More Problems for the Trillion-Dollar F-35: It’s not Good at Close Combat

Thursday, July 30, 2015
F-16 (foreground) and F-35 Credit: Breaking Defense

The U.S. military’s advanced fighter plane, the F-35, isn’t very good at fighting.

A test pilot who flew an F-35 said 17 dogfights demonstrated that the plane could not compete with the F-16, which was introduced in the 1970s and is the plane the F-35 is supposed to replace.

The F-35 program, which will cost more than $1 trillion if fully produced, has had other serious problems exposed: vulnerability to lightning strikes, and an inaccurate and unstable software system, the Project on Government Oversight reported.

“Moreover, the F-35’s unprecedented complexity and the corresponding unreliability and significant maintenance burdens prevent it from flying often enough to adequately train pilots, turning the plane into a ‘hangar queen,’” POGO’s Iulia Gheorghiu wrote.

“The plane will have limited operational availability for flight training because maintenance crews will find it difficult to keep up with the inevitable mechanical failures,” she added. She reported that the F-35 has flown only 55% of its planned flying hours because maintenance crews can’t repair it fast enough.

Dan Grazier, the Jack Shanahan Fellow working with POGO’s Straus Military Reform Project, said the “test report proves the problems with the F-35 program are fundamental and systemic. It’s time to pull the brake before ramping up production to make sure taxpayers aren’t paying more for less.”

Supporters of the F-35 admit its dogfighting shortcomings but say the plane should be able to destroy enemy fighters before getting into dogfight range because of its stealth capabilities.

The F-35 has previously been found to be lacking in ground attack capability compared to the 1970s-era A-10. The Air Force is trying to get rid of the A-10 despite support for the older plane among pilots.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Read for Yourself — The F-35’s Damning Dogfighting Report (by David Axe, War is Boring)

Congress, Pentagon Must Re-Evaluate F-35 in Light of Serious Deficiencies (by Iulia Gheorghiu, Project on Government Oversight)

F-16 Vs. F-35 In A Dogfight: JPO, Air Force Weigh In On Who’s Best (by Colin Clark, Breaking Defense)

When F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Goes Operational this Summer, it won’t Work any better than 40-Year-Old Thunderbolts (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


scaredshitless 8 years ago
polititions,scientists,phd's will kill us all!
duh 8 years ago
And the F16 had trouble against the English Electric Lightning, which could out turn, out climb and out accelerate the F-16 and the Lightning first flew in 1954. The F16 was easier to look out of the back though compared to the EE Lightning as the canopy on the EE lightning had to deal with the thermal effects at Mach 2.5, where as the F35 Lighting,,well you just can't see out of the canopy rearward..
JKnTX 8 years ago
"Flower, you are talking rubbish. Us Brits had the spitfire, the plane that won the battle of Britain. We also invented the first jet fighter. The P51 plane used a Rolls Royce engine". Actually, it is you who are mistaken. The Hurricane had more to do with winning the Battle; while the Spitfire took the heat off them, they went after and knocked down the German bombers. The first sucessful jet aircraft was the German He-178, the first operational jet fighter the German Me-262. The Mustang was designed at the request of the British and the first ones used the American Allison, as did the last and fastest version, the P-51J.
Captaincaveman 8 years ago
Yeah! If I invested in and built something like the F35 I would also make sure it ran over budget and took years longer than proposed to build, test and repair. You know, that way when most of the orders were cancelled for the plane I would be able to sell all of them back to the US taxpayers and make a better return on my investment. Oh God how I love the Military Industrial Complex.
Scott 8 years ago
Flower, you are talking rubbish. Us Brits had the spitfire, the plane that won the battle of Britain. We also invented the first jet fighter. The P51 plane used a Rolls Royce engine.
Steve Naidamast 8 years ago
I am fully aware of the all the literal failures of the F-35 and agree with its critics as a result. However, if I had invested this much money in weapon's system I would have expectd a starship and not a 21st century fighter!
Flower 8 years ago
If I had invested 1 trillion bucks into an air plane, and not just any airplane, an airplane that is capable of doing the things that the F35 is designed to do, I would claim it was a ruptured duck too. It would only add to what the F35 could do as opposed to what people are led to believe it can't do. If everybody else thinks the F35 is a POS, good! It wasn't designed and built around what people think. As far as not being able to keep up with an F15, that is probably true, currently. But the F15 is a conventional fighter, and conventional fighters have been around for a 100 years. It's going to take a while before we learn HOW to use the F35 properly. Remember, the US Air Force (and/or Army Air Corps) is probably the last folks to consult on the efficacy of a new machine. I use as proof, exhibit P51 one of the foremost fighters of WWII that sat on the sidelines for 2 years because the Military decided that North American couldn't build a fighter, "they build trainers". It wasn't until we gave the Brits the few P51s we had sitting around, and they put a decent engine in it, and the P51 began to tear Adolph and Hermann a new one. Exhibit 2, the F111 Aardvark. It was the first "swing wing" aircraft, and it, initially, had mucho problems, including air-frame issues, guidance control issues, as well as others, but as a prototype to a new air frame design, it worked fine. The F14 Tomcat, initially there was concern whether the F14 could stand up to Aircraft Carrier operations, the engine had a flame-out problem at super sonic speeds. But, just try to take away the Tomcat from the swabs today, and that skull and crossbones on the tail are going to be yours.
Another Guest 8 years ago
Also the F-35 Can’t Fight at Long Range, Either.

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