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Dan and I recently broke bread with Top Shot alum and South Dakota cop Caleb Giddings. On the subject of the new F-35, Mr. Giddings had nothing nice to say. “It’s sucking-up all the money we need to properly equip our troops for combat,” he opined, and then added some highly uncomplimentary things about the plane’s capabilities.

Hey, at least the F-35 has a gun. Back in the Vietnam-era, the Air Force decided guns on fighter jets were like tits on a bull. Who needs guns when you have air-to-air missiles? It took ballistic champions like Col. John Boyd — inventor of the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop — to rewind the Pentagon desk jockeys’ asinine assessment of air combat.

Still, 220 rounds? That would be four bursts as demonstrated. I don’t know jack about fighter jets, but that strikes me as a bit . . . mean. Your thoughts?

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    • This looks like an afterthought, add-on capability that will almost never be used. Can’t plow much of a road with 220 rounds. How many of these billion dollar aircraft (and crew) will you have to lose to complete the mission of a single A-10?

      • Metric but tonne load. What was our last GREAT idea of multi service AC? Oh yea, F-111, but it turned into USAF only using it as a bomber or EA bird. Amazing Aussies still talk to us.

        DoD/Beltway Bandits never have taken to the KISS theory in the last 50 years except for the A-10, then again Fairchild went under right after they built them. Maybe why there is no love for the A-10 in DC, nobody is padding re-election bank accounts. Just like the newest CVN, EVERYTHING will be digital and mobettergood!!! What do you mean it’s FUBAR’d and you want MOMONEY???

        If we could only figure out how to raise the elevators, anchors, etc…. Or the vac flushing system on Bush, it really does not suck in a good way. 2 month delay, now training cycle is jammed up trying to be ready to deploy on time.

        • I would blame the Navy, every time the Navy says that they will get involved in a program, they almost always back out. The first head of LM’s Skunk Works, Kelly Johnson, had a set of rules for managing aircraft programs there is one unwritten rule “Starve before doing business with the damned Navy. They don’t know what the hell they want and will drive you up a wall before they break either your heart or a more exposed part of your anatomy.”

          They Navy has a LONG history of failed programs or programs they simply pulled out of them. I blame it on the various communities in the Navy competing for money, along with the different cultures between the two fleets.

          But the F-35 in essence turned out to be basically 3 different aircraft that share the same core air frame, engine, and avionics.

  1. The plane that was supposed to do everything for all services and does nothing at all remotely well, a complete waste of tens of Billions of dollars they can scrap and start over so they can do the same stupid thing again. How many new bombers have been designed and built, yet we keep the B52’s flying because the newer ones won’t do the job right? And why aren’t we putting people in prison for this crap?

    • The ‘Bone (B-1) has proven its mettle in combat. It’s very successful being able to respond at supersonic speed to where it’s needed *now* and dumping a world ‘o hurt on whatever our troops want…

      • The B-1B has proven so well suited to conventional bombing – including as a ground support asset – the Air Force deleted its nuclear mission.

        This doesn’t mean the F-35 will be a good ground support platform. The A-10 is still the best in the world at that game despite repeated efforts to retire it.

        • Admittedly, those events happened in reverse order. The bone lost the nuke mission over a nuke treaty with Russia, then got really good at conventional bombing out of necessity. The first gen of conventional munitions for the bone were high drag mk82s. The first tactic developed was low level ingress to drop a string of those. Modern SAMs got good enough to be able to shoot at targets flying that low and fast, and in conjunction with the rapid development of JDAM tail kits and racks for the bone, the low level mk82 tactic faded in relevance. Today it’s 3 internal bays full of precision hatred, and that is where the bone crushed it in OEF/OIF/OIR.

    • B1 had a taste for geese down low, great for avoiding long range SAMs and AEW radars by hiding in ground clutter, not so much for geese into the engines.

  2. Look at the spread of holes in the target at this extreme close range. How can this thing hit anything beyond 100 yards? Forget sub-minute of angle, this thing doesn’t appear sub-hour of angle!

    • To a point, dispersion is a feature, not a bug. This is also true – to a point – of CIWS-type antimissile weapons.

      If you have zero dispersion, you “over-kill” the target .. if you hit it. Too much dispersion, and you are lucky to hit it with one round. Just right, and a burst puts enough rounds into the target, and spread out enough, that you maximize the chance of getting a mission kill.

