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The F-35 Was Built to Fight ISIS

Despite continuing debate, it is inevitable that the F-35 will become America’s workhorse air platform. After billions spent on its procurement, the ageing of its current fleet, the lack of investment in developing alternatives, and given its capabilities applicable to the conditions of the current air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the F-35 will and should become America’s central fixed-wing combat aircraft.

 

Fighter Gap

With more than 100 airframes in service to date, a project pipeline which has, for the most part, smoothed out significantly since 2012, not to mention the project’s colossal $400 billion cost to date, the idea that somehow the F-35 could yet be mothballed or cancelled has most likely passed beyond the realm of possibility. Policy minds are made up.

Western air combat fleets are ageing. Venerable as they may be, many of the platforms upon which policy-makers continue to rely for increasingly short-notice deployments are at the twilight of their operational lives. In many cases, the point is being reached where aircraft are reaching the absolute maximum of their often already-extended serviceable lifetime. Seeking to extend these airframes beyond these limits would prove a significant expense and could even endanger the lives of aircrew.

Despite its critics, there really is no alternative to the F-35. Adopting a “make do and mend” attitude will not keep aging aircraft operationally safe or fiscally tenable for long and almost certainly not as long as developing, engineering, and procuring a new capable replacement from scratch would require. Attempting to extend fleet life beyond its advisable limits while going back to the drawing board could create a dangerous “fighter gap” during which America’s current airframes could degrade faster than a new aircraft could be developed. While European air forces can fall back on other advanced aerospace defense projects such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, or Gripen for example, if American procurement history is to be taken as an indicator of strategic culture, purchasing externally-developed, foreign aircraft to operate as the future backbone of American air power is simply not an option for the U.S.

The reasoning behind developing the F-35 as an advanced “5th generation” platform has always been relatively simple. The future battlespace does not take for granted the privileged operational position which NATO aircrew have recently enjoyed.

Western military powers have placed their eggs in the F-35 basket. It is frankly inevitable that the F-35 will become operational and it will almost definitely see combat. As such, a shift in the debate around this most controversial of aircraft is prudent. Questioning whether procuring the F-35 in the first place was a prudential decision is becoming a question for history. It is too late to stop now.

 

5th Generation Capabilities

In order to keep the debate concerning the F-35’s strategic ramifications relevant, it is time to consider the operational picture which the F-35 will be a part of. Obviously, there is no crystal ball answer that can settle that question in the here and now. The war against ISIS being fought by the United States and its allies represents the kind of operation at which the F-35 can not only partake, but excel. Combat air strikes over Syria have already seen the deployment of the equally long-debated F-22, which naturally conjures speculation over prospective future operations for the F-35.

The reasoning behind developing the F-35 as an advanced “5th generation” platform has always been relatively simple. In order to retain dominance in the future application of air power, the United States and its allies must develop airframes which are capable of operating without the luxury of uncontested or unprotected airspace which has characterized the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, the adaptive and fluid capacities of likely future targets such as ISIS, must be met with improved targeting and observational capabilities. The projected future battlespace does not take for granted the privileged operational position which NATO aircrew have recently enjoyed. Rather, policy planners recognize the need to develop and adapt capabilities in order to retain the strategic edge.

 

Fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Although undertaken simultaneously, airstrikes in Iraq and Syria should be considered two distinct operations, each possessing their own characteristics. While Iraq is quite familiar operational territory to coalition air forces which have patrolled them for most of the last 24 years, Syria remains something of an unknown. This is especially relevant with regards to the collection of intelligence necessary to guide bombing efforts, and the differences between operations in Syria and Iraq are palpable.

In Iraq, coalition forces are capable of regular and direct contact with ground forces engaging ISIS targets, making precise targeting much easier than in Syria. Whilst the specific communication capabilities between air forces and Syrian ground forces is not precisely known, all indications are that the development of communication and on-the-ground intelligence sharing between air and ground forces is in its infancy, if possible at all.

To offset the lack of real-time human intelligence, sensory equipment for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition becomes increasingly important. The F-35’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities promise tantalizing possibilities, while network-enablement between platforms in real-time, if developed and operated efficiently, has the potential to yield great benefit in piecing together an effective offensive targeting plan.

