F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Hits Max Speed

Here’s a little something that was tucked in at the bottom of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter flight test update that Lockheed Martin sent out last Friday.  An F-35A — test jet AF-1 — out of Edwards Air Force Base in California hit the JSF’s max speed of Mach 1.6 for the first time on Oct. 26. Pretty cool.

Click here to see the entire update.

  • Max

    Only mach 1.6? Sounds like a slow boat to China! Whatever happened to Mach 2 and beyond? If this thing ever gets in a battle with any number of foreign fighters, it’s probably toast. They’ll run rings around it.

  • m167a1

    Speed isn’t everything, but you miss it when its not there. Avionics, maneuverability and acceleration will be even more important.

  • Uncle Bill

    Considering it’s mission mach 2 is a pointless waste of fuel. And if, somehow, a lone F35 ended up far from the ground forces it was supporting and facing any number of foreign fighters, perhaps the world’s entire supply of 5th gen enemy fighters appearing together all at once, my money is still on the F35.

  • marc

    Was this with the nose pitched down 30 degrees and the pipes lit?

    Call me old school, but the *ehem* alternative has TWO engines and can almost do that without afterburners.

    If I were in combat, heavy seas, hard IFR, I might want to have more than ONE propulsion unit….

    Just me being paranoid.

  • DKing5454

    “Mach 1.6” ???

    Let me guess… with a tail-wind, right?

  • JRL

    Kudos to the F-35 and Lockmart for achieving the blazing velocity of M 1.6 in under twelve years from the first flight of the JSF prototype.

    Lockheed really has come a long way in the half century since 16 May 1958 when USAF Capt Walter W. Irwin flying the YF-104A set a world speed record of 1.404.19 mph [Mach 2+]over a 15/25 kilometer course at Edwards AFB a little over four years after the first flight of the Starfighter…

  • Oudin

    It will be hit by Mig 29 or J-10 at mach 2 with armed R-73 or PL 8,i think good news for China.

  • Lance

    That’s sad in speed the F-22 is just as pitiful. Look at the last generations main fighters. The F-15 can run past them at Mach 2.5 a F-14 at mach 2. A 60s vintage F-4 is faster at Mach 2. A 50s vintage F-105 can zoom past them. Stealth is nice to have but when every MiG from a MiG-17 in a dive or threw a modern MiG-29 or SU-27 can zoom past you in speed you wont survive get more speed and maneuverability that’s more important than stealth.

    • Jerry

      Really ? So if the bad guy gets missile lock the little bit of extra speed is going to let you outrun it ? Same goes with finding it in the air with radar. I remember when the first pair of F-22s made it to Elmendorf. Shortly thereafter they did a mock search and destroy between an F-22 and an entire team of F-15C/D/E that were currently assigned there. The final tally was F-22 10, F-15s 0. If they can’t find you to begin with then speed is pointless. As far as maneuverability goes, the Raptor will run circles around any jet aircraft on the planet.

    • Mastro

      Don’t get hung up on the maximum speed- the F22 can out accelerate an F15 any day.

      It can also supercruise- so an F15 or Mig whatever that can’t will burn all its fuel on afterburner before it can catch up to a supercruising fighter.

      I imagine there are some circumstances that F35’s can be shot down- but straight up speed comparisons are misleading.

  • itfunk

    A slow speed means the F-35 is at a big disadvantage in the BVR fight. The F-35 pilot is really in the horns of a dilemma he knows that the enemy missiles will arrive first and with more energy that he cant out-maneuver because he has poor aerodynamic performance, but if he turns and runs he abandons stealth and puts up a bright kill me sign for all to see.

    In the F-35 stealth is a blanket that lets you get into trouble and then disappears when you need it most leaving the hapless pilot exposed and vulnerable.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “….that he cant out-maneuver because he has poor aerodynamic performance….”

      “….In the F-35 stealth is a blanket that lets you get into trouble and then disappears when you need it most….”

      Care to name a source and/or background for those statements?

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

    • Charlie

      Wait wait, if he turns to dodge the missile, then he breaks stealth so that the enemy can shoot a missile at him? There’s a little chicken before the egg happening here.

