U.S. Air Force instructs airmen on exactly how to praise the F-35
One particular response in the leaked media script directly addresses an earlier leaked memo unearthed and partially published by defense blog War is Boring. In that memo, an F-35 pilot details the many shortcomings (and defeats) of the F-35 when pitted in mock air-to-air “dogfights” with a much older F-16—one of the many older combat jets the F-35 is slated to replace. The memo instructs airmen to repeat the assertion the Air Force made at the time: That the F-35 is designed to attack stealthily from a distance rather than up close, and that the mock air-to-air trials in question weren’t even designed to evaluate the F-35’s dog-fighting skills (the editors at War is Boring who saw the leaked memo say otherwise).
The F-35’s latest problem? The ejection seat.
Four years before Pentagon officials discovered potentially life-threatening problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s ejection seat, a top official warned in an urgent memo that the escape system should be more thoroughly vetted before pilots were trained on the plane.
In an unsolicited dispatch to the top defense officials overseeing the $400 billion F-35 program, J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, said he was concerned that training flights would proceed even though the ejection seat system had not been fully tested.
His warnings were rejected by Pentagon brass, who pressed on with the controversial program, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Post. But a series of recent tests revealed serious problems with the jet fighter’s escape system, the Pentagon acknowledged this month, creating potentially hazardous circumstances, especially for lighter-weight pilots.
…The latest setback for the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history has concerned some members of Congress who wondered why testers are still finding significant flaws in a fighter jet that has been in development for about 14 years.
…The issue, another in a long list with the F-35, is in part the result of how the program was structured. Instead of developing a new plane and then buying it, the Pentagon committed to the plane while it was still in the development phase, meaning problems would still be discovered and there would be costs to fix them. For years, critics have lambasted defense officials for going this route, saying they violated a central tenant of weapons procurement: “Fly before you buy.”
The $350m F-35 recently lost out to an F-16, but new footage reveals its ‘hidden’ 20mm wing cannons in action, showing off its firepower – although the software need to use them won’t arrive until 2019.
By now the Pentagon should be well aware of the JSF’s shortcomings. The F-35’s limited weaponry was one of the major problems that a controversial simulation highlighted back in 2008.
In the Pacific Vision war game, which the California think-tank RAND conducted on behalf of the Air Force, F-22s and F-35s lost a simulated aerial battle over the Taiwan Strait.
Two dozen Chinese J-11 fighters brought nearly 250 long-range missiles to the mock fight. The same number of F-35s carried fewer than 100 AIM-120s. Beijing’s jets easily overwhelmed the Americans. And the J-11 isn’t even China’s best fighter.
F-35 fighter makers leap to its defence after it loses dogfight to 1970s jetThe Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have defended the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after it lost a mock dogfight with an old F-16, saying report of encounter is ‘misleading’
The £620bn F35 was seemingly no match for the vintage F16 (right)
By Alan Tovey, Industry Editor
7:00PM BST 03 Jul 2015
An extraordinary defence of the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been issued by the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, the lead company building the jet.
The response came after influential military blog “War is Boring” published a story claiming the new “5th generation” jet – which Britain is buying a fleet of – was unable to beat a 1970s design F-16 “4th generation” fighter in a mock dogfight.
The blog said it had seen a report from the F-35 test pilot on the exercise, explaining how his jet was too sluggish to get the older jet in his sights, and unable to manoeuvre out of the way when the F-16 targeted him.
“The defeated flier’s five-page report is a damning litany of aerodynamic complaints targeting the cumbersome F-35,” said War is Boring.
The F-35 is intended to replace a host of different aircraft, with the stealthy new design able to carry out a wide variety of roles, from air-to-air combat to close air support of troops on the ground.
However, the $1 trillion (£620bn) project has suffered a host of delays, cost over-runs and technical problems. One of the most embarrassing of these came at the 2014 Farnborough air show when the F-35 was due to make its much-heralded UK debut but was grounded due to an engine fire .
“When a 4th generation fighter encounters the F-35 in a combat scenario, the 4th generation fighter dies”
F-35 Joint Programme Office
Now the jet’s backers have hit back at the report, saying it does not tell the full story about the exercise, which took place in January.
The F-35 Joint Programme Office issued a statement saying that the F-35 used was one intended only to test the aircraft’s flying qualities, and not equipped with the high-tech systems front-line models will have.
Belly up: The F-35 is a ’5th generation’ fighter boasting stealth technology
“[The F-35] did not have the mission systems software to use the sensors that allow the F-35 to see its enemy long before it knows the F-35 is in the area. Second, it did not have the special stealth coating that operational F-35s have that make them virtually invisible to radar,” the statement said.
“Third, it is not equipped with the weapons or software that allow the F-35 pilot to turn, aim a weapon with the helmet, and fire at an enemy without having to point the aeroplane at its target.”
It added that while the close-in dogfight allowed the F-35 to be tested on the edge of its handling limits, it was not the type of combat the jet was intended for and the results were “misleading”. How the report emerged in the media was also being investigated, it said.
“The F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot, and kill its enemy from long distances, not necessarily in visual ‘dogfighting’ situations,” the statement said. “There have been numerous occasions where a four-ship flight of F-35s has engaged a four-ship flight of F-16s in simulated combat scenarios and the F-35s won each of those encounters because of its sensors, weapons, and stealth technology.”
Old timer: The F-16 Fighting Falcon was introduced in 1978
While Lockheed Martin is the lead company in the massive project, which is expected to see about 3,000 of the jets sold to a variety of nations, BAE Systems is the only first-tier partner. The UK defence group makes about 15pc of each aircraft, producing the after part of the jet at its plant in Samlesbury, Lancashire.
Lockheed Martin also defended the F35’s performance in the test.
“An F-35 with its 5th generation stealth technology, full sensor suite and unsurpassed situational awareness is superior to any 4th generation aircraft flying today,” the company said.
“As many military leaders from across the globe have stated on numerous occasions and we fully endorse – when a 4th generation fighter encounters the F-35 in a combat scenario, the 4th generation fighter dies.”