Of course, technology pessimists will argue that no level of sensory development can prove more reliable than human confirmation of a target. They are, quite frankly, right. However, if operations such as those over Syria are an indication of things to come, human confirmation will be a luxury to combat aircrews. The sensory capabilities of advanced platforms such as the F-35 may well prove the only reliable means of attaining a full and proper understanding of the operational environment in the future. The development of such sensory capability is of tantamount importance to the future success of air operations.

 

Protecting Aircrew

The ability of aircrew to operate with impunity and in relative safety is as much a factor in potential future operations as intelligence and targeting. While foes such as ISIS have no air capability themselves, to infer from this that ISIS cannot pose a threat to military aircraft would be woefully naïve. In the last month alone, rotary and fixed-wing aviation assets belonging to both Iraq and Syria have been successfully engaged by extremist forces.

Naturally, this has led to a preference towards the utility of fast-jet aircraft operating at high altitude in counter-ISIS operations. Once again, this preference is notable in Syria, where the counter-air capacity of ISIS and other aggressors is largely unknown. As with targeting, the operational familiarity afforded aircrews in striking ISIS targets within Iraq affords a greater degree of flexibility and confidence in operations, hence the deployment of comparatively vulnerable AH-64 Apache gunships and the much-discussed A-10 Warthog to Iraq.

Of course, the risk to aircrew in Iraq is in no part offset by the capacity to undertake rescue and recovery efforts in the case of a loss of an airframe in combat. Given that strikes in Iraq have focused on supporting frontline combat operations, the likelihood of crew loss or capture by ISIS is weighable against the potential benefits to be gained from engaging ISIS at closer quarters. The results of the loss or capture of aircrew within ISIS-held Syrian territory does not bear thinking about. As such, the deployment of the Apache or Warthog over Syria which, while perfectly-suited to the role of close air support, are highly vulnerable to proven anti-air tactics operated by ISIS, remains a rather remote prospect.

 

The Future of Airpower

Military planners are criticized for missing the mark. In terms of air power doctrine, however, the general belief that aerial interdiction will become increasingly complex and dangerous is proving true. Over the last decade, airpower has enjoyed a significant level of freedom from viable threat in conflicts over Iraq and Afghanistan, with the notable exception of rotary aviation, accounting for 9% of all combat casualties to date in Afghanistan alone. Combat aviation however, especially fixed-wing variants, has been able to operate in these conflicts with high levels of impunity. As a strategically-minded opponent, ISIS has sought to counter this. It is to the credit of NATO and other western force analysts that they have taken into account the need to develop and improve airborne capability in order to retain this edge which has proven a decisive power in the West’s war-winning capacity in the post-Cold War era.

If interdictions in the style currently pursued against ISIS are to become the norm as strategic planners assert, the F-35 provides its buyers with the best operational capacity for success. Taking this and other factors such as the cost of procurement, time spent in development, and danger of creating a “fighter gap” into consideration, expect to see the F-35 become America’s workhorse in the air—maybe beginning soon over Syria and Iraq.

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53 comments

  1. walter adams 13 October, 2014 at 13:33 Reply

    “It’s strange, like its already happened and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Just watch it happen, help it happen.” Gen John Buford at Gettysburg
    I pray that someone, somewhere, has a plan for when this disaster of a fighter plane blows up in our faces.

  2. NorEastern 13 October, 2014 at 13:52 Reply

    Unfortunately the author is probably right. We are stuck with the F-35. The most interesting statement was about SAR. I had not looked into the technology, but the images that can be produced are amazing. The resolution of that radar could certainly identify moving Humvee in the dead of night. An artillery piece should stand out like a sore thumb, if my understanding of the resolution available on the F-35 is correct. ~1 cm. And all of that assumes that the bandwidth and processing power needed to integrate multiple F-35 SAR images is currently not available. If that is not true then three F-35 aircraft in formation could probably distinguish each tooth in an insurgents smile. Now that is frightening.

  3. Bill Kelly 13 October, 2014 at 15:33 Reply

    Mr. Miller has demonstrated the unique ability to take dictation from Lockheed Martin. I’m a Navy guy, but I really know aeronautical bullcrap when I read it. An overpriced obsolete airframe in search of a purpose.

