Category Archives: Military Aircraft

No dogfight competition then?

With thanks to business insider UK

Why the F-35 could ‘never in a million years’ out dogfight the RAF Typhoon or the Russian Su-35

Alex Lockie

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, dropped a bombshell about the US’s $1 trillion F-35 program:

“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years.”

In earlier stages of the F-35’s development, some bad reports came out claiming it lost in simulated dogfights to the F-16, a legacy platform the F-35 intends to replace.

Lately, the news coming out about the F-35’s dogfighting ability has taken a visible turn to the positive, but dogfighting was never the main purpose or strong suit of the Joint Strike Fighter.

For that reason, older fighters, like the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Sukhoi Su-35, could likely outmaneuver and kill an F-35 in a close range confrontation.

While every credible report indicates that the F-35 will dominate in stealthiness, situational awareness, and beyond visual range confrontations, dogfights, or up close fights with opposing fighter pilots jockeying for position and a clean shot, depend on a different set of characteristics.

The Eurofighter Typhoon was made to dogfight, the F-35 was not. AP

Thrust-to-weight ratio and wing loading, or the loaded weight of the aircraft divided by the area of the wings, comprise some of the chiefly important factors in dogfighting.

“Typhoon and Su-35 both have positive thrust-to-weight ratios at combat loadings, meaning that they can accelerate vertically and generally both maintain and regain energy in a turn much more successfully than the F-35 (particularly the heavier B and C models),” explained Bronk.

The F-35 does have a positive thrust-to-weight ratio, but when loaded up with fuel and ordinance for combat, it’s unclear if that will remain.

Ultimately, having small wings and a design more geared toward stealth than kinematics hurts the F-35’s dogfighting prospects.

“A low wing loading means that Typhoon and Su-35 can sustain much tighter turns than the F-35 whilst also creating less induced drag and losing less energy,” said Bronk.

In the case of the Russian Su-35, an adversary infinitely more likely to face the F-35 than the Typhoon, the F-35 overcoming the Su-35’s supermaneuverability while dogfighting seems an insurmountable task.

“Su-35 also has thrust-vectoring engines, meaning that it can maintain control and continue to point its nose where the pilot wants even after the wings have stalled (called supermaneuverability) which is a potentially large advantage within visual range and at low speeds.”

Not only does stealth limit the F-35’s mobility, it also limits its capacity for ordinance.

The Su-35 sacrifices stealth to carry more missiles under the wings. The F-35 carries missiles in an internal bay to preserve stealth. Sukhoi

“Typhoon and Su-35 also carry larger missile loadouts than F-35 in normal combat configurations meaning that at close range they have twice as many infra-red seeking missiles to fire at their opponents,” Bronk said.

As Business Insider previously explored, infra-red tracking is key to finding and fighting advanced stealth aircraft like the F-35.

But none of this would be news to the US Air Force, who have intentionally sacrificed dogfighting abilities for stealth and situational awareness. The whole point of the F-35 is to see enemy jets from far beyond visual range and engage them with advanced missiles.

According to Bronk, neither an Su-35 or a Typhoon would see the F-35 until it is very close, at which point the legacy jets are completely at the mercy of the more advanced fifth-gens who can “avoid them, engage them, or position themselves for an engagement entirely on their terms.”

So while an F-35 most likely cannot win a dogfight against a Typhoon or an Su-35, it’s game-changing capabilities at long range all but guarantee it will never have to.

NOW WATCH: This is how pilots train to fly America’s most expensive fighter jets

Early deployment beckons…?

F-35 Marks New Era For Stealth

With thanks to Aviation Week & Space Technology

U.S. Air Force F-35s could deploy in 18 months

Ready for War

It took the Air Force almost a decade to send the F-22 Raptor to a combat zone after declaring the stealth fighter ready for war. But after giving the green light to the first operational F-35A squadron in late July, the Air Force is signaling the fledgling fleet will deploy to fight Islamic State group terrorists in the very near future.

