Here’s The Video Of The First Aerobatic Flight Demo Of The F-35: Does It Showcase Exceptional Maneuverability Or Quite The Opposite?

Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Billie Flynn just performed his first F-35A Flight Demo At Paris Air Show. Did he “crush years of misinformation about what this aircraft is capable of doing” as promised?

Set against a brilliant French sky with puffy cumulus clouds Lockheed Martin’s star test pilot Billie Flynn thrilled the crowd at Le Bourget Airport outside Paris, France today as he wheeled and tumbled his F-35A Lightning II through an aerobatic demonstration some critics claimed was nearly impossible.

The performance included low speed, high angle of attack maneuvers, tight turning, numerous rolls and maximum performance climbs that would silence the critics who said the F-35 could not dogfight and “crush years of misinformation about what this aircraft is capable of doing“.

While the F-35’s advanced sensor and integration avionics are designed to win the fight long before the “merge” of aerial combat into visual dogfighting range, this demonstration aimed to show the controversial Joint Strike Fighter can hold its own in a knife-fight with the Sukhois, MiGs, Chengdus, Shenyangs and other likely adversaries.

At the 2:00 mark in the video test pilot Flynn positions the F-35A at show left and performs a high-alpha, ultra low speed pass, standing the Lightning II on her tail and dancing across the Paris sky as the aircraft’s twinkle-toed elevators maintain stable flight on a boiling cushion of thrust from her growling Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. It is a spectacular sight. Enough to silence the skeptics? Hard to say. Most probably not enough, considered what people are used to see when a 4th Gen. aircraft or the F-22 are able to do during an airshow routine.

Returning to lower altirude in the demonstration box, Flynn performs a maximum performance, high-G turn with afterburner similar to what we’ve seen with many other demos. This version of the flight demonstration does not feature the open weapon bay doors as with the F-22 demo we’ve seen many times. One of the F-35A demo routines does include a pass with the weapons bay doors opened.

Honestly speaking the new PAS 2017 routine seems to be more dynamic than expected. But in terms of instantaneous and sustained turn rates the F-35 does not seem to match the performance of the famous super-maneuverable Sukhois, Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen or Rafale (to name but few).

Still, the unique features of the JSF are its stealth design, sensor fusion capabilities and unmatched SA (Situational Awareness): that is to say all the ingredients for success in modern air-to-ground operations. Comparing the F-35 to an F-22, Typhoon or even F/A-18 in terms of energy-maneuverability is probably wrong and misleading.

So, let us know what are you thoughts after watching this demo:

a) do you think it’s more than enough considered that the aircraft will probably never be engaged in a Within Visual Range dogfight?

b) it’s rather disappointing because super-maneuverability remains a key to succeed in modern scenarios?

You judge.

Top image: file photo of the F-35 Heritage Flight Team’s F-35A validation flights on July 5, 2016.



About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. Interesting… did the issue on the F22 involve the same political and financial dimension as the F35’s program? Not at all. The bigger the stake, the bigger the control on the pilots… at least, it seems to be a sound assumption.

    “they are obviously beholden to Dassault and The French Air Force….see what I did there…”
    Ho yes, I see clearly: you compared two incomparable situations. The Rafale program was never pointed out for its uncontrolable cost that would endanger the entire Air Force, and therefore it was never involved in any kind of political argument such as the one surrounding the F35. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to expect that pilots should be controlled as to what they say, at least not beyond classic control of classified information. When it comes to the F35, I definitely expect complete totalitarian pressure to protect the program. Which in itself means the USAF brass are confident in it. But then, how come they’ve never been able to convince the most competent and patriotic politicians in Congress defense commissions, who are all capable to not leak classified data? Maybe because the classified data isn’t that convincing?

  2. Fair points…low and slow is the last thing a F35 pilot wants to do! That said…a lot more CAS is done from medium altitude nowadays.

  3. The Qatari F15 sale has been approved (by the US) and will go ahead. I guess the Qataris are hedging their bets with a US and non US tacair platform.

    About the Rafale M being a 120% (capability wise) of a Super Hornet…..a lot of Super Bug fans would disagree with that! Lol :P

    • They would certainly. As I see it, the problem with the Super Hornet is that it requires a larger carrier than the Rafale. It’s a slightly bigger aircraft, and it needs powerful catapults too. I believe the Rafale has a slight advantage both in terms of ordnance weight and range, but it isn’t very significant.

  4. Interesting! I stand corrected. Just for my knowledge, when did the Gerfaut VTAS enter actual operational service with the French Air Force (for its Rafales)?

    I believe the Scorpion HMCS was originally developed by Gentex, an American company (probably sold the Scorpion product line to Thales Visionix).

    The F 35 HMD system is being developed and build by VSI (Vision Systems International. A joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems).

    In terms of the joint French and German future stealth fighter, let’s see if the project gets off the drawing board first.

    • I think the Gerfaut system started being fitted with the Standard F3 , which was developed from 2004 and saw the first aircraft delivered in 2009.

  5. The J20 may very well be relatively competitive, price wise, on the export market. But I believe the Chinese government are building J20s solely for domestic needs at this point in time and are developing the FC 31 as the export “5th” generation fighter.

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