F-35 Pilots Compare it to the Jets of Yesteryear

FARNBOROUGH, England — How does flying the F-35 Lightning II stack up against older-model fighter jets? We asked two of its most experienced pilots that very question after their presentation this week at the air show.

  • majr0d

    Comments about how these guys are shills in 3…2…1…

    • Black Owl

      This is another disgusting attempt by LockMart to bamboozle our leaders into buying something we don’t need! The public is being swayed by these obvious corporate shills. I wonder how many millions of dollars changed hands for this testimony… LockMart probably threatened their families or something… The F35 doesn’t even look cool, so it’s only logical that it doesn’t perform well. End of story.

      • BlackOwl18E

        You can stop impersonating me now. Everyone knows I will only comment on this website with this account from now on.

      • 4FingerOfBouron


      • Ahmad

        It looks gorgeous!

    • BlackOwl18E

      Thank you for giving yourself away, majr0d.

      • majr0d

        Wasn’t me but I like the rent free condo in your mind. :)

  • Big-Rick

    .8… .7….. .5…. .2 ……. .05….. .025….

    ok I’ll bite, reminds me of new car salesmen that say:
    “with a single push of a button this car will parallel park itself”
    “with car is so self-aware, with camera’s everywhere, that it will brake automatically for you if it see a hazard and it’ll even know if you are feeling drowsy…when it does the a n al probe will activate”

    I wonder if the F-35 will have the anti-drowsy feature they obviously left off on the F-22 ;-D

  • tmb2

    The title of the article is a bit misleading. Except for the guy saying he had to do more work in the Harrier, they didn’t really compare the F-35 to other planes. The first pilot spent his entire soundbite talking about the situational awareness systems and the second pilot about the push-button landing system. Nothing really controversial to discuss. You couldn’t give the guy an umbrella while you made him talk in the rain?

    • tmb2

      ^TMB. Finally devoted the 5 minutes it took to get an account like all the other cool kids.

      • BlackOwl18E

        I know what you mean!

    • Hunter76

      Doesn’t the US Military forbid umbrellas?

  • BlackOwl18E

    I think all of the technologies that these pilots are talking about are great. Boeing is already proving that the F-35-style sensors and systems are able to be added to the Super Hornet. They already added a detailed glass ****pit as well as IR sensors about the aircraft for spherical scanning and missile/laser warning. My question is how difficult would it be to add the software from the F-35B to an upgraded Harrier III?

    • 4FingerOfBouron

      Harrier is a turd. Non super sonic, high kill rate (of its pilots) week payload and maintence nightmare. How long do you think a combat airframe can last? I’m not talking B-52, I’m talking turners and burners…

  • SirSapo

    Boeing’s upgrades have never even flown on an airplane before, after all this talk of not believing Lockheed’s “sales brochures” you sure are quick to believe Boeing’s. You would see a huge spike in cost if you start putting that stuff on a legacy airplane because you aren’t just upgrading whats already in there, you’re putting things on the airplane that were never there. Add the cost of an advanced targeting pod (ATFLIR, SNIPER XR, whatever), all your IR sensors, and the most advanced passive detection suite in the world (which would be next to impossible) to the airframe cost of the Super Hornet, and you’d end up with a hefty pricetag. There’s a reason that the new versions of the Strike Eagle (F-15K, F-15SG, F-15SA, etc) cost over 100 million dollars, and that reason is electronics. In my aircraft design courses back in school, we used the rule of thumb that per pound, avionics are 6 times the cost of the airframe and twice the cost of the engine. I’m also skeptical that they will be able to fit all the supporting equipment into the Super Hornet to run all of that fancy new stuff, the Super was criticized during development for its lack of expansion room and I imagine the problem hasn’t gone away.

    The reason why you see the most recent F-35’s costing so much is because the original LRIP-5 order was for 42 jets, with all the long term lead items associated with their construction, however the contract was reduced to only 32 airplanes, so you get a spike up relative to the LRIP-4 numbers, which were coming down. The realistic costs for an F-35A right now sit a little above 100 million dollars per jet. Yes it is more expensive than a vanilla Super Hornet, but as I’ve said before, you get what you pay for. And that $54,000 dollar per flight hour is a guess from Winslow Wheeler, not an actual number. While the F-35C will probably cost more money per flight hour than the SHornet, I doubt it will be that dramatic of an increase. Also I highly doubt that the F-16 costs more to fly than the SHornet, I wouldn’t mix each service’s accounting methods there.