The Air Force’s eagerness to send its shiny new fighter into battle is a marked shift from years past, when deploying the radar-avoiding F-22 to the Middle East was viewed as provocative. But as the U.S. and its allies face a resurgent Russia and the proliferation of advanced weapons that can easily track and shoot down many legacy fighters, the service seems to be casting aside the Pentagon’s historically more cautious use of stealth aircraft.

USAF declared its F-35A ready for war right on schedule Aug. 2

Senior leaders signal the JSF will soon deploy to Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East

Despite the Air Force’s confidence, the F-35 will not reach full warfighting capability until 2018, at earliest

Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the chief of Air Combat Command, says he hopes in the next 18 months to send the Joint Strike Fighter to Europe and the Pacific, suggesting that such a move would send a message in response to increasing Russian and Chinese military activity. And if U.S. Central Command asks for the F-35 in the Middle East, Carlisle says he would comply in a heartbeat.

“From my perspective, it sends a good signal,” Carlisle says. “I think it reassures friends and allies and is a deterrent to potential adversaries, so I don’t think it’s a provocative move at all.”

In rolling out the F-35, the Air Force may be taking lessons learned from the Raptor to heart. Although the F-22 entered service in 2005, the jet did not see its first combat deployment until the U.S.-led intervention in Syria in 2014. The F-22’s deployments to the Middle East to fight Islamic State insurgents and to Europe to counter Russian aggression did wonders for its public image. The Raptor is now so popular, Congress has inquired about what it would take to resurrect the production line.

Now as the F-35 comes online, our partners and allies are eager to see the jet in action, Carlisle says.

The current configuration of F-35A aircraft can carry the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition and the laser- guided Paveway missile. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown

When F-35s deploy to the European and Pacific theater, this will give our allies and partners confidence in the airframe, Carlisle says. “It will also give them a chance to see it in operation and in interoperability, working with their fourth-generation airplanes,” he adds.

Even though Carlisle lauded the F-35’s performance, the stealthy fighter jet is still immature and has limited capability to actually fight on today’s battlefield. Two U.S. F-35 variants—the Marine Corps’ F-35B and now the Air Force’s F-35A—have been declared ready for combat, but the jet will not be fully operational until it has completed a vigorous testing period that will not begin until August 2018, at the earliest. The initial aircraft will not have its full suite of electronic warfare, data fusion, automated maintenance capability or weapons capacity until the final warfighting software, Block 3F, is fielded in 2018.

For now, the F-35A in its 3i configuration can carry the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition and laser-guided Paveway missile. Block 3F will add the short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, Small-Diameter Bomb and main gun system—the 25-mm, four-barrel GAU-22/A.

The gun is key to one of the F-35’s primary missions: protecting soldiers on the ground, also called close-air support. Though a 2,000-lb. bomb is effective in destroying a target, a huge blast is not ideal when enemy and friendly ground forces are engaged in close combat.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester cautions that while it is the Air Force’s decision when to declare the F-35 ready for war, the Block 3i software is limited, and its deficiencies will impact mission effectiveness.

“While the USAF has determined that the F-35A with Block 3i mission systems software provides ‘basic’ capabilities for IOC [initial operating
capability], the limitations and deficiencies in performance for the F-35A with Block 3i discussed in the 2015 DOT&E [Director, Operational Test and Evaluation] Annual Report largely remain and will affect mission effectiveness and suitability in combat,” says Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger Cabiness.

Still, Carlisle says, the F-35 is equipped to carry out many missions U.S. forces are flying today in the Middle East, including pre-planned airstrikes, interdiction, and defensive and offensive counter air. airstrikes, interdiction, and defensive and offensive counter air. Even without its full potential, the Air Force would have no qualms about sending it into battle.

 Rocket Testsairstrikes, interdiction, and defensive and offensive counter air. Even without its full potential, the Air Force would have no qualms about sending it into battle.

Marine Fighter Attack Sqdn. (VMFA) 121, the “Green Knights” based out of MCAS Yuma, Arizona, will be the first to deploy overseas; in January the squadron flies to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. Meanwhile, RAF Lakenheath in the U.K. is set to receive its first of 24 jets in 2021. 