  4. Bryan 13 October, 2014 at 17:56 Reply

    Are you kidding me? Really? Cue the vomiting sound like already mentioned….

    Less of this c***. More F16’s/15’s/18’s and 10’s. Oh..the OV10 would be even better…but the military industrial complex says ‘no’.

    Finally…more Marines on the ground and Carriers. Thank you.

  5. Chris Miller 13 October, 2014 at 18:57 Reply

    The F-35 will probably be as terrible a weapons system as the F-4 Phantom, the Bradley, or the Stryker. Which is to say not terrible at all. All of these weapons systems had major issues during development & fielding and turned out to be great platforms that have served us for decades. The kinks will get worked out. There are no other criticisms of substance once the F-35 begins to perform to its full potential. And, as the author points out, the US has failed to pursue any alternative. But once it becomes operational, the critics will be silenced.

    • Robbo 13 October, 2014 at 23:50 Reply

      Chris, why would anyone use an airframe this costly on close air support? This is a tactical, light bomber. American generals have called it their “kick in the front door” weapon. It’s designed to penetrate heavily defended airspace, launch its two weapons on high-value air defence targets and, if it’s very lucky, egress safely before a gaggle of far superior, 4th gen. fighters can run it down and kill it.

      The F-35 does have some very high-cost, very sophisticated systems. Do you think it’s worth risking the loss of those in order to take out an ISIS pick-up truck? The US already stepped in it when it lost its high-tech, RQ-170 stealth drone over Iran.

      The F-35 is purpose built for a specific role. Google “Operation Chimichanga” to learn about that.

      There’s no capability possessed by ISIS that warrants putting the F-22 or the F-35 at risk. Besides, by the time the F-35 is finished testing, it’ll be 2019 and, by then, there are bound to be bigger problems than ISIS.

      • Patrick Heaney 14 October, 2014 at 15:43 Reply

        no 4th gen fighter is going to see the F-35 nevermind run it down. 6th gen will be unmanned, relatively autonomous, here within 10 years, and frankly a little scary. But still, 10 years is not nearly soon enough to forgo the F-35.

        • Mike M. 14 October, 2014 at 18:35 Reply

          So you don’t think the Su-35 Flanker would be able to take on the F-35?

          Why skip over the 5th generation? Do Russia with India and China not have several development programs of their own? I know they are essenially in the R&D phase so it’s clearly to soon to do comparisons between the PAK-FA, J-20 and J-31

          There will be manned fighters beyond the F-22 and F-35, let’s not kid ourselves, as long as the AF is run by Fighter Pilots, the manned fighter isn’t going to go away in our lifetimes.

          UAVs have come a long way, but we still don’t have a UCAV that has flown an operational combat sortie, so it’s a bit premature to say the next generation fighters will be unmanned.

        • Christian Anderson 15 October, 2014 at 18:12 Reply

          Really? So why hasn’t there been a flyoff between the vaunted F-35 Albatross and say, the F-16 block 60, or maybe the Gripen or Eurofighter? I’d pay good money for Lockmart to put their money where their mouth/lobbyists is. Bring it.

  6. Neil Marshall 14 October, 2014 at 11:55 Reply

    Does the author know anything at all about the deeply troubled history of this albatross of a plane? There is still no certainty that the software will work, test pilots report that they can’t see out of the cockpit, it has poor range and weapons carrying capacity, the F-35B can’t land on ‘normal’ runways….I could list a whole lot more, but the key issues are that this so-called 5th generation aircraft is out-performed by those built 25-30 years ago and it is no longer stealthy, because radar technology has also moved on since the JSF development contract was signed in 1996.

    Eight years ago, Lockheed Martin predicted that the F-35 would be four times more effective than legacy fighters in air-to-air combat, eight times more effective in air-to-ground combat, and three times more effective in reconnaissance and suppression of air defences. It would also offer better range and require less logistics support. And, finally, it would cost the same as fighters. We now know that none of this is true.