    I’m not sure if you linked me to the right article on the whole Harrier III thing, I didn’t see anything in there about BAe actually doing any serious design work, it read more like a thought experiment. Irregardless, sure you could make a Harrier III, but that’s just what it would be, a slightly higher performing Harrier. If you want something that can lift more and still go fast and maneuver, you won’t do any better right now than the Lift-Fan system and the F-35B. And before you say that the Lift-Fan doesn’t work or whatever, left me point out that in the 791 flights of the B-model so far, 70% percent of them started with a short takeoff, and over 40% ended with a vertical landing.

    I’m not a huge fan of Lockheed these days or how the JSF program seems to be playing out, but as it stands, the whole program is still a way better alternative in terms of performance and capability than upgrading 4th generation fighters. As much as I would like to see some new Vipers or Eagles to freshen up the fleet, its time to move on.

    • David

      Great post. I have been waiting for someone to punch holes in BlackOwl’s ridiculous arguments for a while now.

      • BlackOwl18E

        It’s disgusting that they keep deleting these arguments. It shows an obvious bias.

      • BlackOwl18E

        Ha! Found my old post. Wasn’t exaclty in the right spot for the argurment, but it did wind up getting the gist of my side:

        You’re going to have to show me a link or something for the fixes on the F-35. I refuse to just take your word for it and the JSF’s PR team hasn’t shown the same exactly.

        Of course the helmet is well on the way to being fixed. That’s why they’re making a second lower tech helmet right? NO. That makes no sense. The helmet’s not even close to getting fixed.

        You can’t guarantee me anything about the upgrades in weapons or aircraft systems for the next 40 years. You can’t see the future. The F-35 has terrible issues with expansion room. All you are giving me is your word and that’s not good enough for me. NOT AT ALL.

        The Super Hornet has a significant range increase over the older Hornets since it holds 33% percent more fuel and it has almost the same airframe. All the Super Hornet pilots I have talked to and many of the accounts of Marine Hornet pilots that flew the Super can attest to that. The conformal tanks are very low drag and are designed to create more lift. I already know that the fuel weight doesn’t equate to an increase in range but you are not taking into account that the Block III Super Hornet can use the weapons pod to carry ordinance and have low drag with nothing under its wings. You also aren’t taking into account the EDE engines with enhanced endurance for the Super Hornet that allow it to maintain the same performance with less fuel consumption. The Block III Super Hornet will not have a significant range difference with the F-35C.

        And, No, the F-35 can’t benefit from everything else that I listed on the Block III Super Hornet because it doesn’t have the room for it. It’s not as flexible in operations as the Super Hornet is and it doesn’t carry nearly as much ordinance. Once you mount ordinance on under the wings then it basically becomes an F-16 in terms of performance that costs 3x as much. Not only that, but if we buy the F-35 we will not have enough money to make all those systems or enough of those systems to matter because we’ll be too busy paying for the obscenely high operating cost of these jets that do in fact rely on a technology that is becoming increasingly vulnerable with enemy advances in electronics. The F-35 relies entirely on a technology that could easily go out of fashion in the next decade. A technology that is extremely expensive and is not worth its price in capability. The F-35 price is STILL GOING UP as the flaws are fixed and there is no way that 1 F-35C is worth 3 Block III Super Hornets.

        I refuse to continue this any further until you ANSWER MY QUESTIONS. What types of the maintenance did they perform on the F-35Bs? You said they aren’t replacing the lift fan every week, but how often are they replacing it? Does LM have permanent fixes for the F-35B engine for it to work perfectly? If not then why don’t they? When will the F-35C trap a wire? LM has had over a decade and billions of dollars. We should be seeing some results by now. You also don’t seem to understand that every time you call the Block III Super Hornet imaginary, I’m just going to call a fully functional F-35 far more imaginary because that’s the truth.

  • The great jessmo

    Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that it has agreed to buy 4 Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) at a cost of $128.61 million each, an increase of $3.7 million over the $124.83 million price negotiated last December. The four aircraft are scheduled for delivery in Fiscal Year 2016.

    A formal letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) was signed in Japan on 29 June and includes four conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variants of the F-35, spare parts, and two simulators for a total of $756.53 million. Although the base price of the aircraft itself increased, the cost of the spare parts and two simulators dropped from an initial estimate of $258.48 million to $240.83 million, a significant savings for Japan.

    It feels so good sometimes, destroying F-35 haters.