  • ziv

    I don’t know the answer to this so it is a question not a statement, but didn’t the F4 and other 3rd gen jets, have trouble going faster than Mach 1 with stores? I thought that it wasn’t just the fuel gulping that kept them from flying faster than Mach 1 inbound in Vietnam, but the fact that it might damage the bombs or the AC. Were the 4th Gen jets able to attack at speeds over Mach 1? I know the 4th Gen could egress faster, but I didn’t know the speed at which they attacked during the Iraq wars.
    Second question, with the PF135 generating 28k to 43k pounds of thrust dry and wet, respectively, and PW says they can uprate newer F135’s to the area of 50k pounds wet, will it finally be able to supercruise without afterburners?

    • Stormcharger

      Correct. The F4 was originally designed as an interceptor. That means it’s mission was to go very fast, deliver it’s radar homing missiles(it had no gun), and return to base because it was now out of fuel. It’s the reason the four missile hard points on the F4 were blended into the body, so drag was reduced and make it capable of attaining it’s Mach 2.2 top speed. The basic premise was to fly fast, engage the enemy very far away, and return. Unfortunately the actual target it was designed to defeat was a Russian bomber, which none of the planes designed this way were ever used for. But when carrying stores under the wings, even drop tanks, drag was increased by as much as 60% depending on the load and increase in weight as well. It’s like strapping 1000lbs to to the roof of your 2000lb Honda, how fast can you go?

  • Flyboy

    Wouldn’t it be great if the F-35 was cover for a better bird being built that was in fact top secret? Like, hey enemy, here’s our specs, plan accordingly!?

    • blight

      It might account for the severe cost overruns-hiding two programs in the budget of one. However, it requires some serious OPSEC to do so.

      • Flyboy

        It worked for Denver Airport with it’s “underground facilities?”

  • Corky

    Frequent reader, first-time commenter: Are the usual commenters on this site predominantly Boeing employees, people who just finished reading Red Storm Rising, flight simulator fanatics, Fox News fans, or perhaps all of the above? I have flown a fair amount of strike-fighter training and operational missions in recent history and can’t recall needing or wanting much more than Mach 1. There are a number of reasons that aircraft are no longer being built with Mach 2+ top ends, but the primary one is that high top airframe speed is largely irrelevant, even in BVR engagements.

    The F-35 program certainly has some substantial flaws, but its recent progress is great, particularly in light of the seemingly unattainable goals from which it was born. The Super Hornet is a terrific platform, but anyone arguing that it represents a long-term answer without a successor is being horribly myopic. JSF’s successes and failures are the foundation of future aerospace innovations despite structural and procedural problems in our research, development and procurement systems. I understand that the web commenting space is the domain of strong opinions, but it seems like this site should feature some better reasoned commenting devoid of clear agendas. Alas, probably a pipe-dream.

  • Vulpine

    Anybody remember the “cranked arrow” F-16? How about that canard-winged F-15? How many of you know there’s a semi-stealth F-15 on the production lines now for foreign sales?

    Really, we don’t need billion-dollar-each jets when the current platforms are still eminently useable. Sure, the F-22 is superior, but you can’t really expect 250 of them to replace nearly a thousand F-15s-you just don’t have the presence when you deploy them that you do with a larger fleet. The same holds true for the limited number of F-35s expected when they’re trying to replace three times that number of F-16s. Yes, the F-22 and F-35 are cutting-edge, but they still need reliable, capable backups when it comes out to an all-out shooting war.

  • Tim

    Most of the planes that claimed to fly Mach 2, actually can achieve it in a few seconds before exhausting its own fuel or engine overheat. The Soviet longed claimed their Mig-25 could easily surpass Mach 3, which made our guys nervous for many years until one of their pilots landed one in Japan. It turned out, the Mig-25 would have a hard time maintaining Mach 2.5, if not less. One attempt to show off over Israel caused the Mig-25’s engine to explode.

    It seems the Mach 1.6 for the JSF is a milestone for what it could do at that speed. I truly doubt if that is actually the “max” speed. Who would be stupid enough to advertise your weapon’s range before fielding it? The important thing is how long it can sustain at high speed and whether your enemy could see it coming.