“The F-35A brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability and adaptability to joint and combined operations and is ready to deploy and strike well-defended targets anywhere on Earth,” says newly minted Air Force Chief of Staff.

Ed’s note: this all presupposes that those F35 aircraft to be deployed to European airfirces: UK, Austria, Italy et al, will be based in their own countries as well as the USA aircraft. So which Force will have precedence? The US DoD obviously thinks they can do the job better than their European counterparts if they are already announcing deployment from 2018. Surely the home countries defence departments will have greater knowledge of the requirement than the good ‘ole US if A. After all their track record in similar circumstances has not always been good. Comments?

Buying Spree?

At the RIAT air show, the outgoing prime minister signed off £4bn for the purchase of 8 Poseidon P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.

This pales into insignificance the £18bn purchase, potentially of 138 Lightening II F35B from Lockheed, including possibly the delivery of the F35A variant which us basically a Typhoon rival, and seems a bit pointless to me. This was after the flip-flop from the ‘cats and traps” version, the F35C, which can’t be used on the new aircraft carriers HMSs Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles without considerable, costly upgrades; and the final purchase the F35B. So why are we buying the F35A (quantity unkniwn)? Who knows, someone may provide an answer. Perhaps the 10 year contract to support the Typhoon may have something to do with it.

The F35Bs flown over from the USA have wowed crowds at the Farnborough air show and are now safely back at Lockheed presumably. The media were impressed with them, but that’s not usually difficult at a market stall like Farnborough. Let’s hope that the promised world wide sales make the F35 a success, it needs it.

Appearing at an air show near you.

So, they’re here at last. The Lockheed F35B, named Lightning II by the UK, flew over from the United States to appear at at least two air shows here during the summer. Flown by RAF crews and in-flight refuelled, the F35s fulfilled a promise to come to the UK, after a failure to appear in 2014, due to engine problems and an on board fire.

The F35B is the latest 4th generation VSTOL aircraft to be co-produced by a conglomerate of world companies, and is state of the art with advanced avionics and ‘low visibility’ but not stealth. At a cost of £100m a copy, 15% of which has been earmarked for British production they are not cheap, and various development problems over the last 8-10 years, have meant a late introduction into service in the UK. Two aircraft carriers, HMS Prince Charles and HMS Queen Elizabeth are currently in production and the F35 is scheduled to operate from them in 2018, when they are both put into service.

The manufacturers and procurement staff are obviously upbeat about the F35, which will always be compared to the Harrier, and is a direct replacement for it, albeit 8 years after the Harrier was taken out of service. The comparisons are valid: both are VSTOL, both have one engine and one pilot. But the comparisons end there. The Harrier was muted in the 50s, developed in the 60s, operated and improved through to the 2010s by the British and the USA and continues to be in service with the US Marine Corps, the Italian and Spanish Navies and has just been retired by the Indian Navy. The F35 was muted in the 21st century and has been developed and tested making it far superior to what was a 1950s design. It would be like slating the Vulcan bomber, designed in the 40s, to be superior to say the B1 bomber operated by the USAF. Make no mistake the F35 is a quantum leap in technology, materials, techniques, avionics, capability and performance. The Harrier was a perfect workforce for its era, and the fact that several air arms still operate it is a testament to its design and capability. The UK chose wrongly in my opinion and that of many observers around the world, to take the Harrier out of service at the end of 2010 by the new Conservative government. It meant that there was a huge capability gap before the introduction into service of the new carriers and the F35. Several times in the past 6 years there have been many occasions when a carrier with a Squadron of Harriers on board would have seriously defused a situation, like Libya, Syria etc. However it was done and there is no turning back. The UK is committed to buying 138 F35s at a cost of £1.38 billion and is a huge purchase. One could wonder whether we needed such fire power against the likes of IS with their pop guns, but they are getting more sophisticated weaponry and probably will have combat aircraft at some stage. For the kind of money we’re spending on the F35 we could have kept the Harrier and Tornado fleets in service with avionic upgrades for many years and still have had enough air cover for our needs. The reason the Harrier went out of service was because one of the two; Harrier or Tornado had to go. The  Harrier for whatever reason lost, and the Tornado is now coming to the end of its life, with only the Typhoon left as the gold standard air defence aircraft for this countries protection. But a bomber it ain’t although it is now officially a muti-role aircraft, probably like F35 will be.

