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It Turns Out the F-35 Can Dogfight ( 170

An anonymous reader writes: Writing for Defense News, Lara Seligman reports, "For the first time since a controversial report detailing how the F-35 performs in a dogfight emerged last summer, an F-35 pilot gave an in-depth analysis of his experience flying the jet in a close-range battle scenario. Norwegian Air Force Maj. Morten 'Dolby' Hanche, the first Norwegian to fly the F-35, analyzed the jet's performance in a dogfight in a March 1 blog post published on Norway's Ministry of Defense website. Although Hanche never mentions the 2015 report, 'F-35A High Angle of Attack Operational Maneuvers' revealed last summer by blogger David Axe on, he counters many of the anonymous author's claims."
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It Turns Out the F-35 Can Dogfight

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  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @11:55AM (#51648317) Journal

    If you read the article he mentions being capable of being marginally more offensive than he could be in an F-16. While this isn't to be dismissed as meaning 'nothing.' F-35 defenders should be careful to trumpeting the fact that a pilot finds the F-35 is not, in fact, worse than a 40+ year old airframe design.

    The problem with the F-35's dogfighting is that it's performance is not remotely comparable to aircraft being sold abroad by the Russian aviation community. Yes, it has capabilities that many aircraft do not, and some capabilities that have not even been fully enabled as well; however, ALL of these abilities are unrelated to the basic physical performance of the aircraft and the basic performance of the aircraft is the area of primary concern as a platform for enabling these technologies.

    Are people under the impression that the Su-37 can't get a 'look-thru' helmet cueing system? That, unlike fundamental airframe design, software capabilities cannot rapidly advance post construction of the aircraft?

    I don't think the F-35 is useless, but it sure is an INCREDIBLY expensively mediocre aircraft intended to carry excellent (someday) software and sensors.

    • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @11:57AM (#51648331)
      If you read the article he mentions being capable of being marginally more offensive than he could be in an F-16.

      I can be more offensive than almost anything, and I don't even need an airplane.
    • Also in TFA, the pilot refers many times to the F35's ability to slow down. In the prior report, the fact that the F35 was not maneuverable with "losing energy" (slowing down) was listed as a problem.
    • So it's this century's F-111?

      • The F-111 got a bad reputation early on because it didn't work out for the Navy mission, but it turned out to be a heck of a medium bomber for the Air Force, both USAF and the Royal Australian Air Force. It was fast, carried a big bomb load, and long ranged; in service with the USAF until 1998 and the RAAF until 2010. Designed as a tactical bomber, the Strategic Air Command had some built for the strategic bomber role to fill the gap in capability from the B-52 until the B-1 and B-2 came on line. The USAF

        • The F-111 was supposed to be THE main tactical aircraft, satisfying every need from carrier-based interceptor to bomber, and was a miserable failure at it. It was a darn good land-based bomber, but it sure didn't deserve to be the F-111. Calling it the B-111 would have been much more appropriate.

    • Su-37 is a prototype. They have built _one_ of them. All they can afford.

      Su-35 is 'production'. They have built 48 of them, have another 50 on contract with the Ruskys and signed a contract with India to build an updated version. At least a few have crashed/burned.

      The Su-27M is the export version. If you had 40 million burning a hole in your pocket and good relations with Putin, you could buy one.

      • The point in mentioning the S-37 is because it is the test-bed for the Su-35 and emerging Russian technologies for integration into their existing front line and export aircraft.

        The Su-27M is the export version.

        The "Su-27M" is the Su-35. The 'K' version of an Su-27/35 Russian aircraft denotes an export version. Maybe you were referring to the Su-35S (the more recent upgrade, which is also available for export - China and Algeria have already bought them.)

    • The Falcon's design is actually even older than four decades - it was selected in 1972!

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @01:14PM (#51648573)
      The F-16, by virtue of its light weight (the F-35 weighs 1.8x more, F-22 weighs than 2.3x more), is one of the nimblest dogfighters out there. Its thrust to weight ratio [] is substantially better than the F-35's. You think a 40-year fighter jet is still in service worldwide just because it's cheap to maintain?