      Of course, you do want the “average” to be where you aimed at … the gun needs to be accurate, but with a specified degree of precision; as above, more precise is not necessarily better. And all that said, I’m not qualified to comment whether what’s on the board is good, bad or indifferent. Or for that matter, whether it meets the specs.

    • Gun tests are usually conducted in a preset arrangement between the aircraft gun(s) and the target.

      The A-10 gun can’t change where the gun points, either. The bullets strike where the aircraft is pointed. Yet it is a far superior weapon system for it’s role (tank killer).

      It’s too bad that the prop driven aircraft (A1E, C-47 Spooky, C-130 Specter, etc) are too slow to match the aircraft used by our enemies. They were fantastic in Vietnam or close ground support.

      We were better off when planes were designed for a specific role, rather than multi role and multi service missions.

      • We had some serious issues integrating the Gatling cannon on the A-10.

        Muzzle gasses were getting sucked into the engine inlets effectively ‘stalling’ them…

        • Compressor stall from gun gasses were/are an issue with both the YF23 and the F22. On the YF23, the fight between weapons and the low observable crowd was epic. We wanted a blister on the forward fuselage for the muzzle and they didn’t want a bump disturbing the LO signature.

      • Actually the AC-130 is the superior ground support aircraft for putting ordinance on the ground where you want it. The AC-130U can basically do a pylon turn with the target in the center, allowing it to stay guns on for much longer periods of time, and can stay on targets as they move. On top of that the targeting system is optimized for spotting things as small as a man on the ground The A-10 can only do a single gun run, and then has to do repositioning turn, reacquire the target, and tracking a single man during a gun run forget about it.

        On top of that the AC-130U can now use AGMs the preferred munition, even by the A-10, when you have a defended target. As though the A-10 can take the hits and bring the pilot home a damaged aircraft is out of the fighter until it can get repaired which can make weeks, of not months. That is a reason why during Operation Desert Storm the USAF prohibited the A-10 from attacking Republican Guard units part way through the war instead handing that mission to strike aircraft unless an allied unit needed help, Gen Horner had 12 damaged or destroyed A-10s on his hands due to the Republican Guard having embedded AAA assets.

        The reason why the A-10 is more common than the AC-130? Because the A-10 was purchased due to Soviet Tanks streaming into Germany. The A-10 is more survivable at low level against those embedded AAA assets, though even then the USAF fully expected to take heavy causalities. While the AC-130 is an AFSOC asset, kept around for conflicts where it can be used.

        • I spent 5.5 years at Edwards AFB where I worked with a variety of programs including the A-10. During an aerial demo, the A-10 dove on target flipped on it’s back went out flipped again and attacked the same target. This was done repeatedly. The A-10 also has the advantage of a muffler system which makes it sound like it is miles away when it is right on top of the target.

          I know the AC-130s are still in use and improved. The one from the aborted Iran hostage rescue dropped into Lajes Field, Azores for RON on the way home, and I have seen vids from SWA. I got an early start with Special Ops when they were called the Air Commandos in 1963 when my father was an instructor for this newly created unit while they were still testing B-25s before they went to C-47s and C-130s. Even got to watch them testing the M-16 in 1964 before they were adopted by first the USAF, followed by the other branches.

          My point was that such aircraft were far more useful than the jets.

        • The A-10’s ‘muffler’ is the engine that powers it, a turbofan instead of a military-standard turbojet.

          The engine’s location above the wing and horizontal stabilizer helps to ‘deflect’ some of the engine noise, as well…

      • Now about multirole, yes for the CAS missions dedicated aircraft are superior.

        In reality the F-35 isn’t that multirole. It is very much designed for strike missions, namely ones that the F-16, AV-8B, F-18, and F-117 did at the time. It has the ability to carry 2,000lb of ordnance + 1 AAM in each weapons bay, plus enough fuel to fly twice the combat radius of all the aircraft it is replacing all while remaining in a stealth configuration. Plus it will have the ability to access nearly its entire design performance with that configuration including the ability to go super sonic in level fight without using the after burner.

        Yes it performs poorly in ACM (but not nearly as poorly as is commonly reported), but it wasn’t designed to be the primary aircraft for that. When the F-35 program was being conceived it was believed that the USAF would plenty of F-22s, and the US Navy would’ve have their own F-22 type aircraft. Post-Cold War cuts and an idiot of SECDEF screwed that up.

        And yes it performs poorly at low level CAS, but again it was never designed for that at the time that the F-35 was being conceived there was an A-10 replacement program. But again post-Cold War cuts killed that program and never gave the USAF enough budget to start one up again.