  7. Neil Marshall 14 October, 2014 at 11:57 Reply

    Sorry – should have read “And, finally, it would cost the same as legacy fighters”. (No editing facility)

  8. Pete 14 October, 2014 at 12:23 Reply

    Interesting title. Truth be known the B-52/B-1 was built to fight ISIS. Only reason we are using fighters and 100K+ a shot weapons is because of politics. Just the psychological effect of B-52’s would be worth the trip. F-35 will continue to be an expensive albatross for the life of the aircraft. Wait, that isn’t true, the albatross is very graceful flyer, it just is clumsy on the ground. The destruction of eight Marine aircraft in Afghanistan was a perfect example of the fallacy of forward deployed Harrier jets. Why we are destroying the design of all the rest of the aircraft to support this one is beyond the realm of common sense.

    • Mike M. 14 October, 2014 at 19:04 Reply

      B-1 or B-52 on a single sortie would certainly be more cost effective and efficient at striking just as many if not more targets than all the recent fighter sorties.

      We’re talking about for the most part soft targets here out in the open and a few facilities it seems to reason that either bomber using the JDAM, JASSM or JSOW would be the right tool for the job in this case.

  9. MIKE SIMS 14 October, 2014 at 12:53 Reply

    Please, someone is trying to push a political agenda in support of the F-35! The F-35 was not and is not designed to engage targets like ISIS. Any plane can drop ordinance on the ground. However it takes a certain kind of aircraft to engage the enemy up close, while also being able to distinguish between friendly forces and enemy targets. There is only one aircraft that is designed to fight, survive and win against a threat like ISIS or any other asymmetrical ground threat and that is the A-10 Warthog! It cannot even be argued that the A-10 is the better plane for this mission, especially being that there is no air to air threat in this kind of battle. Now if the F-35 wanted to fly high to ensure that there are no air threats – then perhaps it would serve a better purpose in that role, but even then I would rather I have the F-22 than the F-35.

    • Chris Miller 15 October, 2014 at 12:25 Reply

      This magazine is non-ideological and does not push political or corporate agendas and does not publish articles from authors who do.

  10. John Fourquet 14 October, 2014 at 13:03 Reply

    If the F-35 is produced is produces and deployed as planned we will have a fighter gap in capability. While it may suitable against ISIS, it is not survivable against Russsian of Chinesse radars and 4th generation plus fighters. Stealth is not the silver bullet is was 25 years ago and long range air to air missles never live up to their expectations. Agility and peed still count in a dog fight. we need to limit production of this turkey to about 750 aircraft for all services, produces newed updated F-16s /F-15s, F-18s and start R&D on the next generation fighter now

  11. Mike M. 14 October, 2014 at 13:09 Reply

    Our current air operations over Iraq and Syria are really no reason to say the F-35 was built for these operations, certainly not the fight against ISIS. That’s like saying a Porsche 911 was built for driving the downtown stop and go commuter traffic.

    We and our allies could using anything over Iraq and Syria right now and the strikes would be effective. We could have the North Koreans come in with the AN-2 Colts and they would be effective. (That’s a bi-plane by the way if you’re not familiar with it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-2 and yes they are still in service). Bringing the F-22 into the conversation doesn’t further the case either. We have them in theater so be better use them, otherwise they become nothing more than hangar queens that have been sitting on the sidelines since they went IOC.

    The fact is we’re flying over a low threat air defense environment as we are not attacking Syria military positions, where they may have some remaining Air Defense capability. No we’re attacking targets out In the open desert or in urban areas and frankly using the F-22 or F-35 in this situation would be overkill to say the least.

    We can easily accomplish these strikes with any of the F-16s, F-15s, F-18s, A-10s, etc that are currently in the inventory and will remain so for years to come.

    No the F-35 was not built for this.

    If we start a conflict with Iran, North Korea or China, let me know and then we can talk about what the F-35 was built for, but until that happen………………..

  12. Doug Gray 14 October, 2014 at 13:44 Reply

    Wow, what a shallow and disjointed argument. Your primary thesis is that we’ve already slept with it, so we have no choice but to marry it.

    You never mention that in order to meet the Marines’ vertical lift-off requirement, we developed an airframe that has the turning capability of an aircraft carrier. You also fail to mention that the F-35’s own structure problem may be so systemic as to be as, if not more, costly and dangerous to deal with because so much of the plane’s testing was done through computer simulation rather than physical testing. I’m also not convinced with your argument that it has such “improved targeting and observational capabilities”. Being able to physically see the target (in the case of the A-10) constitutes improved targeting and observational capabilities.