      I agree that the F-35 is a boondoggle. They tried to make a single airframe do too many different things. But if its dogfighting capability compares favorably to an F-16, I'd have to take back some of my past criticisms. This report contradicts earlier tests last year [] which showed the F-35 losing badly to the F-16. Is the pilot just BSing, or have they really improved its performance that much in less than a year?
    • I don't think the F-35 is useless, but it sure is an INCREDIBLY expensively mediocre aircraft intended to carry excellent (someday) software and sensors.

      SAAB's Gripen Switzerland proposal: $3.5B for 22 planes, it is $159M per plane. For an more-or-less an outdated plane. Does F-35 still looks that expensive comparing to this? I don't think so.

      • Not exactly: it was 3.12B Swiss francs, about $3.2B, for the leasing of 11 Gripen C/D, the acquisition of 22 Gripen E (to be delivered in 2018-2021), spare parts, support, training, certification and a joint venture between SAAB and RUAG (Swiss aviation company) for the production of Gripen E. The individual cost of just one F-35 aircraft without the engine (LOL) is still over $100M, and its operating cost is way higher than that of the Gripen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The greatest "advantage" the pilot in the article points out is that the F35 can slow down better than the F16, and has some kind of yaw advantage at low speeds. He doesn't counter the claim the the F16 has and widens an energy advantage in combat maneuvering. Admittedly I've only spent time in game simulations, not real combat aircraft (so, yes, I could be very wrong), but it seems to me that of these two characteristics, the energy advantage is going to be the decisive advantage far more often. That is

    • The Dogfighting ability of an F18 is limited by the pilot, the Dogfighting ability of an F35 is limited by the overweight airframe. Once you switch your anti-aircraft missiles to use the UHF radio spectrum where F35 stealth doesn't work you realize the F35 is a less capable aircraft.
      • But can you fit an air-to-air missile with a UHF radio and antenna? I was under the impression they were too large - but do correct me if I am wrong.
    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      "Are people under the impression that the Su-37 can't get a 'look-thru' helmet cueing system? That, unlike fundamental airframe design, software capabilities cannot rapidly advance post construction of the aircraft?"

      I don't think that's really the point of the F-35, it's not really it's job, it's a strike fighter, not an air superiority fighter. Comparisons to the Su-37 are the F-22 (which it would lose against, hard), and the Eurofighter, Gripen, and Rafale which could all also easily stand up to it.

      The po

  • What on earth does one have to do get the nickname 'Dolby'? Reduce noise? Perhaps he only got 5.1 out of 10 in his last assessment...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The question was never if the F-35 can dogfight. The question was: can it dogfight better than other, cheaper options? And the answer to that remains a resounding "no!"

    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )
      The F-35 is primarily a ground attack aircraft (and on that measure its sensors & targeting is excellent) with reasonably good air capability. Being roughly equal to F-16 {a great dogfighter} on that criterion, plus stealth, is pretty good. With modern missiles, dogfighting is usually a mutual kill scenario. You want to avoid getting in that circumstance, and in practice, being able to get in close enough to launch bombs and missiles against an adversary's SAM sites is a much more valuable capabili
  • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @12:14PM (#51648391) Journal

    In related news, recent findings show that a Basset Hound can dogfight. Not very effectively, and the dog seldom wins the fight. But evidence has been uncovered of basset hounds fighting other dogs.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The part about the cockpit view being better in the F-16 was interesting. There are probably good reasons for the current cockpit configuration in the F-35, but it seems like some sort of panoramic rear view camera should be possible, perhaps hooked into that fancy "third generation" helmet that he mentions? Having to lean forward a bit to look around the seat when looking back at the aircraft's six sounds like a disadvantage. What if high g-forces make that difficult in some situations?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2016 @12:54PM (#51648513)

    The original article did not really say the F-35 can't dogfight, it stated that it suffered from energy deficit compared to the F-16. This article points out that it also benefits from less restricted angle of attack than the F-16. These are not inconsistent observations. I've fought the F-16 many times, and flew it once. The F-16 has significant AOA limits (limited by the FBW system). What does that mean? It means that the F-16 can carve a great turn and has a sweet 9G initial pull, but if you can live past the first couple turns the Viper is going to be AOA limited and you can pretty much have your way with it. I flew Navy jets (F-14/18) which have no AOA limit. Even with an energy deficit, the ability to "point the nose" has significant advantages, particularly today with high off-boresight weapons like AIM-9X. That being said, in 2016 I would expect to have a jet that has both AOA and thrust/weight advantages over a jet from the mid 70's. This sets up a classic rate vs radius fight. The F-16 has a rate advantage, the F-35 has a radius advantage.