    By the way, the Mig-21 doesn’t have the radar to get it out of the kill zone, much less finding the F-35.

    • Christian

      Completely agree. The military isn’t going to just give Opposing Forces the complete specs on their equipment. It’s similar to how the top speed of Nimitz and Ford carriers is classified. I guarantee that Mach 1.6 is not the F-35’s actual top speed.

    • Mat

      Ok what is up comparing it to a mig 21 a plane designed it the 50s

      Mig-25 speed is more than enough to keep it out of harms way ,had a radar with that much power it was hard to jam and it carried missles with large enough warhead that a near mis would still bring down any fighter, folow up Mig 31 had words first PESA radar and a digital datalink that most fighters still dont have inclouding F22

    • tiger

      In a world where one Army private can leak info to Wikileaks. Nothing is that secret anymore. Mach 1.6 is likely the top speed.

      • Mark

        The F-35 can sustain Mach 1.2 without after burners for 150 miles. Oh and if I had to guess I would say that the B model will go IOC on Juky 31, 2015.

  • Ryan

    Why are they just now hitting top speed for the first time? Isn’t that something you test a little more early on, like before the first one is delivered?

    • blight

      Shows you how far behind we are.

    • tiger

      SPeed & altitude matters.

    • SMSgt Mac

      On the off-chance this is a serious question- no, this is not “something you test a little more early on”.
      All modern fighter designs are intentionally aerodynamically unstable to enhance maneuverability (it makes the plane WANT to change directions). Software is used to keep the pointy end going the direction the pilot desires. A conservative flight envelope is first selected where confidence is high that there will be no untoward behaviors. The envelope is bounded by weight, altitude, and airspeed. Within that envelope, progressively more aggressive maneuvering is conducted and the performance and flying quality data is gathered and assessed. If needed, software is refined to ensure desired aircraft behaviors are maintained, and the results are also used to refine predictive tools for further expansion. The boundaries of weight, altitude and speed are methodically expanded until the required flight envelope is reached. If there is utility seen in exceeding the specifications, then further expansion may occur.

  • Sosuphoenix

    After Vietnam it was found that fights between aircraft happen at around Mach 1. You can not fire a missile at Mach 2. Also guns are useless at Mach 2

  • finish strong

    from finish strong : i thank you everyone who serves and has . what can we do to make this country better ????

  • FtD

    I’d rather trade 2 F35 for 1 F22 & 1 F18E/F/G, F22 mops up enemy fighters, F18G HARM Sam/radar sites and E/F does air support with F22 CAP above. At least USAF won’t feel too much pain when a superbug is down during sortie than downing F35

  • Tyson Rees

    Many, many internet aeronautical engineers, test pilots, and military tacticians on this site, I see.

    Huge mach numbers are so 1950’s.
    They expand flight envelopes a little more carefully than when YF-100s went supersonic on the first flight…..followed by lots of crashes of early production versions.
    If we listened to all of the so called ‘experts’ throughout the years, we’d still be flying F-86’s, (but I’m sure they’d be really slick with upgraded radar absorbing paint intead of 50’s era polished aluminum)

  • CaptEric

    Seems almost everyone has missed the point and is clueless as to the mission and role this A/C is designed for. Clearly misunderstood by the uninformed. Speed was never the issue for this equipment. A note aside; I would venture a guess that none of the anti-JSF-35 respondents here have ANY clue as to the ACTUAL electronics package on-board or what it is capable of. Nor will they for another 8-15 years. Nuff said about that.
    Just to make a point: in 1964 when the F-5 was introduced, it encountered similar naysayers. No one of those uninformed knew what we needed it for. Similar comparisons were made. 47 years later, it is still in service here and abroad serving in roles no one expected and still outmaneuvering modern day A/C.
    And BTW: Can your F-22 take off and land vertically?
    The JSF-35B CAN. What would you have the SUBSONIC Harrier replaced with? I’m sure the Marines will LOVE this A/C.

