F-35’s kill ratio with Aggressors stands at 15:1 during Red Flag 17-1 (most probably thanks to the supporting F-22…)

Feb 05 2017 - 111 Comments

It looks like the controversial F-35 is holding its own at Red Flag exercise underway at Nellis AFB.

As of Feb. 3 the F-35A had achieved a quite impressive score during Red Flag 17-1, the U.S. Air Force’s premier air combat exercise underway at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, that pits “Blue Air” (friendly forces) against “Red Air” (enemy) in an all-out air war featuring air-to-air, air-to-ground, search and rescue, and special forces elements.

According to the pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill AFB, Utah, who deployed the F-35A Lightning II to the airbase off Las Vegas on Jan. 20 and began flying in the exercise Jan. 23, the type, at its debut in the world’s most realistic and challenging exercise, has achieved a 15:1 kill ratio against the Aggressors, F-16s that replicate the paint schemes, markings and insignia of their near peer adversaries and whose role is to threaten strike packages in the same way a modern enemy would do in a real war.

F-35A Lightning IIs piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare to depart Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 20 for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in a Red Flag exercise. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. This is the first deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

Well, after eight days “at war”, in spite of being “just” IOC (Initial Operational Capable – the FOC is expected next year with Block 3F) the F-35A Lightning II is proving to be an “invaluable asset” during Red Flag 17-01, the Air Force’s premier air combat exercise held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada: its ability to gather, fuse, and distribute more information than any other fighter in history provide the pilot with vital situational awareness that can be exploited to escape (and engage?) highly sophisticated and lethal enemy ground threats and interceptors.

Actually, the extent of the F-22 Raptors contribution to the above mentioned kill ratio is not clear: the F-35s are flying alongside Raptors and, as one might expect, the F-22s take care of the aggressors whilst the F-35s slip undetected through the surface-to-air defenses until it reaches the position to drop munitions at the target.

Considered that the F-22s are providing air cover to the Lightning IIs, is the 15:1 score a team result or the actual kill ratio of the F-35A?

There’s been much debate about the kill ratio of the F-35 made public after air-to-air engagements against other aircraft (namely the F-15E during a similated deployment last year).

“The first day we were here, we flew defensive counter-air and we didn’t lose a single friendly aircraft,” Lt. Col George Watkins, an F-35 pilot and 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a release. “That’s unheard of,” he added.

With the F-35A, pilots can gather and fuse data from a multitude of sources and use the jet’s advanced sensors to precisely pinpoint a threat. Then they can take it out with one 2,000 pounds bomb. It would be impossible for a fourth-generation aircraft to survive such a mission, according to Lt. Col. Dave DeAngelis, F-35 pilot and commander of the 419 Operations Group, Detachment 1.

As of last Thursday, Hill’s Airmen have generated 110 sorties (with 13 aircraft), including their first 10-jet F-35A sortie Jan. 30 and turned around and launched eight jets that afternoon. They have not lost a single sortie to a maintenance issue and have a 92 percent mission-capable rate, said 1st Lt. Devin Ferguson, assistant officer in charge of the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. Legacy aircraft average 70 to 85 percent mission-capable, according to the U.S. Air Force.

An F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

  • Pacemaker4

    might be good in the air…but there are better…and they have a higher readiness rate.
    This plane is a bottomless pit for gov money.

    • veej7485

      so lets go back in time…

  • Big Bogdan

    The Joint Program Office and the Air Force are now discussing the
    possible re-compete of the F-35 program. The original award to Lockheed
    after the competition with Boeing was just for the SDD (System Design
    and Development) contract. That is now winding down to a close, and the
    government is looking at competing the Follow-On Development (FoD)
    contract. The design of the aircraft, the production at Air Force Plant 4
    in Fort Worth, the tooling, and software is government owned. With any
    other administration, this would be madness, but even the thought of a
    Boeing-built F-35 would revolutionize the military-industrial complex in
    this country for generations.

  • StuzaTheGreat

    “costs several times as much as the planes that it is suppose to replace”

    You could replace it with more F15’s but, that isn’t the point of it, it’s about maintaining technical superiority. Second, what’s the cost of the Saudi F15SA’s? Is it a SEVENTH of the cost of the latest batch on order at 100 million USD a unit? Let me see now, how much is a Typhoon, I wonder? Estimates are about 110 million GBP (138 million GBP). Again, where are your “several times”?

  • Mali King

    Has the “mighty” Suckhoy SU 30 and SU 35 defeated enemy aircraft in real combat yet? Nyet???? How disappointing! Ok, I will acknowledge the fact the Suckhoy SU 30 and SU 35 have not faced a real life adversary with a proper air force yet……But wait…..a news flash just occurred for the SU 30……….it has actually recorded kills….of killing ITSELF. Go on…ask the Indian Air Force about their Suckhoy SU 30 MKIs…..how the plane likes to kill ITSELF. Better not burst that tyre on the Suckhoy SU 35 least it kills ITSELF with a fire!

    Frankly, if I had to choose between an up to date/upgraded F16 with all the bells and whistles or a Suckhoy SU 30 with a RCS of the Kremlin and half arsed mission systems to complete any vital mission….I will choose the F16 every time.

