|pic via Air Power Australia|
Via War is Boring...
Don’t sweat it, JSF-maker Lockheed Martin responded. “The F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances,” Lockheed’s F-35 team wrote in a press release on July 1.Story here.
As a rebuttal to the test pilot report, Lockheed’s claim is a cynically useful one — it sidesteps the criticism without really confirming or denying it. But that doesn’t mean the company’s test-report rebuttal is actually true.
Can the F-35 really engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances? There are reasons to believe it can’t. The stealth fighter lacks the sensors, weapons and speed that allow a warplane to reliably detect and shoot down other planes in combat. Especially when those planes are shooting back.
In short—the F-35 isn’t much of a dogfighter. And it’s probably not very good at long-range aerial combat, either.
I read the WIB story and it made me pause. I naturally assumed that the F-35 would be a dog in a close fight but would hold its own at distance.
From what little I've been able to dig up, I no longer believe that to be true.
First lets take a look at how we're expecting the F-22 and other air superiority airplanes to fight the long range war....they will fly high and fast...they won't be in after burner but they'll be up around 40-60K feet up and they'll be in supercruise. More than likely they won't be emitting and will use "other platforms" to locate their targets. Once found they'll zoom up to max height, go to burner to add speed to their missiles (remember they're already super cruising) and they'll launch. Lets stop there.
How would the F-35 do it?
Again. I'm not an expert on this trash. Aviation guys correct me...on this subject I'll welcome it.
But back to the F-35. It flies lower. 30K? It flies slower. Cruise speed is ALMOST slower than a modern airliner. Its ability to add burner to impart energy is limited. Now to add to the issues is that its AESA is small in comparison to other fighter and NO MORE advanced. Its IRST isn't optimized to aerial warfare....
Now add into the issue the Russian K-100 missile. Airpower Australia thinks that its being designed as an AWACS killer. What if the Russians clue into the fact that the F-35 basically flies a similar type profile....about 30K up, and high subsonic....
If our enemies develop the same type of network that we have then they will launch outside of the F-35's detection range, the fighter won't be able to return fire because its missiles don't match the best that our enemies have...and they'll be totally defensive from the very start.
The question that defense reporters should ask is simple. Instead of taking dictation from Lockheed Martin and Pentagon officials, why don't they ask HOW will the F-35 win the long range fight? Close in its slow and lumbering...at distance its slow, lumbering and has missiles that are outranged, launched by fighters that are faster and higher flying.
The real answer is that the F-35 can't. The answer is (in my opinion) that the F-35 has to SOMEHOW find that sweet middle spot. It needs to avoid detection at long range, get to MEDIUM range (as defined today...which is about 100 miles...still almost max distance for the AIM-120D) hope that the missiles have a much improved kill ratio and then hope that the enemy fighters are too busy evading those missiles so that it can sneak away.
But the rub with that theory is that stealth reduction efforts will close the gap to where the hoped for medium range fight turns into a close one.
We're making it too easy for the enemy. They will destroy the F-35 at their leisure.