  • TexasJester

    A side note, probably a bit off topic, but for what it’s worth.. I was in the Navy stationed at NAS Cecil Field, just west of Jacksonville, FL. I was an avionics tech, assigned to an A-6 squadron. This was in April 1985.

    A couple of pilots were showing off the NEWLY INTRODUCED F/A-18 Hornet. One hotdogged this beautiful new aircraft off the runway - full throttle, full flaps, full brake - and wheel-hopping a bit, like a thoroughbred chomping at the bit in the gates. Released the brakes, hit afterburner. Front wheel off the ground in less than 100 feet, rear tires off in another 100 feet - landing gear POP into place. Aircraft goes VERTICLE - hit Mach at less than 6,000 feet!! (I knew one of the ATCs that in the tower that day.) And was STILL accelerating - going ballistic!!

    That day will always stick with me. I don’t care what new aircraft they cone up with, it will never make an impression on me like the NEW F/A-18 Hornet did on this young airdale that day….

    • Mike

      I call BS on fully airborne in 200 ft.

  • Mike Hickman

    Hmmmmm….The F-106, is still the fastest, single engine fighter of all time? I guess the emphasis is no longer on speed, but avionics, eh?

  • Samuel Heller

    The F35 is just the shake down version. The real Joint Strike Fighter is a replacement for the VTOL Harrier. Sitting stopped in flight and then off in attack at 1.6/2.0 mach sounds like a really nasty thing.

  • william

    I can tell you one thing. I work at northrop grumman. and build both aircraft. The f-35 and f-18 And that there is a absolute need for both, until the f-35 is produced in number we need f-18 to defend our country and our oil in the middle east. Plus the fact russia and china are on there way to 5th gen fighter production and selling them to country’s that would use them in a heart beat against us.

    • Mike

      Your not building both aircraft. Northrop does provide major components to each aircraft, as do many other sub contractors. Just because you pop rivets in one section of one of those aircraft, does not make you an expert on the need of one or both aircraft. I can also tell you that you personally do not work on both aircraft. They are made in seperate facilities, and large companies like Northrop have seperate workforces for each program. So basically your whole statement is BS.

    • Shahriar

      @ William… what do you mean by your oil????
      Bad attitude and wrong of thinking and absolutely no knowledge ’bout the real world pirate..

  • Robert K.Tom

    Were is the F-23A?This is the plane that should have won the contract,not the F-22 or the F-35. And this is not speculation eather,(?).
    Thank you,
    R.K.(Bobby) Tom

    • William C.

      The YF-23 wasn’t part of the JSF competition nor was it built for the same mission as the F-35.

    • gellyfeesh

      I think it was because it was stupid expensive, and wasn’t as versatile. Yea, somehow even more expensive than the gold cockpit glass F-22.

  • David

    1. The Speed is for F-35 is (M)2.5+ too F-22 Hit Speeds of (M) 2.5 + too!

  • Mike

    In 1992, both YF-23s were fenced outside just north and east of the B-2 building at Edwards AFB. I left in 1993, and do not know what happened to them from that point forward. The 23 was in competition with the 22 only. The F-35 was in competition with the Boeing design that looked like a guppy. Two seperate programs.

  • Hans

    Man, for all the “I’m a fighter pilot, and I don’t need to go Mach 2, pull 9gs, I cruise around at 450 knots and do all the aerial combat, BVR, etc.” Posters. Wow! And for all of the modern fighters can’t sustain Mach 2, or fly above 34 thousand feet people. Watch this. It is a video of an ordinanry Mig 29 flying to 72,000 feet and 1500 sustained. Yeah.

    • PMI

      Sadly aircraft going to war actually have to carry weapons, which are normally slung out in the air stream. They create this thing called ‘drag’ which drastically alters the aircraft’s performance. Wow! Yeah.

      • Hans

        SO you are telling me with a couple of missiles on that puppy its got a top speed of 500kts and a service ceiling of 40K? I bet with a light load the 29 could still top out at 60K and Mach 1.8.

  • Tom

    Funny how everyone keeps referring to the mig when were fighting wars against enemies that don’t even have planes…I think the f35 will do just fine in a dogfight with a man on a flying carpet holding an ak47…

  • Andy

    Come on Guys!