    Copy and paste the link before the anti-F-35 guys bann or sensor me http://defense-update.com/20120704_japan-formally…

  • STemplar

    I wish we would stop pissing away so much money on tacair period. If anyone read Greenert’s piece about how he sees all the parts fitting together the role of the F35C in the USNs eyes is very different. Bottom line is the 2400ish # the DoD keeps quoting isn’t going to happen. The damn this is too expensive to buy and the cost per flight hour is ridiculous. We are going to buy the F35, just a hell of alot less than 2400ish when its all done.

    • gaylord_gaylordson

      That’s probably why they haven’t used that number for years. It’s 1,785 total.

  • Merlin

    This plane is old news. If the public has seen it. Its been flying for 15-20 years. Your not paying for the f35. Your paying for the next gen that you have not seen yet. Figured all you guys would know this by now.
    If not come back in 15 years and we will talk some more. Need proof? Go google earth NAFB and see 25 F35’s sitting out on the tarmac on ready status.

    • ltfunk2

      Yea I hear thier have a team of alien pilots rescued from UFOs flying them.

      Its alwasy funny to hear thwe claims of secretly amazing things the F-35 can do that we dont know about. Well what we know is it cant fly very well, cant launch many weapons well and cant fullfill real world missions.

      But maybe when the alien technology is fully integrated things will improve LOL

      • gaylord_gaylordson

        We do?

        I thought that we knew it was the only survivable fighter available in the West for at least 10 years.

  • The great jessmo

    Okay, here’s the first BIG DIFFERENCE between the Hyper Hornet and the F-35C. The Hyper Hornet has had very little money actually put towards it because Boeing wants a customer to fund the upgrades. That’s why no version of it has flown. The F-35 has had obscene amounts of money pumped into it by us and our allies and it still doesn’t work. It doesn’t trap a wire or fly vertically without breaking apart. The software doesn’t work, the helmet doesn’t work. It hasn’t even done live weapons testing or spins yet.

    Read more: http://live-defensetech.sites.thewpvalet.com/2012/07/12/f-35-pilots-com…

    The F-35 Lightning II is making good progress through flight testing this year, a top Lockheed Martin official says. Most of the biggest challenges faced by the programme should be well on their way to being fixed by the later part of the year.

    One major issue that has recently popped up on the US Navy’s F-35C variant is that the aircraft’s tail-hook has had to be redesigned. That is because the existing design has failed to catch an arresting cable during trials. Lockheed is working on a new improved hook design that should fix the problem.

    “We have modified the hook pointwith a lower center of gravity,” says Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed’s vice president for F-35 programme integration and business development. Additionally, “we’ve redesigned the hold-down damper.”

    I will also add that so far the fix is working and the new design has caught a land hook.
    No falling apart here. Your making this to easy

    • ltfunk2

      >I will also add that so far the fix is working and the new design has caught a land hook.

      So did the previous failed design. So claims that it’s working are havent been tested yet. Just another example of the inherent dishonest of F-35 shills.

    • Dave

      great comment.

    • Taylor

      Sorry to give Jessmo a negative vote accidentally. Thumbs up.

  • jack

    it would help if the right prices are used

    BY2012 $M
    The Program Acquisition Unit Cost (PAUC) inc. engine = $134.5 M
    The Procurement Unit Cost (APUC) inc. engine = $109.1 M
    Average F-35A Unit Recurring Flyaway (URF) Cost inc. engine = $78.7 M
    Average F-35B Unit Recurring Flyaway (URF) Cost inc. engine = $106.5
    Average F-35C Unit Recurring Flyaway (URF) Cost inc. engine = $87 M

    • ltfunk2

      >it would help if the right prices are used

      Yea it would, wouldnt it. But instead you cherry picked the lowest cost you could find. Whos going to pay for the non-recuring costs the development costs and everything else you missed out on - your fairy godmother ? LOL

      • jack

        try reading the link, or look up what PAUC and APUC means, they inculde what you said was missed as a combined price for the A, B and C

        • BlackOwl18E

          F-35A: US$197 million (flyaway cost, 2012)
          F-35B: US$237.7M (weap. sys. cost, 2012)
          F-35C: US$236.8M (weap. sys. cost, 2012)

          I’ll give you one shot at guessing where I got these from.

          • jack

            I guess you got it from wiki. from someone that doesn’t know how budget docs work

          • jack

            I also guess you have nothing to dispute the PAUC,APUC and the average A

    • Dave

      finally, a sensible cost documentation for the F-35.

      • BlackOwl18E

        We need the F-35 to be fully completed and the production line to be rolling out battle ready jets before it can be considered sensible.

