Sunday, May 29, 2016

Well This is Good

The F-35 is getting some good reviews in the hands of users. As the only game in town, that's good news.

This is a relief:

Now, with the F-35 ready for service the growing number of pilots who have flown it and techs who maintain and upgrade it are reporting that the new fighter is better than they expected. This is because a lot of the new tech that was causing the problems (and indignant headlines) eventually matured and provided new opportunities that even the designers did not anticipate. Actually, the unexpected was expected because the F-35 is highly automated (as are ships, airliners and so much else) and the pilots can not only spend more time on the mission and less on the many details of operating a complex machine. ...

The F-35A matches the F-16 in terms of maneuverability, outperforms it in terms of stealthiness, payload, range, supportability, survivability and overall operational effectiveness. Not surprisingly the F-35 costs more than twice as much.

It's a relief that the problems are being solved. But I'm old enough to remember when the M-1 was too fragile for maintaining in combat conditions--until it dominated in two maneuver campaigns against Iraq--and old enough to remember that the Stinger anti-aircraft missile was too complicated for American soldiers to operate--until Afghan rebels started dropping Soviet helicopters with it.

But what is really a relief is the report that the plane is as maneuverable than the F-16. I was led to believe that this was not the case--and done on purpose:

Rather than entering a turning fight at the merge, the F-35 barrels through and takes an over-the-shoulder defensive shot. As a Northrop Grumman video puts it, "maneuvering is irrelevant".

As I worried in that post, fully aware of my limitations:

I'm nowhere near close enough of an expert on airplanes to really judge this claim, but 40 years ago, we thought dogfighting was obsolete with air-to-air missiles in our arsenal until cheap enemy fighters over the skies of North Vietnam disabused us of that notion. Forty years is a long time, of course, and times change. Perhaps no enemy can get close to us again to shoot us down with old-fashioned cannons or shorter-range missiles.

If the F-35 is as maneuverable as the F-16, that's pretty good, I say, if maneuvering is not irrelevant.