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Re-Thinking the F-35

V/STOL Version of the F-35 used by the USMC

About 2 years ago, I had a conversation with a flag officer who was involved with the F-35 program. We discussed the negative reputation it has with the public.

I have alluded to this conversation over the years and warned that the piling on hate over the F-35 has gone way off into insanity.

F-35 on carrier deck.

What the flag told me, and explained why they wanted the F-35 was eye opening. And no…it has very, very little to do with stealth. Think more along the line of your smart-phone and apps.

Also…it has been publicly acknowledged that the F-35 testing was initially limited for safety reasons. Translation — They needed to learn HOW to fly the plane and then slowly push it’s performance envelope.

They have gone way beyond where they were 2 years ago. And even Red Flag adversaries are starting to wonder what the egg-heads did to the F-35 to make it so much more effective that they keep getting killed by them in training.

Now for the inevitable, “Just make more F-22’s”. Yes, the F-22 is a neat aircraft. But consider two things: One, the F-22 wasn’t designed to do half the things the F-35 does. Actually…if I were being asked, I would name the F-35 more like a F/A-35.

And secondly, the F-35 has actually been flying for 10 years. Yes. Really. The F-22 has been flying for 20 years. Yes..really! That is 20 years the USAF has had to think, tweak, try, fly and predict where they want to go in the future. Example – If stealth is dead, would you build the F-22 the same or change a lot about it? What would you call that? A F-22B? Or with zero stealth? The F-23?

In closing, I am not a fighter pilot. I see and read all the same things everyone else does. But USAF guys who know about such things seem quite eager about the F-35. I do have to defer to them somewhat.
Watching “Top Gun” 47 times as a kid doesn’t make me or my civilian peers experts on fighter / attack/ bomber planes. But I do remember the days when the F-14 was considered an over-complicated, underpowered flying trash can.

I remember when old Armor guys where swearing up and down the Striker was going to get people killed and Gen. Shinseki was a sellout for pushing it.

I remember when “gun experts” swore up and down that the M-16 was a BB-gun and the M-14 was the greatest, most accurate, most lethal rifle ever made (sic).

V/STOL Version of the F-35 used by the USMC

I could go on. But if you are intellectually honest you have to at least acknowledge that the success or failure of the F-35 hasn’t been written yet. And we haven’t even talked about the USMC B-variant that, if successful, could be the land anywhere game changer the Gripen and Harrier wanted to be.

To be continued….



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