  • ltfunk2

    No doubt old F-105 thunderchief pilots will tear up with the F-35 because the performance of the two is about the same.

    Buts it’s good to the the F-35 is so easy to fly. You dont want to waste an expensive highly trained pilots in an aircraft where a SAM lockon is a death sentance because the aircraft kinematics are so poor.

    Oh yea I forgot no SAM will ever lock onto a F-35 no AAM will ever be fired against one because they are magically INVISIBLE. LOL

    • William C.

      The F-35 is closer to the F-16 in performance than the F-105. Not that you’re interested in facts or anything.

      • ltfunk2

        It has the same wing loading and thrust to wieght ratio as a F-105 but “it performs just like F-16” LOL

        • SirSapo

          The F/A-18 has almost an identical combat wing loading as the F-105, as does the F-16. As for thrust to weight, the F-35 is in the same class as both of those airplanes.

          Fun fact: Aircraft performance is more complicated than two numbers.

          • Anlushac11

            Agreed. F-35 pilots have reported the aircraft handles and flies almost the same as the F-18E/F. At minimum it should be as survivable as the current 4th gen aircraft.

            USMC needs the F-35B badly. The Harrier has been out of production for years and there are no new airframes. USMC has been buying everyone elses Harrier’s and parts just to keep theirs flyable.

            When you can get a Hyper Hornet to fly off and land on a Gator let me know, otherwise F-35B is all the Corp has.

          • ltfunk2

            Just hilarious, the F-105 “lead sled” was such a poor performer in Vietnam that it had to be removed from combat due to excessive losses.

            Thefact that we are building aircraft that cant go up a 60s era MIG-21 is a scandle.

          • blight_

            The F-105 was thrown at properly designed SAM defenses in an attritional fashion. Losses were to be expected.

            Not like we’re bombing a technical in the desert, as in today.

          • tiger

            The F-105 was never meant to be a great fighter. Tac nuke dropper was the orginal mission. Not my choice to play with in those days. I’ll take the Crusader any day over it. Even a Mirage III.

          • Riceball

            You keep on stating that based solely on 2 figures that the F-35 is no better than the F-105 in spite of being told that wing load and thrust to weight ratio alone are not indicators of an aircrafts performance and also in spite of pilot testimonial that it flies (surprise!) like other fighters. If you’re going to hate on the F-35 based solely on a comparison to the F-105 you’re going to have to do better, not even Blackowl (possibly the biggest F-35) hater here has never tried to argue that the F-35 flies like and F-105. According to an interview w/Italian pilots involved with the F-35 program its performance envelope falls somewhere in between an F-16 and and F-18. http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,186349,0…

  • Sanem

    the F-35 is the most advanced jet on the face of the earth
    but it broke the bank, and it’ll be outdated in less than a decade

    either way the West will be bankrupt very soon, the F-35 will be ancient history, and it’ll be the rise of the machi… er, drone

    • Big-Rick

      yep, we seem to want the gold platted version when silver will do just fine and be
      1/4 the costs

      • citanon

        Name any 4th gen fighter with 1/4 the unit fly away cost of the F-35?

        • BlackOwl18E

          Well in March the F-35B was $291.7 million per unit and the Super Hornet Block II last had a listed unit price of $66.9 million per unit, which is less than 1/4 of the B-model’s cost.

          • jack

            you need to qualify what unit cost, if it’s TY or BY $, if it’s a full production price or a LRIP etc

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003407025435 Mehmet

          RE: Coming from the other side of it, It’s always aeolsutbly baffled me why people consider their income to be something so deeply personal that it’s unforgivably rude to ask about it. I’ve seen people who are willing to divulge intimate details about their sexual fetishes or health problems who blanch at the thought of putting their income range on an anonymous survey. What’s the deal? Can anyone explain this to me? Please, I am genuinely puzzled. Maybe it’s just a generational divide.By the by, as people seem to be having difficulty with this whole incomes thing, lemmie help you out a bit. The median household income in King County is $53k year at last I checked.The per capita is $29k.According to wikipedia, for the city of Everett, the median household income is about $40k and the per capita is about $20k.From my admittedly rough calculations that means the 50th percentile of incomes in Everett can afford approximately a maximum of about $200k on a mortgage at todays interest rates. Once again, rough calculations. So you may want to readjust your thinking on what is affordable . You could assert that the 50th percentile has no business owning a home and should rent, as I have seen it not stated but implied on these forums before. In that case, we could bump it up to the 60th or 70th percentile and say that the prices are bang on, but that creates a simple supply and demand problem. If you are arbitrarily reducing the percentage of the population that should be able to afford a home, to say 30% to pick a random percentage, you had better make sure that there are only homes available for 30% of the population and a **** of alot of rental space. Otherwise supply exceeds demand and prices will have to come down. I think it’s important that people get over their (baffling, to me) squeamishness about incomes and start really looking at what kind of money people make around here. Presuming everyone is about like me is foolish.

