Q&A session with an F-35C naval aviator

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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Dragon029

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Unread post17 Dec 2018, 15:39

On the 16th of December, a flight sim community on Reddit had a live Q&A session on their Discord server with "Gregory Brett", a naval aviator who has flown the Hornet, Super Hornet and F-35C.

The Q&A lasted about 2 hours and a ton of questions of various topics were asked. What I've done since then is gather up the 60 questions that seemed to pertain to the F-35C and the future Carrier Air Wing.

The questions and answers were essentially limited to non-combat aspects of the jet (for obvious OPSEC reasons), but there are some interesting tidbits in there (like where is personal gear stored in the cockpit?). Note too that one or two questions in there were ambiguous as to which platform he was talking about (like #41 about flap settings when aerial refuelling), but I've left them in as they likely either pertain to all 3 aircraft types, or the F-35C (which I would imagine is his current platform).

Also, obviously all of these statements from Brett are of his own opinions and views, and should not be interpreted as those of the US Navy or US government.
  1. Question: Out of everything that you've flown, what is the most fun to fly?
    Answer: The most fun I would say is the Legacy Hornet. Just a blue collar working man’s jet, super snappy, super agile, she'll do anything you ask of her!
  2. Question: From a human factors perspective, what does the F-35C do better than the F-18E? What does it do worse?
    Answer: The cockpit is much more ergonomic and roomier, the displays are completely customizable, the sidestick is what I prefer. Some things it doesn’t do as well as far as HF, you can’t pee easily in the jet, and it’s hard to enter data while taxiing.
  3. Question: F/A-18 or F-35?
    Answer: The two jets are apples and oranges. To just fly around and rage, F/A-18. To go downtown, F-35. Just my personal opinion. Both are a ton of fun to fly and very capable.
  4. Question: What's your biggest pet peeve about the F-35?
    Answer: Biggest pet peeve is that the jet is still immature. You sometimes have to troubleshoot by shutting the jet down and turning it back on. Once its mature, that won’t be a problem! It really is a great jet and that doesn’t happen often.
  5. Question: How does it feel to fly an immature jet in that case, is it uncomfortable?
    Answer: The jet is safe to fly, it's not IOC yet in the Navy. That's what I meant by immature. It's still an airplane, it’s just not the final product yet. I wouldn’t fly an unsafe plane and maintenance wouldn’t let me.
  6. Question: As someone who only really ever hears people talking about how much of a cost overrun it is, I want to ask how you, as an actual pilot, find the F-35? How does it handle in comparison to the others jets you have flown, and how do all the sensors work to help the pilot?
    Answer: I find the F-35 to be a great jet. It's super high tech. It's like flying a Tesla. It is a very well handling plane. It is as easy to fly as a Hornet (which itself is very easy to fly). The sensor fusion is great because I have a one stop shop for all my information on the glass, rather than checking multiple screens at once.
  7. Question: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the F-35C?
    Answer: I believe the biggest misconception is that it is built to be a dogfighter.
  8. Question: You mentioned sensor fusion, how important is the sensor fusion functionality when flying and what things could be improved in it?
    Answer: I can't get too deep into mission systems. SF is an important system for building SA in the cockpit.
  9. Question: I've heard and read several comments by claimed USN pilots saying that the F-35C is an afterthought compared to the A and B variants, and that various issues resulting from its not being designed for USN carrier used first and foremost make it less suitable to the USN's needs than the Super Hornet. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that the F-35C will be well-adapted to carrier operations?