So the F35 is here, albeit temporarily and you can see it at RIAT Fairford where they are based in the UK during their stay, and at Farnborough International. They also flew over RAF Marham accompanied by a Tornado which is where 617 Sqn, the first F35 squadron will form. I wish them every success and good PR while they are here. They return in numbers in two years to populate a dozen squadrons eventually probably and will come to represent the RAF and the Royal Navy much as the Harrier did in its day. Bon chance. 

First F35Bs land at RAF Fairford

So, the first 4 Lockheed F35Bs have flown across the pond for the summer air show season in the UK. They were escorted in by RAF Typhoons, and refuelled in the air. They are to be based at Fairford, a USAF base, for  security, and will perform a flypast at the Farnborough air show in a couple of weeks.

The pity is they won’t be landing at Farnborough to be looked at more closely. A strange decision given that the UK will be eventually buying it is believed over 100 of them. Given the gestation and criticism the F35 Lightening has attracted (especially from this blog), it may have been a PR coup to allow the great unwashed to get up close and personal to this wonderful (?) machine. The UK government are fully committed to the introduction of the F35 into RAF and Royal Navy service and maybe should have insisted on them staying on the ground at the Air show. Perhaps they’ve got other things on their minds at the moment. Or perhaps the paranoid Americans don’t want the risk, however slight, that their equipment will be in any way comprised. Given the amount of money spent on both the F35 and the massive new aircraft carriers coming into service to carry them, I’d have  thought the great British public would want to see where their hard earned money was being spent.Ho hum, roll on the next general election in a few months time.

We can benefit from this….

(With acknowledgement)

U.K., U.S. Explore F-35 Partnership In Britain

Aviation Week & Space Technology

Tony Osborne

Jun 23, 2016

U.S., U.K. talk up training and logistics plans for joint F-35 basing in England

Special Relationship

During the 2020s, both Britain and the U.S. will begin building up their fleets of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) in the U.K.

The U.K. will be one of the first countries within the growing F-35 community where U.S. JSFs will be based alongside aircraft operated by other nations, and senior leaders from both countries are looking into the potential benefits this could bring.

Britain pledged in its Strategic Defense and Security Review published last November to purchase 138 aircraft, all to be based at RAFMarham, while the U.S. Air Force plans to station up to 54 F-35As at RAF Lakenheath as part of the future configuration of its 48th Fighter Wing.

Britain is working to form its first F-35B front-line squadron out of MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, in 2018. Credit: Tony Osborne/AW&ST

As a result, Eastern England could see one of the greatest concentrations of F-35s anywhere, with as many as 192 jets located with 20 mi. between the two stations.

While achieving this full complement is at least a decade or more away, working groups have been set up to establish how the two air arms could work more closely, in areas such as training, airspace sharing, maintenance, logistics and sustainment.

“I see a huge opportunity,” said RAF Air Commo. Harvey Smyth, the U.K.’s Lightning Force commander. “We have got to look seriously at the synergies. It would be silly to do this in two separate stovepipes, particularly from a training and learning perspective,” he told a conference in London in May.

The U.K. and the U.S. have not flown the same fighter aircraft type together in the U.K. since the 1970s, when both flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. The opportunity to benefit from that synergy did not last long, as the USAF quickly transitioned its aircraft at British bases to the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark.

Today, however, the 48th Fighter Wing—the last remaining USAF combat wing based in the U.K.—is working on plans that call for two squadrons of F-35s at Lakenheath based alongside two units flying theF-15E Strike Eagle.

The decision to base F-35s at Lakenheath follows a wider restructuring of U.S. bases in Europe. The first F-35s are expected to arrive in late 2021.

The U.K. will get its aircraft three years earlier, with the first front-line squadron, 617 Sqn, due to formally reactivate in early 2018 in the U.S. before moving back to Marham in the summer of that year. The U.K. also will establish a training squadron, or Operational Conversion Unit, that will begin work there during 2019. The second British front-line squadron, 809 Naval Air Sqn, is not due to form until April 2023. Eventually the U.K. plans to have four front-line F-35 squadrons, all at Marham.

