Skip to comments.One of America's Top Allies Has Lots to Say About the F-35
Posted on 04/02/2018 9:01:06 AM PDT by BBell
Within days, Australians will get to see the first of the RAAFs new Joint Strike Fightersjust months after the jets noisiest critics told an inquiry it was a jackass of all trades and masterful of none. Two members of the Air Power Australia group went on to tell the Senate committee the aircraft was a broken and obsolete design, unsuitable for modern combat. The reality, say Australian fighter pilots and senior members of the ADF with intimate knowledge of the JSFs capability, is vastly different.
RAAF chief, Air Marshal Leo Davies, tells The Strategist that while the JSF, now officially the F-35 Lightning ll, has had its problems, it could never have got to the stage its reached if its critics were right. It has flown over 70,000 flight hours, more than 200 jets are flying, the United States Marine Corps has reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC), the US Air Force has gone IOC, the US Navy is about to go IOC, says Air Marshal Davies. Its incongruous to me to hear people suggest it doesnt work. That cant happen. Is it at its peak war fighting design and software load at the moment? No, it has got one more step to come.
The JSF remains a work in progress, but by the time the RAAF buys its aircraft, the next design and software upgrade should be complete and the F-35s will be significantly more capable than Hornets or Super Hornets.
Air Marshal Davies says the results of the intense Red Flag air combat exercise in the US absolutely cement our view that this is the right aeroplane for Australia. US media is talking about a 15:1 kill ratio in favour of the F-35 against older generation fighters in the exercise in which RAAF air crews took part. (Though some commentators have raised questions about the significance of that figure.) The officer responsible for the Australian end of the US-led multinational JSF program says the aircraft will revolutionize the way the nation fights wars far into the future.
The head of the RAAFs JSF Capability and Sustainment Group, Air Vice Marshal Leigh Gordon, says four factors give the F35 is fifth generation edgestealth, sensors, fusion and data sharing.
Two factors stand out. One is the phenomenally powerful cutting edge radar. The other is the distributer aperture system, or DAS, cameras which give the pilot a 360 degree infrared view of the world. The third element is the way all of that information is fused together to give the pilot unparalleled situational awareness.
A fourth element is the JSFs ability to quickly share the vast amount of information it gathers with air, land and naval forces. It will allow us to operate in the high threat environments we will need to operate in if we end up in a conflict.
Air Vice Marshal Gordon is confident that the first of the 72 JSFs on order for the RAAF will be based in Australia by December 2018 and the first operational squadron and a training squadron will reach IOC by December 2020. Three squadrons will be fully combat ready in 2023.
Group Captain Glen Beck has been a fighter pilot all his adult life and is now director of the RAAFs Air Combat Transition Office. He served in Iraq in 2003 as a flight commander and hes trained many of the RAAFs top pilots. The aim, he says, isnt just to see aircraft delivered and hangers built for them but to get to a mature and self-sustaining system with fully trained pilots ready for operations. "With F-35 we are on a massive learning curve." He says RAAF specialists deeply embedded in the program in the US are well placed to identify any problems with the JSF. Two RAAF pilots are in the US instructing international pilots to fly the JSF and three others are training there to become instructors.
"When you compare JSF to other options, when you look out past the 2030s, looking at the global strategic situation and where technologys going, it is the standout choice as the best solution to Australias air power needs. The guys love how it flies. Its very easy to operate."
The JSF is designed for what the pilots call BVRbeyond visual rangecombat but the Australian pilots say it can dogfight as well.
Group Captain Beck says its all about what the fighter pilots call the kill chain. Do I have more options than the bad guys to stay alive longer and then do I have more options to fight than the bad guys? I dont care if they find me if they cant track me and target me. If they do find me, then to track me is a different problem again. But the F-35 has fantastic sensors. I will know they are targeting me and Im not going to do nothing if I think Im being shot at.
Getting the pair of highly advanced, fifth generation jets to the Avalon Air Show will itself be a comprehensive demonstration of aviation logistics. Theyll be flown to Australia by Aussie pilots and frequently topped up along the way by a RAAF KC-30 air-to-air refuelling tanker.
Another officer with an intense interest in ensuring that the JSF works is Army chief Lieutenant General Angus Campbell. He rejects suggestions the F-35 will not be able to provide troops on the ground with effective air support. The JSF is an extremely advanced fighter which has extraordinary and possibly unparalleled capacities in information networking which weve not seen in the ADF before, says Lieutenant General Campbell.
Every soldier on every battlefield through modern history will want, or pray for, control of the air above him. The F-35 gives our soldiers the greatest confidence that they will have air control above them. Im delighted were getting it. Only those who dont have air control above them know the true horror of that environment and I would not want that for Australian soldiers.
Also, much of the hoopla about the F-35 is that it can see further than all or most other aircraft so that it can do a lot of damage by standing off. Thus it is more like an aircraft carrier than a fighter jet.
We could have designed and deployed heavy lifting blimps at a fraction of the cost.
Perhaps partially true, but in reality the F-35 is a quantum leap in aircraft technology that is maturing so rapidly that both the systems and how they are deployed are are a work in progress that can only be fully exploited by having large scale in the field testing and development accomplished by the guys who aptly fly and fight with them.
