band – and ground clutter is only going to be an issue if you trying to shoot down low flying aircraft from above and its not about getting a target lock either its about early warning of the presence of stealth aircraft

    as for awacs – well they can certainly back off a bit but with the f-35 appalling range the refueling tankers going to need to be in close

    and the as for missiles i was thinking the k-100 with a 400km range or the r-37

    the 20 years for the meteor…. well yeah i was exaggerating but at the current rate of weapons integration with the f-35 honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if my exaggerated comment turned out to rather closer to the truth – and thats a european missiles anyway and american f-35s wont have them

    and your assumptions of deep penetrating stealth aircraft is built on the myth of stealth – it only makes them low observable to x-band radars thats it – a radar system from ww2 would pick them up just fine – ir systems will pick them up just fine – even heard rumours that the chinese had managed to make a quantum radar work in the lab which renders stealth completely useless even in the x-bands

    stealth is all fine and well but its NOT the only thing you need and it IS the f-35s only stick – its completely useless for everything else – as someone said – cant run, cant turn, cant fight

    as for the pak fa evading missiles – put it this way its got a hell of a better chance at evading than a f-35 – and it can shoot at an f-35 from a lot further away

    i dont see why everyone defends the f-35 so vigorously when even the pentagon thinks its a dog thats not combat capable and probably never will be – and in an article about how great the plane is the only thing they could get pilots to say that was good about the aircraft was that it picked up air traffic control information by itself….well i think that says something

  • Jacob Katz

    The JHMCS is used to acquire off-boresight shots and transfers it to the missile, which takes over after launch. I imagine – but do not know – that the airframe itself can transfer the information as well.