Uh, no, just no. Cannot believe this idiocy has now made it on to Ars.
First, the author of the original blog post, is a known quantity with an "axe" to grind against the F35. He has been a rather unreliable reporter of information in the past, making rather liberal use of "anonymous sources" to spout "facts" that turn out to be not.
Second, the "dog fights" in question, happened in Jan during departure testing. They were designed to START the process of optimizing the F35's control laws (the computer parameters governing how hard pilots can push their fly by wire aircraft in every imaginable set of aerodynamic circumstances) for combat. This came just after the initial period of "departure testing", during which control laws were set INTENTIONALLY conservative for extra margins of safety. Directly after the tests, the test pilot, who, believe it or not, has a name (David "Doc" Nelson), told Aviation Week (not anonymously ;) ), that now the safety oriented tests are nearing completion, the program team will begin relaxing control laws to give more maneuverability. In other words, even if what the report was sourced from actual test pilot comments, the comments were in reference to a plane that was known to have flight testing oriented software limits purposely designed to maximize safety at the expense of maneuverability.
Third, multiple test pilots from multiple countries who have experience in everything from the F-16 to the Typhoon have publicly remarked to the aviation press that the F35 has transonic aerodynamic performance SUPERIOR to the F-16 and nearly matching the Eurofighter Typhoon, and yes, they allowed themselves to be quoted by name.
Fourth, wrt to the visibility issue, the particular airframe used in the Jan tests was configured for aerodynamics testing. It did not have the avionics that allows combat coded F35s to show the pilot what's behind him AND offer him the chance to shoot a missile at it, with, literally, a push of a single button.
You can find all this and more (with sources) by actual F-16 pilots, aviation engineers, and people who actually know what they are doing, over in the thread at the F-16.net forum (an online community for, you guessed it, F-16 pilots). Many threads on there are well worth a read if you want to get the real picture for the F35 program (for example, there is a very long and informative thread on the A-10 vs F35 CAS issues by old school former air force pilots with hundreds of hours spent doing CAS since Vietnam in everything up to and including the A-10. Their comments w.r.t. the actual survivability of the A-10 are less than complementary.
Anyways, the F-16.net thread. If you are going to criticize the F35, at least educate yourselves using different, and very well informed, points of view first:
Well, we already have good fighter AI in video games and simulation.
“Concurrency” is a term in Pentagon parlance that means putting something into production while it’s still in testing, or not even tested really at all. The fruition of this crazy concept is the cumulative result of one of the best sales jobs of all time by defense contractors, an over-eager Department of Defense leadership and a low-information, special-interest obsessed Congress.
Despite the fiscal incentives for this decision, the Air Force’s rationale for retiring the A-10 has been a target for criticism. The F-35, scheduled to replace the A-10 and several other legacy fighters, is over budget, behind schedule, and currently lacks many of the A-10’s capabilities. Some argue that the F-35 is a leap backwards in terms of CAS — simply another example of the Air Force’s obsession with expensive and sophisticated toys, regardless of their utility to the military. In this view, the Air Force sees close air support as a distraction from the high-end missions that it really wants to execute, and oversimplifies CAS with its argument for “trickle-down” capabilities (i.e., if it can do the high-end, it can do the low-end). The F-35, with its impressive 5th generation capabilities, can operate in high-threat environments that would render the A-10 and other legacy platforms ineffective. Amidst this often emotional discussion, it can be difficult to distinguish fact from opinion. This article is an attempt to elevate the debate, to weigh the evidence, and offer a way forward for the future of close air support and the Joint Force.
As an Army infantry officer reminded us, “Look, I don’t care how you do it, or what you do it with — I just need you to find the bad guys that are shooting at me, kill them quickly, don’t hurt or kill me, and help me find more bad guys before they shoot at me!” If these criteria are the measure of success, how should the Joint Force be equipped to provide effective CAS in the emergent threat environment?
CAS is a mission, not a plane, and the emotions that plague the A-10 retirement debate fail to address substantive arguments against the decision. However, O’Malley and Hill use my article as evidence of criticism that exists “despite fiscal incentives” without ever addressing the fiscal analysis I provided (oriented on comparing A-10 operating costs to other current Air Force platforms). The debate remains emotional because most ground troops, like myself, fail to understand how the Air Force can claim to provide the same level of support with more expensive aircraft lacking similar capabilities.
The total cost of the actual 30-year service life of the shuttle program through 2011, adjusted for inflation, was $196 billion.
However, while the JPO can point to such discrepancies between the test pilot's comments (as they appeared in the article) and the F-35's mission set, it should be noted that many nations that cannot afford multiple aircraft types are procuring the F-35 as a multirole 'jack of all trades' to perform the full spectrum of missions.
Though advanced sensor and missile technology renders the classic dogfight less likely than at any point during the history of military aviation, rules of engagement and other considerations can sometimes require aircraft to be within visual range before engaging each other. The point the War is Boring article was trying to make, and the point the JPO has failed to refute in its rebuttal, is that aircraft do not always get to fight on their terms, and that it is no good saying that just because the F-35 is not designed to dogfight it will never have to do so.
But get a load of what Stillion did next. Landing at the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments — a Washington, D.C. think-tank — Stillion authored a report proposing a radical solution to America’s fighter problem.
That is, totally getting rid of fighters as we know them.
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