    Answer: The F-35B model was the tough problem to solve for engineers (and they solved it well!) that drove much of the design. The C model I think is awesome because it has a better wing (in my opinion) and more gas than the A model. It's been out at sea and doing an awesome job so far. I believe it will do great while integrated in the carrier airwing, especially as experience grows.
  10. Question: What kind of opinions do you tend to see on the F-35C from your peers from the Hornet / Rhino worlds?
    Answer: I see a lot of excitement (with a few skeptics).
  11. Question: The F-35A has reportedly started to get the nickname “Panther”; I’ve also heard that during some developmental carrier trials the names “Reaper” and “Raven” have been floated for the F-35C but not gone far. Do you think the Navy might adopt “Panther” or is there another nickname that’s gathering traction in the Navy? (What do you think suits the jet?)
    Answer: The callsign for the VFA-101 F-35C squadron is "Reaper". Air Force adopted Panther. We jokingly call it the "C Panther" (Sea panther...get it?) but not really. Thats not catching on with us. We call "lightning ball" at the boat.
  12. Question: I have read about the plane being "see-through" with cameras and the visor working to enable the pilot to build more Situational awareness. Can you explain how this works, briefly, and how it is being used by the pilot?
    Answer: the helmet uses the distributed aperture system (DAS) to feed IR image to the visor. You can turn this on and off with HOTAS. It is great for an alternate to night vision, and to enhance your SA.
  13. Question: Why do you hate the F-35B so much. What did that poor thing do to deserve it?
    Answer: No comment on the B model on here. It is a marvel of engineering; I will say that.
  14. Question: How do you feel for the future of the F-35 being the replacement of the Hornet on the boats in the sea? Given its current state and budget in the program it's in and the capabilities it will supposedly bring.
    Answer: The F-35C is the future. The Hornet is old. It needs to go. There’s a reason we don't fly the F-4 and A-6 anymore...technology advances and requirements change.
  15. Question: Does the F-35C do direct lift or pitch pointing? What about direct sideforce or yaw pointing?
    Answer: Ok so Magic Carpet (now called PLM "Precision Landing Mode") does 3 things. 1) New HUD Symbology 2) Integrated Direct Lift Control (IDLC) 3) two new modes of flying the plane. To address each of these:
    1) The HUD now has a SRVV (Ship referenced (relative?) Velocity Vector). It takes into account the ships speed (which you enter) and the angled deck...it does the Trig for you and now you place the VV directly onto the landing area and that's where you will go. Additionally, there is a GRL (glideslope reference line) that you line up with the IFLOLS with a centred ball. I don't really pay as much attention to that one.
    2) IDLC...this is where the magic is. When you enter PLM, the jet is now in a new control law. The FCS uses ALL the flight control surfaces to deflect to give you instantaneous lift creation and lift destruction. With the Flaps at Half or Full, they will not default to all the way down. They will leave wiggle room to deflect. If you watch a PLM pass, you will see the flight controls moving like crazy, In the Rhino it even kind of looks like a bird flapping its wings.
    3) 2 new modes. PLM is flown in autothrottles. One is called Rate (APC in the F-35). This is where you pull the stick for instantaneous lift creation (or push for the opposite) and where ever you let go is where the jet will go. So if you push from 3 degrees to 4 degrees, it will stay at 4 degrees. The truly awesome mode is called Delta Path (DFP in the F-35). This is a glideslope on a spring. When this is engaged, the stick will set to a 3.5 degree glideslope (or whatever the IFLOLS is set to; you can change it). When you pull back on the stick, you will feel resistance and the ball will rise. When you let go, the jet snaps back to the perfect glideslope. The opposite for pushing to get lower.
  16. Question: The Navy has talked about plans to (15+ years from now) replace the Super Hornet with an “F/A-XX”. With mind of budget constraints, what would you personally like to see a Rhino replacement look like or prioritise (speed, stealth, sensors, payload)?
