Following yet another controversy, many might wonder if the F-35 is the worst fighter aircraft ever designed, tested, and produced? C. W. Lemoine, a former fighter pilot with many hours in both the F-16 and the F-18 [side not: I'm almost to the point of never referring to the Hornet and Super Hornet as the F/A-18, dropping the A.] has some counter arguments.
"From an acquisitions standpoint, it’s in the running. Plagued by delays, setbacks, and budget overruns, it has had its share of issues. It’s also guilty of a terrible public relations campaign. But at the end of the day, this aircraft has done one thing no other aircraft has ever been able to do – turn an entire generation of aviation bloggers, journalists, and commenters into overnight military aviation experts."
Briefly, the controversial test between the F-35 and the F-16 was just that, a test. "The flight was a Developmental Test Flight in which the test platform F-35 was sent out to test flight characteristics in high performance flight. Did I say test enough?"
Comparisons to Vietnam era aircraft are invalid. "The F-35A is a 9G-capable aircraft with a monster engine and a relatively high-alpha capability. It may not be a Raptor. It may not even be a Viper, but it won’t be an F-4 either."
Everything you need to know about the F-35 is classified. "There are two groups of people that know the true capabilities of the F-35: those that have the clearance necessary to read about it, and the people who built it (who have the same clearance)…. And probably the Chinese, but that’s another story. Anyone else that makes claims to know what the capabilities of this aircraft are and how they compare to threat aircraft (also classified, by the way), are just wrong and have traveled so far out of their lane it’s not even funny. They just don’t know what they don’t know."
The debate about the F-35 is as much about politics as anything else. "As a fighter pilot, this is pretty far out of my own lane. The merits of the cost per unit and total program costs/timeline are something politicians and elected officials should debate and explain to America. As a taxpayer, it’s everyone’s right to question how money is spent. But the two issues should not be confused."
While the F-35 won't be a bust, it won't be perfect, either. "Both the F/A-18 and F-16 have had almost 30 years worth of development, and neither of them are perfect to this day. They weren’t perfect when they first came out and both aircraft have their own strengths and weaknesses. . . . I am confident that the next generation of fighter pilots and engineers will make the F-35 equally lethal through superior training, tactics, and even aircraft upgrades down the road. It’s just what we do as American fighter pilots."
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