  • Blue

    I am thumbing up all the pro-F-35 comments and thumbing down all the anti-F-35 comments.

  • Atlanya

    It’s no secret that the F35 is a larger chunk of change than we’d like it to be. F35B, for example, is looking to replace the Harrier, correct? I’d venture to say that replacing the Harrier with a brand new platform is worth the cost.

    Marines are having to buy other countries old stocks of Harriers for parts. That’s not good. Harriers are, what… Vietnam era? There’s no way a Harrier can be combat effective on the modern battlefield. And I’m not talking about OEF. I’m talking if we got into a fight with a legit Mil instead of fighting pissed off farmers.

    • Atlanya

      Sure it has a large payload and can even fit a light bomber role. But do we really need that in this day and age? The payload/loiter perks were great for the 90’s and early 00’s, of course. But with drones and sat’s running the surveillance that loiter time isn’t really needed. Speed and precision will be the name of the game in the next conflict.
      I hate the cost of the F35, don’t get me wrong. I’m not much a fan of the single engine. I wish it had more payload. But the fact that it’s a brand new aircraft that can do the same tricks as the Harrier, and then some, is a pretty big plus. Harrier had a great run. Will go down as one of the greats in history.

      This is just one of those rare occasions where need outweighs cost. And I think top brass knows that, despite how stupid they’re portrayed as being. Just wish that cost wasn’t so gargantuan.

  • dubweiser101

    For that price it better be easier to fly than the Harrier.

  • TJRedneck

    As far as the F-35 replacing the A-10, AV8B, F-16, & F-18 - The A-10: No way anything could replace that except an upgraded A-10. The AV8B - Yes, I can see it replacing that. The F-16 & F18, not sure the jury’s still out on that.
    I would like to see the Air Force do away with their version and adopt either the B or C model. They need to get away from fighters that need long runways to take off, all the enemy has to do is take out the runway and the whole squadron is grounded.
    I do know that the F-35 is progressing and I would like to see them test it at the next level - which is against other aircraft.
    Here’s what they have so far: https://f35.com/building-the-f-35/testing/f35b.as…

  • BillDanner

    I revel in what BRASS had to say - I was around the SKUNK WORKS when the F-35 was being developed. He is right on target in every aspect. This aircraft is designed to make the pilot’s job easier when evrything about him is turning into a personal nightmare regarding bogies. It allows him to concentrate on the job at hand, eliminating the bad guys, while not having to worry about constantly scanning his guages for aircraft problems. …as far as the comments about a black box or the display failing and everything is lost, there is something called redundancy - and at the SKUNK WORKS we didn”t work to the 3 sigma level of probability we worked to 4. ….as for the didplay, you don’t think we put redundancy into that also - - that if it went out the pilots would be blind as to their guages and such, give me a break. This gives the pilots the abilityt to, and please BRASS allow me to quote you “I wonder how we keep essential skills and the split second decision making skills that are necessary. We live in an age where our defense and government computer systems suffer millions of attacks in one day

  • Smokeman

    so the only difference between the F35 and platforms like the F16 18 and 15 are the avionics? Why are we spending so much money on a new platform again?

    • BlackOwl18E

      Welcome to my world…

  • Joe Macqueen

    The cost is the last item on the table will this aircraft fufill the need’s of all the service’s which the military has asked for as I can’t see the gov’t going back to the drawing table.
    The US. has more at stake then their other member’s as the fleet of plane’s they plan on replacing is overwhelming to say the least.
    I as a Canadian feel our view’s are of no importance for the amount of plane’s our country is talking about are less than a drop in the bucket soo if they decide to opt. out so what. I have no idea what these aircraft will be used for aside from having the same type if in another conflict make’s it easier to service at that time.JSF.is the program.we will be part of.I don’t envey you america’s.

  • Steve

    I’d really love to get an idea of how the F-35 actually handles compared to other fighters. Ive never seen it doing anyting all that impressive in videos ect. Not even a minimum radius turn. Just want an idea of how maneuverable it is.