    I’m also not convinced that adversaries will not quickly find a way to defeat the F-35’s stealth capabilities, especially since they’re building their own, presumably (based on open-sources) off of F-35 designs they’ve already stolen from us.

    But, hey…if the Kool-Aid tastes good, drink it.

    • Joe Schmoe 24 October, 2014 at 03:06 Reply

      It would cost much more to give up on the F-35 and restart from scratch with jets for each branch. There are no perfect solutions, only better trade-offs at this point.

      I love the Warthog, but I think it would be better if replaced by a cheap drone version, leveraging the equipment used on the F-35 such as EOTS/DAS and the remote pilots equipped with cheap VR headsets for situation awareness. Longer loiter time, less risk… win, win.

      • James B. 19 April, 2015 at 16:50 Reply

        The F-35 is the first aircraft in decades to violate the constant-cross-section rule, because it has a tubby midsection for the F-35B’s lift fan. It flies, but its kinematics are disappointing compared to fighters like the F-22, or even the F-16.

        I realized that focusing on the speed and turn rate of an aircraft seems so 1950s, but the best way to deny an enemy a missile shot is to stay out of range, but the F-35 can’t outrun Flankers or any other likely adversary.

  13. JEB 14 October, 2014 at 13:58 Reply

    Mr. Miller poses his question as: “which of F-35’s capabilities is best?” However, the question should be: “is the F-35 the best platform for those capabilities?”
    Mr. Miller cites certain avionics, high altitude operations, and battle-space communications interoperability as strengths. But all these “strengths” are not native to the F-35 platform.
    Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is a wonderful capability, to be sure. But SAR capability is not tied to the F-35 platform. It can be mounted on an external pod and become a capability for any number of other aircraft. Additionally, I don’t see how high altitude operations and battle-space communications interoperability are strengths unique to F-35 in this environment.
    The E-8 JSTARS also has SAR, high altitude capability and battle-space communications interoperability, but I would hardly call E-8 JSTARS a “counter-ISIS aircraft.” Additionally, I do not see how high altitude capability is an advantage for the close air support (CAS) and combat search and rescue (CSAR) roles that F-35 was supposed to succeed from the A-10. Tell Marines and Rangers their CAS will be a small diameter bomb and 27mm cannon supporting them from 25,000 ft, and you’ll see how quickly blood can drain from an operator’s face.
    Mr. Miller does not meet F-35 criticism head-on. Instead, he glosses of valid criticism of the cost and platform limitations by talking about performance capabilities of the F-35 that are not the capabilities of the platforms the F-35 was intended to replace. It is still the wrong aircraft for the wrong war at the worst cost.

    JEB

  14. Christian Anderson 14 October, 2014 at 15:13 Reply

    The saga of the F-35 Albatross is continuing to be one of words over substance. Mr. Miller, starting an article with a bold lie does not make the reader more prone to fall for the rest of the lies and propaganda inside. This article is really nothing more than advertising for for the purveyor of (sometimes) flying failure. “Given its capabilities applicable to the conditions of the current air campaign . . .” Really? What capabilities Mr. Miller? The “capability” to turn it’s own engine into flaming wreckage, for which no one has come up with a cure or a clue? The “capability” of not being cleared to fly at night? The “capability” of a software program that is lagging years behind, barely lets this pile of rubbish get off the ground, and has no end in sight? The “capability” to not be cleared to carry weapons or fly into combat? Good luck fighting Isis with that.
    Truly, just for the amount of money that we will have to expend to patch the holes that the VTOL model will burn into tarmac and carrier decks, we could just pay off our enemies to go home and be quiet, and likely have enough cash left on hand to keep the A-10 and F-15E flying for decades.
    Mr. Miller, I eagerly await your next article on how the F-35 is the perfect weapon to put up against hackers in China. The world does need far more comedy after all.

    -CQA

  15. Hunter Bottoms 14 October, 2014 at 15:43 Reply

    The F-35, really?

    I’d have thought ground attack/suppression would be the perfect role for a dedicated ground attack aircraft.

    Maybe one designed to engage hordes of infantry and vehicles across an open plain.

    Maybe one with significant loitering ability.

    Maybe one with a ton of armor.