    The French passenger plane Concorde acheived Mach 2.15 with 187000 Lbs takeoff weight. JSF was a waste of money and waste of time.


  • Joe MacQueen

    Has anyone any idea what the plan is for this aircraft as the many rolls it will be asked to fill look’s more of a ground support first speed is not it’s main feature aveonics seem’s to be more then earlier plane’s and it will probably never fire weapon’s at mach 1.6 as pilot’s who are flying now don’t or have made comments’ to that effect . We of little or no knowledge maybe prone to down grade this plane it is something that is easy to do I only hope it will be an aircraft the pilot’s who will be flying this jet are proud to fly in all sitution’s.

  • MikeM

    RE: Texas Jester: Back in the late 70’s I and my family were at an air show at Scott AFB,
    At one point an F-5 sitting on the tarmac lit up it’s two engines and started rolling down the taxi strip when it reached the runway it stopped momentarily then with a deafening roar it started to roll. In a matter of a few seconds it was in the air. Then the crowd roared as the plane went vertical, after burners glowing and disappeared,straight up out of sight. I was amazed!

  • Andy Morales

    What the hell!!! In Korean war the F9F Panther was 100 mph slower than a Mig 15 yet racked up a 5-0 Kill ratio, it was the Navy pilots vs the Russian pilots. The Navy pilots were better trained and knew how to manuver a panther against the faster Mig. LOL
    Give me a F22 any day

  • Andy Morales

    Hey guys, remember the Korean war dog fights? I remember 4 Panther jets on patrol near the Soviet Union in late 1953. They were attacked by 6 Mig 15s, faster at 100 mp 5 Mig 15 shot down, 1 trailing smoke. Panther jets were inferior yet got a 5-0 kill ration. Better Pilot training ala TOP GUN, So it will be the better trained pilot in F35 to mop up the skys, Yesssssssssssss

    • tiger

      Cleaver, Thomas M. “Four Down! The Korean Combat the U.S. Tried to Forget.” Flight Journal, June 2013, pp. 42–49.

      The fight was Nov. 15,1952. Lt. Royce Williams of VF-781, flying off the carrier Oriskany during a series of air strikes against the North Korean port of Hoeryong, right across the mouth of the Yalu River from the major Soviet base at Vladivostok. Williams’ victories were notable because all four were flown by Soviet Naval Aviation pilots.

  • Andy M
  • p smith

    for all you would be experts, the jets that do mach 2 plus it is only dash speed it cannot be maintained, or parts start to weaken and fly off the plane, not only that there fuel would be quicky exausted,also in a turning dog fight speed bleeds off. the F35 with is senors and real time networking will be tuff to beat, sure it not the F22 but its up there with the best.

  • дона хондроматоз коленного сустава

    мне кажется, вы не правы ревматоидный артрит фото Дона

  • A. Rodriguez

    Speed is like a gun, when you don’t have it, you will miss it when in trouble. Without speed, you cannot run and rejoin the fight on your own terms just like a gun still makes you dangerous when out of missiles. No super cruise in this day and age? I think we have wasted enough money in this project to the detriment of other weapon systems. I never liked the F22 and always thought that its rival the F23 was a better aircraft. The “Air Farce” generals picked up the F22 because it had a more standard shape like the venerable F15.

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  • TheTruth

    I’m really loving this string. “Just FLY by them at mach 2.” Guess what it’s NOT ABOUT flying faster. Reconnaissance is about nobody knowing you’re there. Not escaping after someone sees you. The difference is if you’re never seen, then nobody ever knows what is going on. That’s the best. Also, the F-35 has insane features (yes I know this for a fact) that make it practically invisible to not only the naked eye but other IR systems. You won’t beat this jet in a fight because you won’t know it’s there. Put it up against 3 F-18s in a dogfight and sure it might take a couple out before going down. But this jet has the latest technology and by the time they are all built we won’t need to converse about which is better. Also, we’re “in a time of peace”, so l wouldn’t expect the government to want to see insane gatlins and precise targeting… oh wait… that sounds familiar….