    Answer: I'd have to use my imagination a bit for that one. I would like it to have integration with all national assets, tons of gas and weapons carried internally, stealth, and speed. Supermaneuvrability is not a necessity but would be nice. That's a tall order for the engineers, so good luck.
  17. Question: Would you rather fight a horse sized F/A-18C or a dozen duck sized F-35Cs?
    Answer: No comment.
  18. Question: Follow up, can you use IDLC outside the PLM?
    Answer: You can in the F-35, in the landing configuration, but not nearly as dramatically or intentionally.
  19. Question: How do you see the proliferation of unmanned systems affecting the carrier air wing? Do you think the MQ-25 open the door to stealthy strike UCAVs? How much opposition (to adding unmanned systems) is there from the naval aviator community?
    Answer: There is not much opposition now because it is not that imminent. Personally, I love the idea of an unmanned tanker. That way you don’t put hours and fatigue on the Rhinos for a non-tactical mission.
  20. Question: Has anyone tried to use IDLC in BFM/ACM yet?
    Answer: You don’t just "use" IDLC; It doesn’t work that way. You fly what the FCS gives you.
  21. Question: What is in your opinion the strong point of the F-35 over its competitors (Rafale, Gripen, etc).
    Answer: By far its the fact that it can go into contested environments. That is no-kidding true. Combine that with the F-35C that has a ton of gas and minimal drag... it can be used on a contested strike where other jets can’t go.
  22. Question: Do you prefer the almost all digital cockpit controls (big touchscreen up front) of the F-35 or the traditional mix of digital displays and physical controls? If any, what are some things that you find traditional cockpits do better?
    Answer: Some things I do like about physical controls knobs and switches. Many of the old switches from the Hornet got replaced by pushing a button on the glass. I like that because it cleans up the cockpit, but I do miss the old Hook Handle and Probe Switch. That said, there is no flap switch! Just like in the F-16.
  23. Question: In one of the interviews with Mike Dozer (F-15C Pilot), he mentioned that pilots usually shoot 2 missiles at a single target to up the pK. Does this also apply nowadays to you and the Navy?
    Answer: Logically, more missiles improves your odds. Can’t say more than that.
  24. Question: What are your thoughts on the risk of single-engine aircraft in blue-water operations? Has engine tech progressed far enough that this isn't a major problem for the F-35?
    Answer: The single engine originally gave me pause. That said, I have complete confidence that it is suitable for carrier and blue water ops. The tech is THAT good. I flew routinely 100-200 miles off shore in training without a second thought. Or even a first thought. Two engines are nice, and I would take it if it were possible. But this is the plane we have, and It's proven to be exceptionally reliable. I have additional reasons to believe that but I can’t get into it here.
  25. Question: Do you have any interesting stories, about your F-35C flying experience (in training missions, etc), that you can share?
    Answer: Not that I can share at this time.
  26. Question: The [F-35C] touch screens - are they capacitive touch screens? how well do your flight gloves interact with them? Do you need specific flight gloves for the touch screen functionality? same question goes with the UFC on the Super Hornet.
    Answer: For the PCDs on the F-35, not sure if they are capacitive or not. I didn't wear gloves (whoops). For the UFCD on the Rhino, it is a plane of light about 1/8 inch off the surface. Depending where you break the light determines what button you hit. Gloves or no gloves and it works.
  27. Question: How were you able to be selected to fly the F-35C? or did you sign up on some roster?
    Answer: I had a list of possible assignments after one of my tours for what I wanted to do next. F-35 pilot is what I put at the top of my list.
  28. Question: Do you miss the HUD on the F-35C?
