Pentagon Sees F-35 Having Air Superiority For 30 Years
Sep 23, 2015
(With thanks to Aviation Week)
F-35: Lockheed Martin
FORT WORTH — Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will maintain the lead in air superiority over all comers for the next 20 to 30 years despite aggressive efforts emerging from new fighter technology in China, Russia and elsewhere, program officials claim.
Making one of the boldest statements in defense of the F-35 since the leaking of a critical air combat report in July that noted maneuvering shortfalls against an F-16, JSF program executive officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says “nothing compares to it. I’d put this airplane up against any airplane in the world today, tomorrow and for the next 20 or 30 years and we will come out ahead.”
Answering questions about the expected combat capability of the F-35 against aircraft like Russia’s fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) fighter, Bogdan says the JSF “is a very good dogfighting aircraft. It can pull 9g and turn almost equal to our modern fighters. But that’s not what it was uniquely designed to do. When two aircraft meet at the ‘merge’ in a visual engagement, this aircraft will have so many ‘smarts’ before you get there. And it will probably know about the other aircraft long before [the adversary] knows about it. The dogfight will end quickly, if it happens at all.”
Bodgan was commenting alongside Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall at a ceremony marking the unveiling here of the first F-35A for the Norwegian air force. Describing the classic dogfighting concept of maneuvering to “get on each other’s tail” as “pretty much obsolete,” Kendall adds, “we don’t expect any airplane that is currently in development to be seriously competitive with this airplane.”
A key element to maintaining the F-35’s combat edge is a series of upgrades, the next most significant of which is Block 4. Originally expected to be split into two main sections, the upgrade has been divided into four parts, with the first due for implementation in 2019. Definition of the exact content of the upgrade is continuing and will be finalized in “the next several months,” Kendall says.
“It is complicated because there are so many things we want to do in Block 4,” he adds. “A number of our partners want to put [specific] munitions on the aircraft and some upgrades to the electronic warfare capability and so on, so we are working our way through that. Block 4 will be broken up into several increments and we are sorting out the most efficient and effective way to work our way through that.”