The New Era of Good F-35 Feelings by W.W.

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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Prinz_Eugn

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Unread post05 Jun 2013, 22:38

Part I of II (if I get around to Part II). Kudos for asking real questions... we get a lot of random fanboys who've read a couple articles about the F-35 and decided it is the worst thing ever without really questioning the reasoning.

Meanwhile, it is my understanding that the F-35 is expensive, dramatically behind schedule, the situational awareness capabilities are proving extremely difficult to integrate, while compared to other aircraft, the F-35 is heavy, lacking in turn speed, acceleration, and rate of climb relative to planes like the F-15 and F-16 (and F-18?), and suffers from serious visibility limitations without the aid of on board sensors. It is also considered a major downgrade for air to ground support over the A-10.


The F-35 is more expensive than planned and running behind schedule... but that's actually pretty normal for DoD programs and aircraft programs worldwide. Whenever you're developing a bunch of new technology and then shoving into something as basically complicated as an airplane, you're going to run into unforeseen problems. In terms of absolute cost, it's not as crazy as it looks because the entire program is really three aircraft rolled into one, and each individual aircraft can do more stuff better than the ones it is replacing. The big cost numbers you see are basically nonsensical because everything remotely related to flying airplanes is included in the lifetime cost, times 50 years of uncertain assumptions about everything from what future upgrades could be to the cost of gas.

The SA isn't easy to integrate, but the nice thing about software is that once it's done it's easy to promulgate throughout the fleet since it's 0's and 1's, not physical hardware that has to be manufactured and installed.

The performance issues are generally overblown for several reasons. The first one is that older aircraft suffer a significant performance penalty when carrying external ordnance and fuel which isn't represented when comparing most stats you can find online. An F-35 basically maintains more of its basic performance with a standard load than older aircraft which have to start hanging things on the outside to go very far or shoot anything. Secondly, the performance isn't really that bad in the first place- somewhere between an F-16 and F-18 in terms of turn performance IIRC and much faster in real-world conditions since it will not need to carry external ordnance or fuel. Thirdly, raw performance is less important than who see sees who first in combat and who can shoot first- ideally you engage the enemy before they know you're there. That, the F-35 will be very, very good at.

Visibility isn't a huge issue since in reality it's probably not bad at all, just worse than airplanes like the F-16, which it would be hard to improve upon (being like flying a pencil, or so they say). The SA technology once mature will more than nullify any lack of actual visibility through the canopy.

The A-10 thing is a little more complicated. Personally I think it's just a political thing naming the A-10 as one of the aircraft the F-35 is replacing. No one is expecting the drop the F-35 in for an A-10 and have it do the same thing, which is why the A-10 isn't slated for actual retirement until 2028 or later. That being said, CAS has evolved considerably in the past 10 years. Nowadays it's pretty common to have the aircraft loitering at high altitude, looking at the target area with a pod and uploading GPS coordinates generated by the guys on the ground. For a lot of missions you don't need to be weaving around ridges and a big ol' gun for strafing lines, although the F-35 incidentally has a pretty good gun compared to everything except the A-10 (25mm vs 30mm, compared to 20mm on most US fighters). Honestly, I think the A-10 is more likely to be functionally replaced by a combination of UAVs and ground-based smart munitions than the F-35.
"A visitor from Mars could easily pick out the civilized nations. They have the best implements of war."
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count_to_10

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Unread post05 Jun 2013, 22:47

Further, old-school A-10 style, really close CAS is probably going to be done in the future by things like this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AeroVironment_Switchblade
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popcorn

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Unread post06 Jun 2013, 00:45

rotosequence wrote:As a latecomer to the long running F-35 drama, I'm having a hard time acquiring an objective view of the aircraft; there's a great deal I fundamentally do not understandl.


These will help get you started on the road to understanding, grasshopper..
he jet's ability to create synergy within the force structure tends to get overshadowed by it's individual tehnological features and innovations IMO.

http://www.sldinfo.com/whitepapers/the- ... y-fighter/
http://www.sldinfo.com/whitepapers/flyi ... cture-cop/
http://www.sldinfo.com/whitepapers/the- ... -built-in/
http://www.sldinfo.com/whitepapers/the- ... or-fusion/
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XanderCrews

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Unread post06 Jun 2013, 06:59

Prinz_Eugn wrote:No one is expecting the drop the F-35 in for an A-10 and have it do the same thing,


I expect the F-35 to do more, like fire AMRAAMs or exceed 400 knots or not be restricted in areas with suspected SAMs :lol:
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gtx

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