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.

    • So?

      Good enough for the lo part the hi-lo mix.

      • Black Owl

        I thought about this too. The MiG-21 has a max speed of mach 2. The F-35 can only hold two AIM-120s in a stealthy configuration. If one F-35 faces 3 MiG-21s it can easily kill two, then it runs out of ammo. After it runs out of ammo the MiG-21 can out run it and kill it with advanced Russian versions of the R-73, that are now proliferating in the arms market.

        Late versions of the MiG-21 (like its Chinese counterpart that is still in production the J-7) have a cost that does not exceed $18 million. If you mass produced these in a three to one ratio against the JSF numbers then you would force the JSF operators to mount weapons on them externally to give them a fair chance, eliminating their stealth abilities. Considering that you could make a whole squadron and thensome of J-7s for every JSF, those are bad odds.

    • NorCalHal

      Only the SR-71 can outrun bullets and missiles. Situational awareness through advanced sensors, communications and agility will be more significant than speed alone.

  • 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.

    • itfunk

      A strike fighter that cant do the strike part and cant do the fighter part.

    • Mat

      Forgot to mention B version having no gun C version limited to 6g and even slower

    • TheTruth

      I like this guy ^ (Uncle Bill)

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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!?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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….