Since so much of the F-35 is done in software, the evolution of the aircraft will be a constant work in progress of update and refinement until it's retired.
I am old enough to have lived through the acquisition of many weapons systems in my lifetime such as the F-15, F-14, and the Abrams tank.
There was massive hysteria with all of them, especially around the Abrams. They said it was too expensive, it guzzled too much fuel, it would never work in the desert, it couldn’t stand up to combat, it was too easily destroyed, it’s electronics would be unable to operate in combat, and so on.
It has become for the last several decades the finest main battle tank in the world, and combat tested.
No new weapon system comes out of the box and works perfectly, or very few do.
People need to have some perspective on this. People get hysterical saying the F-35 can’t win a dogfight with an F-16.
From hearing the viewpoints of those who fly the F-35, if you end up in a dogfight, you have squandered every single significant advantage you had. They have had to develop new tactics to use the aircraft, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
I remember my hunch on all of the F35 hysterical negative articles...liberals, Obamites, media who want less money spent on defense and want to see our national security damaged...spinning like the media and liberals do.
I believe my hunch was right.
“We could have designed and deployed heavy lifting blimps at a fraction of the cost.”
blimps would be too slow ...
The “Big Lie” has always been the favorite of Mystery Babylon.
“I am old enough to have lived through the acquisition of many weapons systems in my lifetime such as the F-15, F-14, and the Abrams tank. There was massive hysteria with all of them, especially around the Abrams.”
i was just thinking the same thing.
“if you end up in a dogfight, you have squandered every single significant advantage you had.”
like worrying that the bayonets on our combat rifles are inferior ...
The F-35 cant beat an F-16 mantra was based upon initial test flight with a restricted flight envelope. I cant believe people are still parroting that old story.
It isnt like a carrier. Its like a stealth bomber with a Rivet Joint packed inside.
I remember that 60 minutes episode about the Abrams.
Our genius future tellers have goofed on large scales in the past for sure. But I agree with you. I’m still disappointed that the F-22 program was scrapped (sort of).
In our world today, I think we have advantageous technology that don’t fully know how to best utilize. This would include tactics in battle. The Thatch Weave used by WWII fighter pilots was a defense manuever developed because of combat and experience. The F-4 Phantom was a plane designed for one type of combat and deployed for something different. Then we adapted.
Egh. They are.
Problem is, there are people who are bugged out that the F-35 cannot fly circles around older planes.
Probably the same kind of people who complained that a guided missle cruiser with missiles that have advanced seeking and 200 mile range doesn’t have the “Throw weight” of an Iowa class battleship.
I am disappointed as well. As far as a pure air superiority fighter, it has no peer (still) but one has to wonder how many times that tight turning radius is going to come into play.
Does anyone really want a $130 million dollar plane involved in turns and burns with a $50 million dollar plane? Of course not...a pilot who is skilled may gain the upper hand with inferior equipment in any given engagement if the pilot in the advanced platform has a bad day...thinking of his wife, depressed about his advancement prospects, etc.
And if they are in a F-35 in a turning dogfight with a less advanced plane, well...it shows you aren’t having a good day off the bat.
I read where the initial performances of the F-35 in combat scenarios were not distinguished, but it was due to the reluctance (or lack of new tactical knowledge) on how to use the new platform.
I have heard they have been honing and developing new tactics to take advantage of the new technology, and the relative performance in exercises has gone up to what we would expect a 5th generation fighter to obtain against 4th gen or less.
I knew a pilot who had started in the USMC, ended up in the Air Force, and retired in the National Guards, and had flown every fighter in the American inventory since he trained from the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-15 (except the F-117 and the F-22) and I asked him what it was like flying against an F-22.
In his den, he had plaques all over the wall from all the fighter schools and such he had gone to, so he was no slouch, and he said he had flown an F-16 against an F-22, and it was like being “a baby seal”. And he said that quite flatly and definitively.
This does not bode well.
Want to word on F-35s, go to the source - F-35 pilots, nuff said.
“Also, much of the hoopla about the F-35 is that it can see further than all or most other aircraft so that it can do a lot of damage by standing off. Thus it is more like an aircraft carrier than a fighter jet.”
You’re misinformed about the main role of the F-35, which is ground attack. The major point of stealth is to be able to go into heavily contested territory without being shot down. As the Israelis just showed over Iran, the F-35 is quite capable of doing that. Standoff weapons capability is also good for a variety of reasons, and the SDBs with 50+ mile range fill the bill there.
The F-35 will also do well in its secondary, air-to-air role. It has a great long range capability with the AMRAAM, and the AIM-9X Sidewinder gives it a high off-boresight capability. That means the pilot can cue the missile using his helmet, and the missile will turn and acquire that target without the plane having to point at it. Turn performance is much less important given that capability.
The ability for the F-35 to provide targeting for missiles coming from the other platforms is also important. This has already been demonstrated using a ship-launched SM-6 missile.
God’s eye changes everything. It is a giant leap in tech and will be the greatest tool ever delivered to flying warfighters.
Personally, I think they made a mistake replacing the F-111C with the F/A-18E/F/G. A more appropriate replacement in terms of speed, range, payload, and attack capability would have been the F-15E or a variant.
You left out Boeing money and perks.
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