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.
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.
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