    Answer: I actually like the HMD vHUD. It works the same way, its super high tech. It's great.
  29. Question: What is your opinion of automated/semi-automated carrier landing avionics (magic carpet and the like)?
    Answer: Magic Carpet is NOT automated. You are still flying the plane! ACLS Mode 1 is an auto-land. I think PLM is a great tool that increases safety
  30. Question: Have F-35C (and/or B) squadrons had the chance to do their equivalent of Hornet Ball / cruise videos? (Obviously they'd be for internal viewing only for now). Is there a "Lightning Ball" moniker for those videos / events?
    Answer: You won’t see any in cockpit GoPro footage or camera footage of 5th gen aircraft. The F-35C is included in the west coast ball.
  31. Question: Do the Super Hornet or F-35 use tactile "display" systems (i.e. information can be displayed to the pilot via the sense of feeling, presumably by means of the flight suit)? What are your thoughts on it, whether hypothetically or from experience?
    Answer: I have no experience of that, nor does anybody that I Know. That said, I think it could be useful during the administrative portions of flight, but more distracting in the tactical phases. Again, just an opinion.
  32. Question: I know you're F-35C, but for the A model (and pod on the others), if you could trade in the gun for a single AIM-9X, would you? How about a twin 9x installation?
    Answer: It depends on the mission. I think I would most want the gun for strafing the ground, personally. That's just me though. So for a mission where I may strafe, I'd want the gun. If it was A/A, I may do without the gun, depending on the mission planning factors. Just personal opinion.
  33. Question: Did you ever have a chance to exercise in TOPGUN or Red Flag?
    Answer: Topgun is not something you exercise in. It is a school for training "patchwearers" and an institution that develops and writes up tactics. Only a small percentage go. That said, I have gone to Fallon, where TG is, and do many exercises up there, many involving patchwearers on the blue and red side. I have not participated in a red flag. I unfortunately showed up to my squadron just after they did a RF Alaska. Would’ve been awesome.
  34. Question: On a scale of 1-10, how game changing is DAS in ACM?
    Answer: No comment, but it is an effective tool.
  35. Question: Can you see ATC radar on your RWR and if you can what does it show up as?
    Answer: I have not seen ATC radar on the RWR, not sure if there is a way to or not. Actually, it's possible I may have and didn't even know it!
  36. Question: What was the toughest adjustment you had to make transitioning to the F-35C and what were the biggest similarities?
    Answer: Biggest adjustment was some of the Pilot Vehicle Interface. For example, the TDC is now at your thumb. You just have to look at different places for different information. You pick it up quick though.
  37. Question: External LO weapons pods - yes or no?
    Answer: I think that would be cool if they did that.
  38. Question: Have you ever flown the B variant and experienced the SVTOL? (Not sure if it’s on the C variant) and if so, was it a weird feeling not doing a traditional take-off the first time?
    Answer: I've flown the B model sim and did use the STOVL. It was educational to say the least. Way outside my comfort zone, but the jet made it super easy!
  39. Question: It’s been mentioned that you are also an LSO, what was the lowest grade that you give out for a pilot and what mistake did he make?
    Answer: Cut Pass for Idle in the Wires.
  40. Question: Is that for not going full burner after catching the wire?
    Answer: Only the legacy hornet can go to full burner in the wires (With the option of mil). The Rhino and F-35 only go to MIL. If you see burner in the wires on YouTube for those 2 planes they made a mistake. The idle in the wires means not going to at least mil.
  41. Question: When refuelling mid-air, do you use a similar flaps setting as the Harriers? I believe they use STOL flaps for that.
    Answer: Flaps auto.
  42. Question: Unmanned battle buddy- would you rather it carried more fuel or more weapons?
    Answer: Too simplistic. I guess more weapons? Never thought about that hypothetical before?