        But lets get down to brass tacks, the the F-35 Joint STRIKE Fighter was primarily designed to take over the strike roles. It will likely do acceptably well in CAP roles, because the US military hasn’t had a gun kill since the Vietnam war. And our pilots are well trained in dissimilar air combat from the start, so if they do end up in ACM they will know how to avoid exposing their aircraft’s weaknesses and exploiting their strengths while doing vice versa to the enemy.

        So that only leave the CAS roles, frankly I think that bed was made over a decade. It is unlikely that Congress will ever give the USAF enough money to fulfill all their others missions, while building new CAS aircraft from the ground up before the A-10 are going to have to be retired due to airframe failure. I think that attack helicopters will have to pick up the slack, or data networks and related systems are going to have to get good enough that you don’t need a JTAC to call in air strikes.

        • Many think the F-22 production should be restarted. I wonder if this would be the best and cheapest solution to have more air superiority fighters.
          After all the F-22 technology is getting old: stealth coating difficult to maintain, no sensor integration, no helmet mounted display, no distributed aperture system, ADA development, performant but outdated hardware.
          Restarting a production line is probably not cheap and finding outdated component probably difficult and also expensive.
          I wonder if the best solution wouldn’t be to soup up the F-35: 2 engines, more internal load for ordinance should be less difficult and the result could be way better than the F-22.
          Actually this is more a question than an affirmation.

        • Actually you need to do more than give the F-35 more power, you need to increase the wing area. One of the problems with the F-35 in ACM is the high wing loading, if you lower the wing loading you get better maneuverability. But in order to get a larger weapons bay they had to sacrifice wing area to keep it from gaining weight and increasing the RCS.

          But I don’t think it is that big of a deal. You adapt your tactics to what your aircraft was good at, the F4U did well in the Pacific because they didn’t attempt to get into a turning fight with the Japanese Zero, instead they dive into a Zero formation slashed at it with guns and continued zooming away in the dive. When a Navy F-18 decides to go toe to toe with an Air Force F-16, it has particular tactics that favor the its better low speed maneuverability, and avoids getting into situations that favor the F-16s better thrust to weight ratio (in thrust we trust) along with higher allowed G loading.

        • “After all the F-22 technology is getting old:…”

          Re-starting production *is* doable, when they shut down the ’22 line, they preserved a lot of the custom tooling to build it, and they did something else: They videoed the production workers doing their jobs and explaining what they were doing as they were doing it. Clever.

          There is another option, Boeing has the F-15 production line is still running to this very day. While not ‘stealthy’, it is lower-observable. The Russians have a saying to the effect of: “Never let the best be the enemy of the good enough”. We could keep that line running at a reduced rate indefinitely and replace the older airframes as their service lives end.

          With next-generation avionics, it could well fulfill that role…

        • “It will likely do acceptably well in CAP roles . . .”

          Perhaps we should buy the Saab Gripen or French Rafale, either or which is cheaper and better in many respects.

        • The Saab and the Rafale aren’t stealth. If we aren’t going stealth you might as well buy more F-16s and F-15s. But then we lose our advantage.

          And the F-35 isn’t being purchased to be used in CAP roles. People need to understand the F-22 and F-35 aren’t being purchased to fight smelly bearded men running around the hills of Afghanistan.

          It is being purchased to take on Korea, or Iraq pre-Desert Storm. People need to understand that because of the F-117 we made Operation Desert Storm look easy, and the air defense network in Iraq look weak. But in reality without stealth the causalities would’ve been much much worse. And it likely would’ve taken a much longer time to win.

        • We call that mission creep. It’s what kills a lot of programs. When, over the course of designing, someone says maybe we should do this…or that….bam!!!! You have mission creep. You end up with a program that’s over promising and under delivering. No one in their right mind did a lock down on the requirements. Or, if someone did, they were drowned out by those loud enough that said it could be done.

        • Actually there is little evidence of mission creep happening. The F-35 is very similar in specs to the X-35 that was proposed by LM. And the original contract was very strike oriented, but still had the requirement that it would be acceptable in ACM so it can self escort in less contested environments. The only mission really added was the CAS mission, and little was actually added to the specs to add that mission.