The two nations have established steering and working groups to meet in a quarterly forum designed to maximize benefits from the partnership. Co-chairs are a United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) major and an RAF squadron leader.

“It is not just about logistics and sustainment, it is across the board.It is operations, maintenance, and it is training. You name it, we are looking at it,” explains Lt. Col. Tim Trimmell, deputy director of USAFE in the U.K. “We are figuring out what makes sense and how to operate together.” 

An obvious benefit is an idea to network the planned F-35 simulators at both Lakenheath and Marham so USAF and U.K. Lightning Force crews can train together despite sitting 20 mi. apart. There are a number of network and security issues to overcome, however.

Trimmell says there may not be many opportunities to share maintenance, although the two nations will be able to cross-service each other’s aircraft in the event that a USAF F-35 has to land at Marham or a U.K. JSF at a U.S. base. However, the USAF is eyeing the potential of training some of its maintenance personnel at facilities planned for Marham.

“Marham is buying a good number of the high-end training devices, which the USAF has decided not to buy, just because we have the aircraft to train on,” explains Trimmell. “Some of the things they are buying are beneficial to us because [they let] us keep our aircraft on schedule and in the mix rather than having to pull them off the schedule and use them for training.”

The USAF plans to base 54 F-35s at RAF Lakenheath along with two squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagles (pictured). A substantial proportion of USAF airpower will be based in the U.K. in the mid to late 2020s. Credit: Tony Osborne/AW&ST

Airspace for training is likely to present a major challenge, however. With adding more combat aircraft to Lakenheath and airspace availability being squeezed to allow more and more commercial flights, RAF commanders are increasingly concerned about where live-flying training can take place, potentially pushing large-force training into the simulator environment or overseas.

“Often we would de-conflict with the F-15s at Lakenheath and do our own training in a stovepipe,” Smyth said. “Now we are looking at how we can do that more joined up in terms of the limited airspace we have got.

“In the good old days . . . we could put 40-50-60 aircraft into Scotland and run a pretty good joined-up exercise, and everyone would have their own piece of airspace, and we’d get lots of good training out of it,” Smyth explained.

 “I can pretty much take up that same airspace with an F-35 four-ship, so when we start talking about putting multiple four-ships out of Marham or Lakenheath, the U.K. simply isn’t big enough,” he pointed out. “If the U.K. itself was a range, we would struggle.”

Smyth also suggested some elements of training were being handicapped by security concerns over the potential of adversaries listening to electronic emissions.

“Our Typhoon force is already strongly handcuffed,” because of “collectors sitting in the North Sea,” he said. “We are keen not to give away our crown jewels.” 

The U.K. has already begun work on preparing the base at Marham for nearly £500 million ($735 million) worth of new infrastructure, which has to be ready for the F-35’s arrival in 2018. 

In April, a £142 million contract was signed with Lockheed Martin andBAE Systems to construct centers for logistics operations, integrated training, and maintenance and final finishes responsible for upkeep on the aircraft and its low-observability stealth coatings.

The three facilities will be key elements in meeting the U.K.’s requirement for a so-called Freedom of Action capability allowing Britain to conduct F-35 operations independently. Two additional contracts are to be signed later for the building of hangars, offices and technical facilities, aircraft shelters, servicing platforms and three vertical landing pads, plus the refurbishment of runways, taxiways and hardened aircraft shelters.

Design work for the new facilities at Lakenheath is set to begin in fiscal 2018, so construction can begin in 2019 on a new squadron operations building and maintenance facilities, as well as weather shelters and a simulator building.

“We have 55% of the air force combat aircraft in Europe at this base; it makes sense to come here,” explains  Col. Robert Novotny, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing. “We have the capacity and the culture to take on more aircraft.” 

As well as the new facilities, Lakenheath will receive an additional 1,200 personnel to support the F-35.