    Maybe one that excels at low speed high accuracy attacks and strafing runs.

    Maybe one with a huge honking gun.

    Maybe something like…the A-10?

    The F-35 is a boondoggle and to try to justify it’s existence by saying it was “made” for this role is laughable.

    • khaenn35 17 October, 2014 at 03:07 Reply

      Quite true. The F-35 was made to compete against higher-efficiency air-forces anyway, like when F-16 were shot down by missile tech 10-15 years before their tech. They simply were too wary, and overestimated the technology. Imagine firing chaff at a heat-seeking missile. Pah.

    • Joe Schmoe 24 October, 2014 at 02:55 Reply

      The problem is that A-10s are literally falling apart. It would be far better to create cheap drone replacements for them using the same gun, but with DAS and VR for the remote pilots. The advantage of loitering and minimal risk would be hugely benefited.

      • James B. 19 April, 2015 at 17:02 Reply

        I love the GAU-8 cannon, but it isn’t really necessary today. Even late in the Cold War, A-10 pilots were training to Maverick shots to kill tanks, saving the gun for lesser vehicles.

        My ideal A-10 replacement–call it the OA-X project:
        1) Straight wings with good low-speed performance
        2) Two engines, of a type in common use, potentially turboprop
        3) Tandem seating, adding a second pair of eyes
        4) WSO station with large display and ability to control stand-off weapons, drones, etc.
        5) light gun(s), likely 30mm Bushmaster II, for limited strafing ability
        6) All essential systems armored to resist up to 23mm, modern anti-missile countermeasures
        7) Based on takeoff-landing speeds, potentially carrier-capable.

        Such an aircraft would be a quarterback over the battlefield, capable of calling in ordnance from all other platforms and coordinating a variety of air attacks. It would also have both the payload and electronics to be adapted to other missions, like light Electronic Attack, or mid-range Maritime Patrol.

  16. Donny 14 October, 2014 at 16:28 Reply

    Curious as to where the “colossal $400 billion cost to date” number came from. Seems extremely high. The entire estimated purchase cost is on the order of $300-400B. O&S is estimated (whether you agree or not) to be $1T over the entire life of the platform. This would mean that we’ve already spent 40% of lifecycle cost of the aircraft?

  17. gm73 14 October, 2014 at 17:55 Reply

    Unfortunately, if the author is wrong the repurcussions will extend beyond the US military, to a degree yet to be determined, due the JSF concept. Australia and Canada seem intent on finding a way to buy the plane, despite its high costs compared with Gen 4 alternatives. The UK has fortunately hedged its bets with the Typhoon, and France with the Rafale, both of which are better dogfighters, have longer ranges, are faster, and can carry many more weapons. Brazil and India, high volume buyers, have selected G4 fighters over the F 35. Still, there are enough NATO and other allies depending on the F35 that if it is an albatross, the cost in dollars and military capability will permeate through the free world.

    • Ed Beakley 14 October, 2014 at 18:18 Reply

      Below is a re-post from FB comment. I pretty much agree with all the criticism of the F-35. That said, the comment about “sleeping with” but then “not marrying” is day late, many dollars short. The only choice left is to do some serious work on how to employ this a/c. Rubicon has been crossed. You can bitch till Hell freezes over… nothing can be changed. A shame but …

      “See the pic of me, 1972, manning up in an A-7B to go downtown. (Original comment on a Facebook posting of this article. Picture refers to my FB pic)
      Now, guess what I think of the JSF? Now that we’ve set the baseline:

      The reality on the ground is that young Mr.Miller is pretty much right. There ain’t enough nukes in the world to stop the F-35 program. It’s coming and you can bitch till Hell freezes over. We better figure out how to use it, AND…

      Like it or not, call it hybrid warfare or 4GW, that’s what we’ve got and are likely to continue to face. ISIS has troops and “toys,” plays “real army” but can morf to guerrillas or terrorists in a heart beat, no? They are the hybrid, WTF are we? We’ve launched how many strikes? taken out what? Precision strike has its place but so does mass bombing from up there. Anybody recall Khe Sahn or An Loc? And I don’t think I’d be betting too much on this multi-player pig wallow not eventually leading to some Syrian SAMs. We better start thinking about how we get pilots out before the sword swings. Where are the rescue troops?
      The issue is not going away and that a/c is gonna be it. The only thing really wrong with that article is the title. It ought to be “The F-35 Was NOT Built to Fight Isis; We better learn something quick.”