          Also unlike what many experts spout, the program that ultimately lead to the JSF was actually first started by the USMC in an attempt to replace their AV-8Bs. The USAF looked at the USMC program that basically said “We can remove all that VSTOL crap and have an aircraft that meets our requirements to replace the F-16’s strike role.” So they combined their acquisition programs, with the USN eventually getting on board too. So VSTOL was part of the program from the get go, in fact part of the reason the X-35 won because they converted the X-35A into a X-35B and demonstrated the VSTOL capabilities.

          Eventually they did have to separate the USN F-35 out because the requirements for carrier were different enough that a combined aircraft wouldn’t make sense (every pound of unneeded weight is a pound less fuel or ordinance that can’t be carried). That was a relatively easy change, ultimately the VSTOL was the biggest headache of the program.

  3. In my time we had a saying.

    “We have 2 wars to fight. 1 against the enemy. And 1 against our officers.”

    • Interesting, in my 26 years of service, 10 enlisted and 16 as an officer, I never heard that saying.

      I suppose there were a few enlisted guys that felt insecure and always at odds with their officers.

      • In my time there were still draftees in the ranks. The statement isn’t really about platoon and company level officers. It’s easy enough to smarten up the average butter bar.

        It’s the chicken colonels and up that are in cahoots with the pols and haven’t been in the field in awhile that get you killed.

        Or decide to stick you with subpar gear so they’ll land a good gig when they retire. The ways that an officer you’ve never met can make your life rough are legion.

  4. Re the whole four bursts thing, I guess the argument is that if you’re using the gun you’ve already made some bad life choices…?

    The airframe has – or is supposed to have – six external hardpoints, so presumably you could mount gun pods if you’re willing to give up some stealthiness. (Then again, what I could find online indicates those external pods can carry missiles and bombs … no mention made of them being usable with gun pods. And I’d think mounting one internally wouldn’t be a good idea…)

    • The USAF variant has an internal gun, with a slightly larger ammo drum. The USMC V/STOL version has a lift fan where the ammo drum would be. The Navy version has a gas tank there.

      • Actually, the gun pod has a slightly larger magazine, 220 rounds compared to about 180 for the internal version on the USAF F-35A.

      • Both conventional variants have a fuel tank where the lift fan is on the STOVL version. The ammo container is right next to the breech on the A version, on the port side.

    • Is this the same 30mm GAU-8 cannon the A-10 uses? That gun is so large and powerful they say the recoil actually slows the plane down when fired. And it is centrally, internally mounted to allow for accuracy and balance of the airframe. This external pod gun seems like a really bad idea attached to a really bad idea that probably has more to do with politicians getting kickbacks and businesses located in their districts than it does with combat efficiency.

      • I love how all the aviation “experts” have come out of no where and spout nonsense.

        The term is strike fighter, and the fifth generation fighters see the return of more specialization. To keep the aircraft stealthy you have to make compromises. As to keep a traditional aircraft profile so it can be a useful fighter you can’t let the aircraft get too large or the RCS will increase. So you have the F-22 which has larger wing area, but small weapons bays. And then you have the F-35 which is smaller wing area but larger weapons bays and more fuel capacity.

        Thus the F-22 is oriented toward ACM, but sucks at the strike mission. While the F-35 is oriented toward the strike missions, but isn’t that great at ACM. That is also reflected in the aircraft that they were designed to replace. The F-22 replaced the F-15C which was only used for CAPs. While the F-35 replaces the F-16, F-18, AV-8B, and the F-117 all aircraft that were primarily used to strike missions.

        And the F-35 will likely excel at the strike mission. It doesn’t have to drop its internal weapons to do ACM, and can carry a similar internal load out as the aircraft it is replacing when setup for a strike mission. And on internal fuel alone it has twice the combat radius as the aircraft it is replacing. Finally the ability to go stealth allows it to strike targets that out of the aircraft it is replacing only the F-117 could think of attacking.

        • No, bomber typically implies a larger aircraft. Strike aircraft are closer to the old attack aircraft like the A-6 or A-7, but their primary means of attacking ground targets are PGMs.

          More strategic vs tactical.

  5. The real problem for this thing is that they envision this Albatross in the roll of close air support. This thing is suppose to somehow replace the A10 Warthog! Hell it carries fewer rounds than a couple of average ground pounding Marines and would appear to be somewhat less accurate. The Congress has twice had to forbid the scrapping of the remaining A10 aircraft. It kills me to have to say that the Congress is smarter than the Pentagon since in my opinion the US Congress is in the top two percent of the dumbest organizations in the entire North American continent.

