Dogfighting in an F-35 is 'like having a knife fight in a telephone booth'

F35aUS Air Force photoIf you’re dogfighting in an F-35, ‘somebody made a mistake.’

Civilian pilot Adam L. Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard (VANG) wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.

In the article, several interesting points jump out. Chief among them is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.

Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said the following:

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”

The F-35 has constantly been criticised for it’s dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer and clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.

“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill.

Indeed, in Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners only sent four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older, less survivable formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. All together, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk.

F35 and f16US Air ForceMission planners could risk four airmen in fifth generation planes, or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions.

The piece by Alpert highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.

Read the full article by Alpert at SevenDaysVT.com here»

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