    For a (somewhat inaccurate) automotive analogy, the F-16 has more HP and torque, but suffers from understeer. If you enter a turn at the right speed you are fine, but enter too fast and no matter how much you turn the wheel you don't get any more turn out of the car. The F-35 allows oversteer. You can turn harder and the rear will start to swing around. You may loose 30MPH in the turn, but you will turn.

    • Mod up: greatly informative.
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      My guess is it depends on the F35. If you happen to be trying to dog fight an F35B then you will as the Argentinians found out in the Falklands War trying to dog fight Harriers that er you can't dog fight an F35B because they will just go into hover. Aka I have someone on my tail, just let me slow right down curtsey of not having a stall speed because I can hove if required and you will fly right passed me at which point your screwed.

  • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @12:59PM (#51648521) Journal
    The discussions on the F35 often center around its capabilities as a fighter. I think it is important to remember that neither the Navy nor the Marine core want a plane that is primarily a fighter. Most previous jets in service for the Navy and Marine's have been designed as fighters for the Air Force and have been repurposed. The Air Force already has a air-superioirty fighter in the F22. With the F35 the Air Force for the first time has had to make some concessions and the result the Navy and Marine's are getting a jet that is vastly more capable for their needs than the repurposed fighters they have had in the past
    • The tragedy of the multi role aircraft: expansive jack of all trades, master of none

      USAF, marines, navy wants a single platform for 3 uses:
      - air superiority;
      - infantry support;
      - projection.

      it requires an aircraft that can do every missions for a cheap price.
      Else if the enemy can counter your weapons with 10 times cheapest option it means you lose one of your advantages.

      Think of how russians/chinese provided cheap missiles coupled with radar station to the viet cong in 1970 that countered the expensive jets

      • What you need to evaluate combat effectiveness is some idea of what sort of war you're going to be fighting. Great Power militaries have been designed to fight high-intensity wars against other Great Power militaries as long as we've had Great Powers. Major wars have gotten a lot less likely for several reasons, but there's still very good reasons for NATO to want to be able to fight Russia if necessary.

        If we tailor our forces to fight Russia, and we wind up in a low-tech Middle East war, we're fightin

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The discussions on the F35 often center around its capabilities as a fighter...neither the Navy nor the Marine core want a plane that is primarily a fighter.

      But if you suck in that area, the enemy will force you to be a fighter.

  • Pinch of salt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @01:21PM (#51648601) Homepage Journal

    If it can't dogfight, would they say so?

    If it can dogfight, would they say so?

    I'm rather surprised that anyone - especially ones who should know better - is saying anything.

    BRB, door.

    • It's a given that our [likely adversaries] are already well aware of the F-35's flight characteristics regardless of what a highly-respected Scandinavian NATO pilot publicly reports...
  • nuff said
  • Air to air is useless. A missile can out maneuver any plane. The fact is 99 % of all air attacks today already have complete air superiority.

  • by CanadianMacFan ( 1900244 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @07:35PM (#51650301)

    There was just (March 6) a good documentary on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Background Briefing radio show about where the JSF was right plane for Australia. []

    Quite the interesting show and it seems like there are lots of problems still with the plane. Like how it still doesn't like the heat so that the weapons bay doors have to be opened every ten minutes when it's hot out. On the ground or in flight! The problem with the weight of the helmet still hasn't been taken care of so pilots can still be killed. The training simulators that pilots have been using haven't actually been verified to be accurate.

    • "There was just (March 6) a good documentary on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Background Briefing "

      Thanks, I'll have to check that out. Fwiw, bugs like this will be worked out. If the basic engineering is sound (or, I guess, even if not :), bugs will be fixed and components will be upgraded. I don't think anyone expected today's old airplanes to be still flying today. Upgrades have allowed this for the old planes. Time will tell if the F35 platform will be as durable.

  • From the original article:

    "The 2015 report criticized the F-35’s lack of power and maneuverability compared to the F-16 during high angle of attack exercises. The F-35 “was at a distinct energy disadvantage in a turning fight,” the author wrote, also noting that “pitch rates were too slow to prosecute or deny weapons.”

    In contrast, Hanche wrote the F-35 is capable of a significantly higher angle of attack than the F-16, providing the pilot greater authority to point the nose of

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