    • The F-35 was never meant to replace the A-10. There was another program to replace the A-10, but it got canceled in the post-Cold War budget cuts. And again canceled every time they attempted to start one up as the budget got smaller and smaller.

      Every time the USAF wanted to scrap the A-10 as they reached major maintenance hurdles. Every time Congress forced the USAF to keep the A-10, a year or two later there was an expensive fleet maintenance program. One time was engines, the other was wings, between those two programs we paid almost as much to keep them in the air as each airframe cost to build. I am wondering what will have to be replaced this time, and at what cost, but regardless they have a decade or two before literally the entire aircraft will have to be replaced.

  6. “gun pod” is code for “externally mounted halfass POS hung on as an afterthought”. See also 1960s.

    The Air Farce never changes. If it doesn’t go zoom zoom they don’t want it. If another branch intends to compensate for their flaccid failures they will temporarily become faux interested. Will hit the ground 90% of the time, somewhere.

    • The Air Force is the only service that will have an internal gun on their F-35. They were also the service that had McDonnell Douglas install a gun in the next model of F-4 Phantom they bought during Vietnam after they discovered gun pods didn’t get the job done on the F-4C.

    • A few years back when I was in the Army we were told that the Army operated more watercraft than the Navy owned. (Just not as big). The Navy has its own air arm, as does the Marine Corps.

      I think it’s way past time to reinstate the Army Air Corps to provide the close air support the Army actually needs and wants and leave the Air Force to take care of strategic bombing missions and fighter intercept.

      • The Army has 1,200 attack helicopters.

        The USAF has about 200 A-10s, plus a little over a dozen AC-130s.

        So that is 1,200 aircraft vs around 250 (being generous). If the Army wanted to take over the CAS mission from the USAF they could do it, particularly since their helicopters can be forward deployed much closer than USAF aircraft.

        • Need to get rid of the Westlawn agreement and have a fixed wing Army Air Corps such as the 9th Air Force in WWII.

        • It has nothing to do with the Keywest Agreement. It has to do with the Army not really adequately filling the role either, even though they have many more aircraft that are suited for the mission than the Air Force. CAS is a whole lot of waiting around and prepositioning assets, the Army and the Air Force would rather have their aircraft out flying strike missions than waiting for someone needing help.

        • Except the Key West Agreement limits the roles the Army in which can deploy aircraft, and the Air Force is assigned the bulk of the battlefield roles.

          Actually, reading over the text of the Agreement itself, I’m not sure where they determined the Army gets to use the air assets it does now. In my personal opinion, it’s wrong-headed for the Army not to have the assets to provide its support, but even with policy changes it would take a while to spin up.

        • Carlos,

          That is because the Key West Agreement isn’t the only agreement on USAF/USA aviation. There are at least two other following agreements that basically allowed the Army to do whatever it wants with rotary wing aviation.

          Anyways these agreements were made before the modern regional command structure so in reality all aviation assets including rotary aviation are under the control of the commander Air Forces. But the Commander Air Forces typically delegates most embedded rotary wing assets backed to the Army Commanders to use as they see fit.

    • I hate to break it to your, but the F-35 is a drop in the bucket compared to the complete Federal Budget. And only a small percentage of the complete DOD budget.

      • Agreed. But it is yet another symptom of the BS at all levels of our government that lead to our bloated budget.

      • PPGMD, As of last year, the program was $180 Billion over budget, and 8 years behind schedule.

        Or, to put it in context, 10 times the annual budget of NASA.

        If you think that the most expensive weapons system and program ever is a drop in the bucket, you must have a part time job as a Congressman.

        • It is 8 years behind schedule and over $180B increased costs is often due to budget cuts. The USAF has delayed buying F-35s because it couldn’t afford them. Which increases the overall cost of the program as the fixed costs remained the same for that year only the variable costs were lowered. So they have to run the F-35 line for another year, which increases the costs.

          Also almost every new weapons program is the most expensive weapons program of its class. You can’t make a next generation fighter with all kinds of new systems and technology that didn’t exist before unless you spend money to develop it. The stealth bomber was the most expensive aircraft ever developed, before that it was the F-117, I didn’t see anyone complaining about those costs. Why? Because it was fucking secret and no one could complain until after they saw the results which was something no one had ever seen before.

          The F-35 is no different. It will be game changing as instead of having about 100 aircraft which all the can do is stealth you have 2,000 aircraft that have the flexibility to doing stealth strike missions, or loading up on munitions and do traditional strike missions. This will allow missions planners a great amount of flexibility.