  43. Question: Did they ever figure out how to haul F135 engines onto a carrier? Last I heard the C-2 couldn't quite do it.
    Answer: Yes they can haul it. I believe the Osprey can do it among other techniques.
  44. Question: If there is one jet (or prop, be it) that you wish you could have some time on, what would it be?
    Answer: Raptor.
  45. Question: How much heavier is the workload in the 35 vs a 2-seat hornet?
    Answer: I've never flown a 2 seat hornet. There is more work to do in the 35 but also more automation which is nice.
  46. Question: How often do you fly the F-35 loaded with external stores, how much of a difference do internal stores make other than stealth?
    Answer: I have personally never flown with external stores.
  47. Question: Have pilots been allowed any input on the development of the F-35 platform? Or even the Super Hornet for that matter. Like Navy pilots during WW2 with the F6F Hellcat.
    Answer: The inputs for the requirements happened while I was a kid. I'm sure pilots had input. Even to this day when they discuss making improvements, pilots are kept in the discussion
  48. Question: Have you had any mock battles against other nations fighter wings, if so what nation do you most vividly remember and why?
    Answer: I have fought a Malaysian Hornet. Friends of mine have flown against other nations Flankers and Fulcrums in training. They got the better deal than I did. Those training engagements were BFM by the way. I didn't do any large-scale exercises with our allies unfortunately.
  49. Question: What was your toughest BFM match? (Which aircraft it was and how did it turn out for you?)
    Answer: Raptor. Very Poorly.
  50. Question: Scratch that Raptors, everybody knows it is tough to fight them. What is the second toughest then?
    Answer: I've fought Hornets and Vipers. The outcomes varied depending on the skill of the pilot for each of those. No joke.
  51. Question: What's the worst aircraft you've faced in BFM or any other kind of ACM?
    Answer: I haven't fought that many different types of planes in BFM. You'll find that a typical fighter pilot hasn’t gone up against the entire Jane's catalogue of fighters.
  52. Question: The legacy hornet has significant delay on from when you move the throttle, and when the engine revs up to whatever RPM. How is this in comparison to the super hornet and the F-35?
    Answer: The engine response time in the Hornet is not bad. The Super Hornet has the addition of FADECs which makes things even smoother. F-35 also has FADECs. Very good response times.
  53. Question: Based PURELY on looks, F-22 or F-35? I personally think the F-22 is the sexier of the both, but some people don't think so.
    Answer: F-22
  54. Question: Is it easier or harder to catch your desired (eg 3) wire with a Super Hornet or F-35C (if you had to nitpick)?
    Answer: They both have PLM so both are equal in that regard. F-35 uses ONLY PLM
  55. Question: What trait do you find most important in BFM for a pilot?
    Answer: By far its going to be experience. More reps makes a better BFM’er, every time. The ability to see visual cues, and manage your energy are keys as well. Those are easier said than done.
  56. Question: How do you typically pronounce "HMDS" for the F-35?
    Answer: "H-M-D"
  57. Question: Where do you store any personal effects in the F-35C (say if you were doing a long transit flight)?
    Answer: There is a good amount of room in the F-35. I can fit stuff off to the right just like I would in the Hornet. Fill the Helmet bag, and maybe add some stuff on top of it. For cross country, I can put a small duffel bag behind the headbox of the seat. Won’t interfere with the canopy.
  58. Question: An extension to that last question; have travel pods been used on any F-35s that you know of, or is just a matter of throwing any larger baggage on a C-17, etc?
    Answer: No, they haven’t been in use for the F-35C. Can’t speak to the other variants.
  59. Question: A-10C or F-35 for ground attack?
    Answer: I have a definite opinion on this, but won’t comment publicly. I can say that nothing is like an A-10.
  60. Question: Does the F-35's stick move or is it more or less fixed?
    Answer: It definitely moves.