“It makes sense for the USAF to get it right in the U.S.: bedding it down in the continental U.S. first, and then we are ready to go overseas,” Novotny says. “You want to get it right when you come overseas.”

The U.K. will not be the only country where U.S. F-35s will be based alongside those from foreign nations. Similar opportunities exist in Japan, South Korea and Italy, if the U.S. decides to put the F-35 into its bases there. 

The U.K. also is working closely with the U.S. Marine Corps, and it is likely the service’s F-35Bs will operate from Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers as mentioned in the Marines’ 2016 Aviation Plan.

Officers from both countries believe there is potential in the new relationships that could emerge with both countries operating the F-35, even down to closer integration of exchange officers, according to Novotny.

“The goal would be that, ideally, after the aircraft are all settled, an American pilot who lives at Lakenheath—whose kids go to school there—gets in his car, goes to Marham and flies an F-35B as an exchange pilot; and an RAF pilot—whose family lives at Marham—drives to Lakenheath and flies an ‘A’ model,” says Novotny.

“Everybody likes that idea. It’s a long way off, but at least we are talking about those things.” 

Posting as:Clive H

Now other papers are saying it. And a comment from Australia.

With thanks to The Guardian

F35 radar needs to be switched off and then on again.

 The F-35 Lightning II has been hit by yet another software bug, this time affecting the radar. It apparently stops working requiring the pilot to turn it off and on again.

The Lockheed Martin F35, which has been in development since 2001 and is the most software-driven warplane ever built, has experienced several failures and setbacks that have seen its cost balloon and its delivery delayed. Each jet is now expected to cost about £100m.

From structural problems that made it vulnerable to lightning strikes, to weight issues, bugs within its software and its complete lack of cyber security testing, the plane has caused concern among the UK, US and other buyers. And now a glitch with the radar, which appeared late last year, could potentially hinder its performance against less developed fighter jets.

US air force major general Harrigian told analyst firm IHS Jane’s: “What would happen is they’d get a signal that says either a radar degrade or a radar fail – something that would force us to restart the radar.

“Lockheed Martin discovered the root cause, and now they’re in the process of making sure they take that solution and run it through the [software testing] lab.”

Australia look to finding out about ‘minor technical glitches’ on the F35.

Australia is handing over $18bn or so for 72 F-35 jets we may or may not get and if we do they may or may not work. Surely there is a better way to spend this money!

The bug fixes for the planes are expected to be delivered to the USAF by the end of March. But others, including Keith Joiner, who is responsible for evaluating the plane’s performance for the Australian defence force, are looking to stop or delay further orders.

Joiner told Radio National Background Briefing: “Some systems like the radar control are fundamentally worse than the earlier version, which is not a good sign.

“The next software version is block 4. It won’t be available until 2020. So there’ll be nothing but fixing bugs in the original software between 2013 and 2020.”

While flight performance is one concern being addressed by software updates, the mostly software-driven plane also has yet to be tested for resistance to hacking, something that could be a real possibility with cyber warfare an increasing threat across the world.

Joiner said: “The only system that has done cyber security, vulnerability and penetration testing is the logistics software. And it didn’t go very well.”

Previous issues with the F-35 and its three variants have seen it grounded by the USAF over concerns with the engine after a fire, which also prevented the jet from participating in the naming ceremony of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier that is expected to take a full complement of 36 F-35s coming into service in 2018.

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.



OK some support here….but then again?

Seems that some pilots are fully endorsing the F35. But if Donald Trump is elected, it also says in this article, he will cancel F35. Mmmm, could be costly Don.

Norwegian pilot counters leaked F-35 dogfight report


01 MARCH, 2016 

BY: STEPHEN TRIMBLE PHOENIX (Thanks to Flightglobal)

A Norwegian fighter pilot has published a soft rebuttal to a damaging critique leaked last summer about the Lockheed Martin F-35A’s dogfighting prowess, contradicting many of the critical points made in the scathing review written by another test pilot.

Royal Norwegian Air Force Maj Morten “Dolby” Hanche, a US Navy test pilot school graduate with 2,200 flight hours in Lockheed F-16s, has flown several mock dogfights from Luke AFB in Arizona since becoming the nation’s first F-35 pilot last November. These have yet to advance to performing “dissimilar” training against other aircraft types.