          Finally NASA has always been under funded, it is something like a fraction of a percent of our annual budget.

        • Thanks, I’m aware of what fixed costs are. Regardless, it’s the most expensive weapons system ever, not just within it’s niche. And it ain’t gonna be all that.

          The suggestion that it will be the “best evar” is what is illustrative of your view – the Chinese (and the Russians likely) have both hacked Boeing, BAE and pretty much every subcontractor on the project. The Russians were the genesis of our ‘Stealth Tech’ 40 years ago,.so they already know it better than we do, much akin to closed-cycle rocket engines, you know, the kind we buy from Russia to launch Atlas rockets, because we never got that good.

          Hubris is amusing, but not so much when it comes to the defense of the nation. Dollars to donuts, the 5th-gen Chinese fighter incorporates everything we have, just like the Russian version. We may win, we may not, but the suggestion that we have it in the bag is completely ludicrous if you know the reality of the situation.

        • I never said “best evar” I said having over 2,000 stealth aircraft available would be game changing for mission planners. Read about the air war during Operation Desert Storm, they had to prioritize targets for the stealth aircraft because they didn’t have enough. Sometimes a target was important enough to be hit, but they didn’t have a stealth aircraft available so they had to send a traditional strike mission which resulted in losses in life.

          As far as the Russian knowing more because we used a Russian theoretical dissertation as the basis of the stealth program. Going from theoretical dissertation to an actual working aircraft was a huge leap. And since then we’ve learned a lot on how to build stealth aircraft including improvements to the coatings.

          And yes some of the contractors have been hacked, that is life. They may have learned something useful, they may have not.

          Also we do make closed cycle rocket engines, the Space Shuttle Main Engines are closed cycle engines. The Russian invented the closed cycle engine, thus that is what they use extensively for their first stage engines. While the American space program started with open cycle and use it extensively today, it is a little less efficient but it is lighter and simpler.

        • People were there before us, and that generally means they know more. Despite their status in the world, the Chinese 5th Gen fighter will likely be almost as good as ours, difference being, they can crank out 10 times as many of them, for less of our money. They may not be quite as good, but they’ll have more of them – see: Tiger v. T-whatever. Especially since they have stolen all the relevant IP.

          The Shuttle engines were “single stage” using a very generous definition of the term. It required 2 single stage pumps, and a two-stage gas turbine. NASA and JPL guys have said since the 90s when we ‘discovered’ them, that the RD’s are miles beyond what we ever did. The RD-180 powers Atlas flights, not some overweight underpowered junk from a space shuttle – because it’s the best, and we are still figuring out how to duplicate it. We might by 2020 according to RD AMROSS.

          We’ll see what really happens when it goes lukewarm, and there’s some sort of semi-combat of equals.

        • The Russian thesis that was used to develop the F-117 was largely ignored by the Soviets. It was only after we announced the F-117 in the late 80s that the Soviets realized the usefulness of his theories. So to claim that they are ahead of us simply because one of their scientists did some early work on the theories would be like claiming the Nazis were ahead of the US in rocketry because they did a lot of the early work.

  7. Of the hundreds of air to air kills at every red flag, there’s maybe 1 or 2 made with guns. If you’ve let the red air pass by your AIM-120 and AIM-9 ranges, you’ve screwed up.

    The F-4 in Vietnam needed guns because IR and radar missile technology was in its infancy. That’s no longer the case.

    As to using a gun on a ground target, precision and standoff bomb technology has greatly supplanted the gun. Far more hurt with greater precision, better standoff, and an array of options for mitigating collateral damage. Guns, such as those on the ac130, are still valid in some circumstances. But even the ac130whas transitioned to large scale use of small diameter bombs and small air to ground missiles.

    As to the f35 specifically, it’s capability to enter a modern threat environment and absolutely crush it is second only to the f22. The a10 wouldn’t last a single push into a modern threat ring.

    • You are right. I don’t know how many times one has to repeat this. But people still live in the era of spitfires and tracer bullets. They prefer to believe whatever the Russian propaganda tells them: the F-35 is a boondoggle and anyway Russia has SAMs which will easily down the F-35, the F-22and Father Christmas sledge.

      • “3 tangos” vs a single 35 is an ignorant scenario. If we anticipate an air threat at all, any strike package will have an escort or even OCA package to match. Alone and unafraid is reserved for places like Afghanistan.

        If there are “3 tangos” there’ll be a wall of 22/15/35 OCA to smack them down before they even know it.