      Our military industrial congressional complex did no one -Army, Navy, USMC, Air Force – a favor when it drank the strike fighter kool-aid. There was a damn good reason the Navy had Attack planes, pilots and squadrons and called their aircraft carriers CVAs!”

      • Joe Schmoe 24 October, 2014 at 02:51 Reply

        Why are you laying the blame on the contractors when it wasn’t their decision to begin with? The branches created the JSF, and contractors had to design for it, not the other way around.

  18. Chris Miller 14 October, 2014 at 19:17 Reply

    How many of these F-35 detractors actually work for one of Lockheed Martin’s competitors? Love to see a headcount on that.

  19. Phil 15 October, 2014 at 03:03 Reply

    Are we really allowing inexperienced collegiates with no practical knowledge of the military, fighters, sustainability, politics, or long-term planning to influence others?

    • jjtira 15 October, 2014 at 16:35 Reply

      I just read this article [or a portion of in in BI]. My comments are HOGWASH! The F35 was sold on the basis of a 5th gen aircraft was stealthy and would not be as vulnerable to enemy defenses [aircraft, Sams, etc.]. New radars under development by the Russians and Chinese have shown that this “stealth” capability is rather dubious to say the least. The U.S. Navy has expanded it procurement of the F18G [Growler] aircraft precisely for this reason. The F-35 has no or limited countermeasures in this regard. As far as a “bomb hauler” there are cheaper and more creditable alternatives. Boeing has been developing the F15 SE [Silent Eagle] version which would do the same job as the F35 at a considerably cheaper cost [cheaper planes means the more planes can be procured without breaking the budget]. The F35 has not been show to be reliable as of yet, i.e. engine fires, heat from the engines on the F35B “melting” the decks on the Navy’s amphibs and has yet to land or take off on the CVN carriers [tail hook problem].

      Also as an “air superiority role, the reported problems are: inability for the pilot to “check his six” without electronic devices; engine thrust problems that would put it at a disadvantage to enemy aircraft [i.e. S35 and presumably 5th generation aircraft under development by the Chinese J20 and Russians T50. And then there is the range problem that can be partially solve by external fuel tanks with the loss of the “stealthy-ness” of the aircraft.

      The only success which the F35 can be credited with is the sales job on the military and the nation and our allies. This article mentions alternatives which our allies have and the U.S. doesn’t. I think that this statement is misleading. Boeing has the F15 Silent Eagle ready for full production, the F22 production line can be re-opened to provide the U.S. Air Force with a credible fighter aircraft. The Navy continues to procure the F18 which is an aircraft with some potential severe short comings, primarily the lack of range in the scenario of defense of our Pacific allies in a confrontation with the Chinese and our carrier battle groups. Longterm, this could be remedied by developing a navalized version of the F23 as a defensive weapons system [5th generation air superiority aircraft]. The F14 could be modernized based upon design aircraft proposals from Northrup plans that were abandoned under the G.H.W. Bush administration. The advantages of adoption of a high-low cost strategy would allow for the national defense within reasonable budgetary means. This worked in the 1970 with the F15/F16 for the Air Force and the F14/F18 for the Navy. The only problem remaining is the F35B, there doesn’t appear to be any creditable alternative [other than the vintage British Harrier jump jets to the Navy’s amphibs. Unless the prop version Trucano can be adapted to take off and land from not catapult amphibs.

      Sadly, the F35 is looking more and more like the ill-fated F111 Aardvark. The common aircraft developed under the McNamara wiz-kids defense department. It didn’t work then and most probably will not work now.

  20. Joe Schmoe 24 October, 2014 at 02:46 Reply

    The controversy is not that the F-35 can’t bomb well, but that it isn’t superior in A2A. The F-35 is definitely equipped to bomb. There are arguably better alternatives for this particular situation though, but it could be that the government doesn’t want anyone tracking our jets over the war zone.

    If you want an A-10 replacement, you’ll find one in a cheap EOTS/DAS equipped drone in the near future. It’s not like the A-10 is going to get a proper manned replacement now when an unmanned one can loiter far longer and retain the same situational awareness by having the remote pilot use a VR headset.