In a blog post on Norway’s Ministry of Defence website, Hanche never directly mentions the leaked report; entitled “F-35A High Angle of Attack Operational Maneuvers”, dated 14 January 2015, and exposed last June by blogger David Axe on

But it is clear that Hanche’s review seeks to shoot down the anonymous pilot’s many complaints about the F-35, which have been cited by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has vowed on the campaign trail to cancel the Joint Strike Fighter programme.

That year-old leaked report described in detail a single flight on 15 January 2015 in which a test pilot – a veteran of Boeing F-15 and F-16 cockpits – ridicules the F-35A as dangerously lacking power after high angle of attack manoeuvres, putting the aircraft at a “distinct disadvantage” in mock dogfights with an F-16 Block 40 loaded with two external fuel tanks.

By contrast, Hanche writes on the MoD’s official blog that he is “impressed by how quickly the F-35 accelerates when I reduce the [angle of attack]”, suggesting the aircraft instead rapidly regains energy after “breaking” to a near stop with its nose pointed up to 40˚ high in mid-air.

Hanche also writes that the F-35 can tilt its nose upward under control beyond the ability of the F-16. Even at these extreme angles, the pilot can still “point” the nose easily by simply tapping the rudder pedals, Hanche says, adding that he is “impressed with the stability and predictability of the airplane”.

That again puts Hanche’s review at odds with the leaked test report. The previous test pilot complained that the controls of his particular F-35A – the AF-2 prototype – felt, by turns, sluggish, counter-intuitive and non-responsive in twisting maneouvres with the F-16 Block 40.

In one area, Hanche and the criticaltest report share similar concerns about the F-35’s cockpit visibility, but come to different conclusions about the scale of the problem.

Both pilots agreed that the head rest makes it harder to look for targets behind the aircraft. But the Norwegian pilot suggests that the other test pilot over-stated the problem after a single flight experience. By learning to tilt forward in his seat before looking behind, Hanche makes the point that he found a way to mitigate the visibility problem through trial and error after a few flights.

Hanche also makes another point that may seem surprising nearly a decade after the first F-35A prototype completed first flight. Due to several programme delays, the US Air Force is still learning how to use the F-35A in combat. Initial operational capability for the variant is scheduled later this year.

“The final ‘textbook’ for how to best employ the F-35 in visual combat – basic fighter maneouvres – has not been written yet,” Hanche says. “It is literally being written by my neighbour down here in Arizona!”

F35B – The Right Stuff?

To that viewer who noticed I have changed the title of this blog.

There are various reasons for this; When I started it out it was Bring Back the Harrier, because I thought at the time, and still do, that the decision to rid the UK of it’s Harrier force was the daftest thing any government (save the Labour government who scrapped the TSR2), could do to it’s armed air force. It caused a lot of angst and upset amongst the aviation fraternity, the reasons for which have been well dissected and discussed on this forum and many others. Now I am forced to change my slant mainly because there is not a cat in hell’s chance of us having a Harrier force again. It’s been over five years since they were taken out of service and sold to the US, and they now languish in the desert being slowly stripped to provide spares for the 300 or so Harrier still in US Marine Corps service. So I bow to the impossibility of the Harrier being in service in the UK ever again. Hence the domain name of the blog page remains the same but, I am now changing my slant to encompass fully the introduction of the F35B (Lightning II) into Royal Air Force and Royal Navy service.

I have tried to remain balanced in my view and try to present good news as well as the bad, in examining the probity of buying an aircraft like the F35B, which is practically wholly American designed and built, although there are some parts of the airframe being manufactured in the UK. In my view the whole concept of the design was wrong but we have what we have, and we’re stuck with that layout. There doesn’t seem to be a way back now so let’s try to examine in more detail what this aircraft is all about, and to this end I shall still be gleaning news items from all sources (except the Daily Fail), and letting my reader know the whys and wherefores of the introduction and in-service trials and tribulations of the Lightning II. If you have any news or stories, serious ones only, please let me know.