    • As long as they don’t send 3 air-to-air tangos, I’m sure it will do splendidly. That third one can be firing machine guns, since the F35 can’t out climb,out turn, or outrun much of anything currently deployed by any potential hostile. And it’s out of missiles…

      • Actually the F-35 can outrun many aircraft in practical conditions. The F-35 is capable of going super sonic with an actual useful load out without activating the afterburner. While the max speeds of most other aircraft are often set with no weapons at all (exception being the F-16 needs missiles on the wingtip rails to prevent wing flutter). With a typical strike package load out the F-16 can’t get super sonic in level flight even with after burner.

        One thing people forget is that the previous generation of aircraft were developed before we had the internet, and the culture of leaks. The F-15 was widely criticized within the DOD and a little bit outside by certain folks (Boyd and his acolytes) as an overpriced turkey following the foot steps of the F-111 being too heavy to be a good fighter. Yet in reality it turned out to be an excellent fighter aircraft, and was even turned into a great strike aircraft. The AIM-120 was said that it could’ve even hit a barn from the inside after an opponent leaked a test report that it didn’t hit a target drone, yet it is proven to be the most effective radar guided missile the US has ever fielded. The list goes on including the F-22.

        In nearly every case the critics were proven wrong once the system was brought into service and had any bugs worked out. I think it is likely that the F-35 will do the same.

        • Pile on with the AIM-120 comment: the A model was ok, a leap forward in radar A-A echbology for sure, but decades later we’re mostly fielding C and D variants. The C/D variants have capabilities that weren’t even envisioned during the design process of the original weapon. Its an outstanding weapon, the backbone of any OCA package.

        • Anner I should mention that the test report that was leaked on the AIM-120 was a huge amount of spin. The test was a launch test without the final guidance software. The purpose of the test was to make sure it cleared the aircraft safely, it was never expected to hit the drone.

        • Riiiight. They put a drone up for a “launch test”, with no expectation of hitting the drone.

          Put down the kool-aid.

        • Actually it is quite common. Compared to the cost of the missile it costs them next to nothing, but it allows you to follow the launch sequence as it was meant to be.

  8. And someday, the software will be written to give the pilot a gun sight, and a way to fire the gun, because none of that exists right now.

    The F35 needs to be canceled.

  9. The F-35 is corporate welfare for Lockheed Martin. A billion dollar boondoggle that claims to be a master of all trades but is really a master of none. If there ever was a plane that could be knocked down by the “golden BB” it is definitely the F-35.

    For heck’s sake, it needs REFRIGERATED FUEL!

    A hundred SAMs probably cost less than ONE F-35. The best enemy tactic would be the “Macross Missile Massacre”. SAM SPAM that overwhelms the attackers.

    • So does the f22. And if paying to refrigerate fuel means we cut a couple f15c’s, then I’m all for it. I cannot fully describe how far and wide the f22 dominates in its air supremacy role. It’s a damn monster.

      The 35 is the same for medium altitude multi role. The modern fight is being able to see where the enemy is, not be seen, and jam/deceive/destroy enemy components before they can act. Study up on that and then tell me refrigerated fuel is a problem.

    • SEAD pilots love it when SAM crews give away their position like the missile spam tactic you suggested. It makes their job easier.

  10. The plane was designed to kill before you know it’s there. Dogfighting is over. This will also be the last manned plane.

    Airforce declared it ready for war. So did the Marines. The navy is testing now. All are very happy with its increased capability.

    I could list all the increased capabilities but to say the least 5th gen is mandatory these days.

    Also the plane is still in development. It’s the first ever build and develop at the same time contract for an air fighter. That was decided by our government.

    Costs have been high but so is any development program. Costs have been coming down and will continue as full rate production comes in the future.

    Oh and guns were a government requirement for some dumb reason. They will never be used except for shooting geese.

    And after you watch it hover in person, you will be blown away as it stops in midair turns 360 degrees then Flys off again. It’s a sight to be seen

    • IOC is not the same as being ready for war. I would call IOC beta testing, you hand the aircraft over and see what issues crop up in actual usage, and fix it. Typically they will only see a deployment to a friendly country like Korea, or Germany at the very end of IOC. It is very rare that any aircraft in IOC will see combat outside of exercises.

      • You haven’t talked to Israel. Cause they told me once they got theirs it immediately is going into combat. In USA we have the fortune of having a nice fleet of aircraft.

        • If they don’t have them already, they should have them pretty soon. The last batch included 7 for Israel.

