7 thoughts on “The F-35”

  1. I still remember the days reading Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman’s nonsense of how the plane would never work. At some point, it became a bit to obvious that he had given up being an impartial critic and was just totally bias against the aircraft. I reached that point before the “F-16 beat the F-35” stories. Even that story had to hide the fact that the F-35 was still early in the test regime, and the point of the test was to learn how the F-35 would eventually dogfight. The software wasn’t even set up for a fully capable fight.

    It’s fun reading the various stories, but I’m not sure how much better they are than Sweetman’s opposite view. They are from the pilots, but a few are paid advocates. The Lt. JG could be the most interesting, but then reading him; he’s still in the initial pilot learning curve trying to go from a T-45 trainer to a powerful combat jet. A T-38 is a different beast to its more powerfully engined F-5, and neither is a F-16 or F-35.

    I’m advocate for the aircraft mostly because of this claim, which isn’t how I would have worded it, but I think it is the same sentiment: “The F-35 enables the U.S. Air Force to be a more integrated force. For example, in my squadron, Americans, Italians, and Norwegians work together and teach each other. Flying the same jet builds a stronger joint and coalition team and makes us more capable as a NATO unit.”

  2. I’m not worried about the F-35 until someone moves or replicates all its integrated sensors into a highly maneuverable stealthy platform. In metrics like sustained subsonic turn rate it comes out better than the F-4 or F-105, but perhaps not quite as well as the F-8 Crusader. Perhaps that metric is no longer useful due to vastly more advanced missiles, and of course post-stall and other crazy maneuvering is a completely different story.

    It may perform outstandingly against near-peers and penetrating hostile airspace, but for some limited but routine roles like intercepting errant fighters, it would have to forego most of its combat advantages so it can show the flag. It’s possible that it would actually be worse than F-15’s and F-16’s for that kind of intercept since it will actually have to get very close before the other pilot knows that he’s been intercepted.

    What would I do if I was an out-of-the-box thinker with a large budget and an eye to quickly building a pure air-superiority platform? I would take the front section of the F-35, with all its existing systems, and marry it to a pair of F-135 engines instead of just one, then resize the wing, tail, and landing gear.

    In absolute performance, it’s pretty much just replacing the front half of an F-22 with the front half of an F-35, while upgrading the engines for 20% more thrust.

    The larger airframe, with copious volume in between the engines, would remove a whole lot of design pressures on both fuel and internal payload, and the super-cruise performance should be outstanding.

    It would be a dramatically larger jump in performance than the Navy got from the F-18E/F, yet with even more commonality because it would be using the exact same forward section, radar, electronics, cockpit, and the same engines. The production cost would be about the same as the F-35 except for the extra engine, probably adding $10 to $15 million to the price. It should certainly be cheaper than restarting the F-22 production line, while producing a superior aircraft due to more recent advances in stealth, sensors, computer power, information integration, and helmet displays.

    But most importantly, a fighter called the Lightning should have two engines, just like a P-38 Lightning or the English Electric Lightning, so I think they’re kind of obligated to go forward with my idea.

    1. The F-35 is crippled by the demand for VTOL, which really means it must have a single engine. If you have two engines in a VTOL like that, and one fails, you probably end up in a snap roll that kills you before you can react.

      1. I don’t think you could make the twin configuration VTOL because of the mechanics of the shaft, gearbox, inlet, and lift fan. If the twin is laid out like a convention twin fighter, the F-135 driveshaft and gearbox would be right in the middle of the inlet airstream and the fan would just blow air from the roof of the inlet and out the bottom of the inlet, and most of the air might just get sucked into the engine itself.

        It would take a very serpentine inlet to get the gearbox out of the airstream, and then some strange mechanics to get the shaft output to a useful place to mount a lift fan.

    2. “It’s possible that it would actually be worse than F-15’s and F-16’s for that kind of intercept since it will actually have to get very close before the other pilot knows that he’s been intercepted.”
      This is more of an ROE than design problem. Most likely if you’re requiring this type of intercept, you’re probably getting within visual range to verify what kind of aircraft you’re dealing with. And if you’re in a high threat environment, you shouldn’t be requiring this. You use stealth and lock on with AIM-120s before he knows. OTOH, with the excellent datalink in the F-35s I imagine you could have some of both worlds, one pair of fighters comes to visual range to verify the target and possibly escort him from your airspace, another stays unseen further away ready fire missiles if tries something.

  3. From what I’ve read, planes like the F-4 Phantom II were pretty demanding to fly. They had a two man crew so the pilot could concentrate on flying the plane and tactics while the GIB (guy in back, AKA weapons systems officer) operated the radar and related systems. The F-4 didn’t have much in the way of stability augmentation and was weakly positive or even neutral stable in pitch. It took a good pilot to get maximum performance out of a Phantom.

    With the advent of 4th generation planes like the F-15 and F-16, a single pilot could do the missions because the plane was easier to fly than an F-4, freeing the pilot from the mechanics of flying and letting him (or her) concentrate on performing the mission. Between fly-by-wire and advanced cockpit automation, the Eagle or Viper pilot could do it all alone.

    The F-35 is reportedly even easier to fly than the F-16. That’s good, because the amount of situational awareness information flowing into the cockpit from all the sensors would be overwhelming otherwise. The easier a plane is to fly, the more brainpower the pilot can devote to the mission. That’s a good thing.

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