    • Billy Ray 8 January, 2015 at 04:49 Reply

      they replaced drones with the a10 so you have the argument backwards. the drones couldn’t get it done, that’s why the bought the a10 back.

  21. Markfromark 3 December, 2014 at 19:12 Reply

    I see where Iran is using F-4s against ISIS. Nothing but the best for us. $400 billion to bomb religious fanatics who use knives to cut off heads.

    • Chris Miller 4 December, 2014 at 12:06 Reply

      Your logic is flawed. You could walk or ride your bike to the store for a $1.75 carton of milk, but you drive your $24,000 car instead. Why? Because you already own it. It’s a sunken cost. I’d like to see how Iran comes out fighting with 1970s tech against todays F35s. Not well I’d suppose.

      • Billy Ray 8 January, 2015 at 04:47 Reply

        and how would those f4 face off against f16 and f15? poorly I would imagine. so why drop the f16 for the f22/35? and as the old top gun movie told us, the opfor used the f5 against f14/115/16 and usually won cause the pilots we better. so your we need the f35 argument holds ZERO water

      • James B. 19 April, 2015 at 17:07 Reply

        Actually, I walk to the store because it is close, and I would prefer to minimize operating costs on my car.

        Sunk costs are very true for military aircraft, but each airframe has only so many hours on it. If we will have thousands of hours left over on the F-35s, we shouldn’t be buying as many of them, because their operating costs are tremendous.

  22. theo 25 March, 2015 at 03:37 Reply

    but how if, f4 phantom fly below the radar, means at low altitude near to ground or surface, to evade the thermal sensor from f22 raptor, and try to do counterattack after it after all ammo of f22 get empty (mental war/mind war/ patience war), just my experience from simulation ^_^

  23. Tom 22 May, 2015 at 12:55 Reply

    I’m not sure who writes your headlines, but you might want to get a new one. The title for this column does not reflect what the column itself says. The column basically says we are stuck with the F35, but that it can do the job. It does NOT say that the F-35 was designed and built to combat terrorist groups in a low-intensity unconventional war.

    • Chris Miller 22 May, 2015 at 16:12 Reply

      Guess you didn’t read the section titled ‘Fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria’ before commenting then.

      • Tom 4 June, 2015 at 12:17 Reply

        I did indeed read it. My comment stands. Apparently you read only one paragraph, not the entire column

  24. J.houkes 11 July, 2015 at 07:55 Reply

    Perhaps not on purpose you overlook two very relevant aspects, which makes your overall conclusion a “contracictio in terminis”. It may be so that the western nation have placed their eggs in one basket, but that does not make the F35 any better in air to air combat. The failure of the f22 and the fact that it will not be exported will mean that “protection” of the F35 will be non existent.
    Secondly: it may also be true that cas might have become more dangerous, but that does not mean it does not have to be done. Perhaps losses must be accepted. If so, the F35 is not only technically ( no adequate payload, no loiter time to speak of) but specifically financially the wrong choice: it will be too costly and vulnerable to be used anyway.
    To pick a very expensive and flawed airframe because of its avionics: stupid.

  25. ump 11 October, 2015 at 15:22 Reply

    The F-35’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities promise tantalizing possibilities, while network-enablement between platforms in real-time, if developed and operated efficiently

    You’d think that Lockheed Martin’s budget would allow them to hire a more nearly literate class of shill..

  26. Doc 11 December, 2015 at 04:40 Reply

    For the cost of the aircraft could we not have purchased more F22’s ?,, and, curious how it has or would fare against the F22 as I believe that is the direction our potential enemies are heading in aircraft development.

  27. Green Dragon 28 January, 2016 at 21:27 Reply

    Here is the biggest issue with the F-35
    Just as it depends on software, some of which is to be delivered in the future. So too are AI and such systems progressing that can take ever growing amounts of data and learn. This will likely means that as the F-35 reaches it max use by the military so too will means to identify and overcome its stealth and data collection be developed to a practical level.
    It is faster to develop the software than to develop a aircraft platform with many complex systems.
    So it will be interesting to see what environment exists in five to twenty years when military must depend on the F-35.

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