    Funny that the Russians never intruded into Turkish Airspace again even with their vaunted SU 30s and SU 35s because they know what Turkish F16s could to them.

    The only time that the Suckhoy SU 30/SU 35 would see a F35 is an AMRAAM or Aim 9X flying through the windscreen or 25mm APEX rounds flying up it six!

  • Joseph King

    “The F35 can look after itself in the air to air arena”.
    Hahahahaha, hell it couldn’t look after itself against a 20+ year old F-16 in a dirty configuration. If the altercation is BVR, they might survive if they ripple off their missiles, do quick 180, light the fire and expedite the conflict arena PDQ. He who turns and runs away lives to fight another day.

    • Mali King

      Let’s see:

      USAF F35As have achieved a 15:1 kill ratio in Red Flag 17-1……FACT…..against some of the best USAF Aggressor F16 pilots and these F35s sure didn’t run away from a fight. Royal Norwegian Air Force and Dutch Air Force pilots have already thrashed F16s in WVR BFM/ACM exercises……FACT.

      The F35 can look itself in the air to air arena PERIOD

      Repeating falsities doesn’t make it true. Repeating the results of a F35 CLAW test (it was not a pure dogfighting exercise PERIOD) does not illustrate the current dogfighting capabilities of the F35. Oh BTW, current (Block 3i) F35s have benefited from that recent F35 CLAW test -> they have updated CLAWs now….fancy that.

  • Joseph King

    External sidewinders, well that makes them extra stealthy doesn’t it.

    • Mali King

      At least the F35 has the option of not carrying external sidewinders thus remaining stealthy. Which a lot of other fighters can’t do buddy. The pilot will have to approach the mission differently/stealthily as well.

  • Raptor1

    Definitely see the point of PREFERRING to use 5th gens, and surbivability differences and all that… What i was getting at was more the. baseline notion that current aircraft simply cannot handle the current threats, especially given the existence of f-22s working in concert with b-2s… Designed specifically to address any iads quickly. We of course want casualties constrained, but there are other considerations / options… I feel a smaller fleet of 35s with massive upgrades of exjsting airframes is a smarter, more lethal, more flexible arrangement… You dont have to build fleet entirely from scratch, and if a true threat emerges, crank up the engine whilebyou utilize the many aircraft u have.

  • Uniform223
  • Powerupgo

    I still see comments about how the F-35 is garbage even with its 15:1 kill ratio. I think that the support for my argument is very sound.

  • Powerupgo

    First of all the price will continue to come down as production increases. The economy of scale will put the cost in the range of many 4th generation fighters. The F-35 had a 8:0 kill ratio against F-15Es. How does that impress you?

  • Powerupgo

    The F-35 is an integration system more than it is just a fighter jet. It is a supercomputer with wings. It is designed to integrate information across the entire battle space and share that information with other systems and troops. It will be able to fire ordinance from other planes like they were carrying them on board. The F-35 is such a paradigm shift that it is really difficult for many people to understand what the F-35 really represents.

  • Powerupgo

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/pentagon-touts-loyal-wingman-for-combat-jets-423682/ This will let you know what they plan to do with a those 4th generation fighters.

  • Renato Dallarmi

    did you have any confrontation with the Typhoon or the Rafal? they should have higher acceleration numbers and turn rates compared to the vipers. At least according to Italian pilots who have been using both (Typhoon and F16, Rafale numbers are similar to the typhoon’s).

  • Holztransistor

    Preschen was closed in 1994. So I’m note sure what to think about your post. The MiG-29s of the Luftwaffe were based in Rostock-Laage after that, yes.

    “They are now named Fighter Wing 73, and are based out of Laage Air Base. ”


    In 2003 the Luftwaffe started to give their MiGs to Poland. In 2004 all 22 planes had been transferred. Poland is still flying them. One MiG is at display in Germany and one crashed in 1996.


    F-35 critics have been embarrassingly proven wrong and misguided. The F-35 had a 20 to 1 kill ratio at Red Flag, exceeded all expectations. Straight from the mouths of generals, pilots, and industry experts, versus random Internet trolls, competing companies, and non-experts.

  • E1 Kabong


    What does the “I” stand for in IOC?

  • E1 Kabong

    So why are they desperately trying to develop their own stealth fighters?

  • Mxpctlk

    BINGO! Until it’s up against real-world peers we’ll never know. All this back-and-forth just rehashes unknowable talking points. Hope it works better than imagined. Hope if the fur flies, we win. Hope the cost domes down and we can afford to buy enough.

  • Redeemed

    When reading such discussions, I never cease to be amazed by all the aviation “experts” offering up their sage analysis, critique and advice. Sure, they’ve never flown the plane – never even laid eyes on it – but that doesn’t stop them from pontificating and making grandiose statements of “fact” … usually to the negative.

  • Cowpocalypse_Now

    Oh yea the F22 is great, unless it rains because F22’s have a problem dealing with rain. Oh and they have an outrageous maintenance record. But let’s just ignore that stuff.

    You can have a super expensive to fly plane that can’t even fly in the rain for the bargain basement price of $340Million per plane. What a deal.