A full copy of the chat's transcript can be found here.
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steve2267

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Unread post17 Dec 2018, 16:53

[quote=“Dragon029”]
Question: The Navy has talked about plans to (15+ years from now) replace the Super Hornet with an “F/A-XX”. With mind of budget constraints, what would you personally like to see a Rhino replacement look like or prioritise (speed, stealth, sensors, payload)?
Answer: I'd have to use my imagination a bit for that one. I would like it to have integration with all national assets, tons of gas and weapons carried internally, stealth, and speed. Supermaneuvrability is not a necessity but would be nice. That's a tall order for the engineers, so good luck.
[/quote]

Not to nitpick, but didn’t he just describe the F-35?

Perhaps direct SatCOMMS... but isn’t that coming? And most everything integration related is a matter of software in the Lightning. The only thing I see the Lightning lacking might be speed, which may be rectified with GO2.0 motors or AETP motors. Fully loaded, a SeaMonster is pushing 70,000lbs. Hard to see stuffing more gas or weapons in an aircraft and keeping all those other attributes while still being affordable.
Last edited by steve2267 on 17 Dec 2018, 18:40, edited 2 times in total.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Dragon029

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Unread post17 Dec 2018, 17:07

More or less, he was put on the spot (questions were coming so rapidly that they had to shut down messaging a few times to let him respond), but I think he's essentially just asking for more of all those things; affordability generally isn't that high on a fighter pilot's wishlist.
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Unread post17 Dec 2018, 17:20

Last official plan I saw says SATCOMM is in Blk4 (likely 4.2 with TR3).
"The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese."
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Unread post17 Dec 2018, 17:57

Upon further reflection, re: #16, he may be describing an F-22 or YF-23 with F-35 stealth materials (rugged, durable, easier to maintain) and avionics.

That LM-proposed F-22/F-35 hybrid would probably, with possible exception of enough gas, meet his wishlist.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post17 Dec 2018, 17:59

"Not to nitpick, but didn’t he just describe the F-35?"

Perhaps. Depends on what stuff finds its way into the Blocks beyond 3F, much of which will never make its way into the public awareness.

"The only thing I see the Lightning lacking might be speed, which may be rectified with GO2.0 motors or AETP motors."

And change the fineness ratio.
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 03:42

Bringing BLAST since 2004...(In my opinion)
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 14:16

Dragon029 wrote:[*]Question: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the F-35C?
Answer: I believe the biggest misconception is that it is built to be a dogfighter.


Is this a Typo?
No one has ever had the misconception of the F-35 as being built as a dogfighter.

but saying that it is a big misconception means that the F-35 is the farthest thing from a dog fighter that you can have.
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 14:25

I'm pretty sure he's just talking about the false notion that new jets have to be more agile and better at dogfighting; that the F-35C wasn't built specifically to be a dogfighter, because overmatching your opponent in BVR combat, etc is the way forward for air dominance.
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 15:00

I can't watch the video from where I am right now, but are we sure he didn't say "isn't"

"It is built to be a dogfighter" and "It isn't built to be a dogfighter" sound so much alike but are exact opposites
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Unread post19 Dec 2018, 02:04

There was no video; this was a live text chat that I participated in (around 10 of the questions are mine). I took particularly good care of preserving meaning and intent when applying spelling and punctuation corrections to the questions and answers.

Here's the exact answer:

[2018-12-16 18:42:00 +00:00] Gregory Brett:
@Dragon029 I believe the biggest misconception is that it is built to be a dogfighter
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Unread post19 Dec 2018, 03:31

There's also the misconception that a plane not built primarily as a dogfighter, can't dogfight.
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Unread post19 Dec 2018, 03:38

knowan wrote:There's also the misconception that a plane not built primarily as a dogfighter, can't dogfight.

Yeah, and actually excel vs them.
"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
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Unread post19 Dec 2018, 08:10

Okay, well this is quite confusing. '

There was an episode by Lockheed Martin on Youtube called "Test pilot Tuesdays" Where a test pilot was asked random questions.

One of the questions on one episode is "What is the most common misconception about the F-35"

He said there were 2 that he comes across most of the time and number 1 is the turning capability. People think it can't turn but in reality it turns very well.

Now heres the confusing part.
1. No one has ever had the misconception that the F-35 is built as a dog fighter. If anything, all the pro F-35 crowd has ever said was that It can dogfight if it needs to.

2. We now know that it can turn, so if it was never built to be a dog fighter, that means there are other things he noticed that make it "not built to dogfight"

Is it the pilot interface? Recently the decision not to include touch screens in the F-16V was made because having touch screens in a dynamic maneuvering environment can be dangerous.

So maybe the F-35 having the largest touch screen panel ever put on a fighter is the reason why he feels the F-35 was never built to dogfight.

Technically speaking the F-15, F-22, Typhoon, Rafale and even Flankers were not built specifically as dog fighters but you will never hear their pilots saying this
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Unread post19 Dec 2018, 08:36

You mean this assume.....


https://youtu.be/2cjvx5DsGqo


The test pilot was Elliott Clemence that was assigned to VFA-101 and flew the F-35C I mite add..... :wink:
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