          But their situation is a little different. If the USAF wanted to take the F-35 to combat it would be a long way from a friendly air base if a problem occurred. If history is any clue it will be a few years after FOC before a US F-35 goes for a combat deployment.

    • “The plane was designed to kill before you know it’s there. Dogfighting is over. This will also be the last manned plane.”


      One of the combat tactics being developed is the concept of an ‘arsenal’ aircraft, a flying munitions store of standoff weapons that hangs back while the stealthy aircraft penetrate and do the targeting for the arsenal aircraft. Targets selected, stealth aircraft returns, having never been detected.

  11. I just think the F-22 and F-35 are overpriced and obsolete already. The cost of manned aircraft in a high threat environment is reaching the end of its life span. Manned tanks might be facing the same operational demise.

    • Until we are willing to hand over firing decisions to AIs, ROVs will not completely replace manned vehicles anytime soon. As SATCOMs have latency in excess of 2 seconds. 2 seconds is a long time on the battlefield.

      Now I do think we will have fewer manned vehicles in the future. I would imagine that we would have future where a couple of manned FAC controlling drones directly over an airspace over LOS links (which eliminates the latency issues from SATCOMs).

      But I think it will be a long time before the US hands shooting decisions over to AIs. Maybe after a generation of the scenario I described, we might be ready. But I hope never, the idea of completely autonomous vehicles making kill decisions frightens me.

      • Fully agree. The only unmanned option designed for integration into an OCA or strike package that cuts out the huge latency and command/control issue is to have a manned airborne asset controlling the unmanned assets. That could be as simple as an f22 linked up with a couple of unmanned amraam trucks, or as complex as a newer AWACS with personnel in the back making pickling away shots. Even line of sight comms have their issues, so it would probably be a dedicated network purely for that mission, to cut out the hundred other aircraft involved.

      • There was an old paper from the late eighties or early nineties called “the future of air combat” (I think), and it theorized we would have large arsenal planes (as mentioned above) that would be manned. It would feature pretty much every low observable feature imaginable and be armed with long range AAMs. The crew of the arsenal ship would control a flight of semi autonomous ‘fighters’ armed with medium range AAMs and essentially screen the arsenal ship.

        The foresight in that article was pretty much dead on. All that would combine to for an extremely effective fighting system. And a terrifyingly effective one once it is networked with more of its kind.

        EDIT: The article must have been published after 1991, since it included analysis of the air combat from the Gulf War.

  12. I saw a lot of good points here. And more logical reasons for the f-35 than I had previously been privy, but I think in the end the eight years it ran overtime were such fundamental years in tech development that its current incarnation and mission are nearly obsolete. But as has been said, there is a history of repurposing what ever you have in whatever threat environment you end up in. You don’t go to war with what you want, you go with what you have. I picture the f-35 in more of a limited AWACS role, probably fielding control over a number of drones as a sort of force multiplier… as was mentioned in an earlier post. In the end it has certain advanced capabilities; extended fuel, stealth, and probably the overall electrical grid to run more advanced computers. Better avionics, ergonomics, and software packages (ok, maybe more advanced is more accurate). Sadly for the men and women in uniform, it’s probably going to suck a bit for the next several years. But obsolete or not, we’re stuck with it. I don’t think anyone really thinks it’s going to function well at CAS, or probably even interception. But if it continues to be survivable in high-threat environments, and can continue to avoid getting painted by radar, we’ll find a use for it. This doesn’t mean that the brass didn’t sort of blow it with this. I agree people should get fired. The over budget and decade late delivery should be unacceptable in both government and private industry. If the have the term ‘mission-creep’ they should be familiar enough with the phenomenon to avoid it. I don’t even want to know what portion of that budget went to salaries. At least this is the last one of these money vampire weapon systems. Time to start massing the drone swarms and worry more about defending carrier air groups from ramjet powered super missiles. That’s where the money should be pointed at right now, in my humble opinion.

  13. “Military planners envision a future where only short bursts are required for close air support.”

    Shorter than they are now? Time to wake up and quit dreaming. Also, the F-35 only gets you 3-4 bursts as opposed to 10-12 with the A-10. It would take 3 or 4 F-35s to replace a single A-10 on the battlefield.

    As for “at least the F-35 has a gun”. The Air force A model does but the B and C models for the Navy and Marines get this optional external pod (like they had to do in Vietnam) for CAS, that when attached makes the plane’s already poor performance even worse.

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