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"F-35 Toothless Tiger?" Topic

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735 hits since 19 Sep 2018
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Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 2:26 a.m. PST

Not sure who was involved in the aircraft's design, but the small internal weapons bays could be a significant Achilles heel to the F-35 stealth's design, and its ability to complete its missions.

As it currently stands, from data I've seen online, it apparently can only carry 2 x AAMs and 2 x bombs internally, which is required to preserve its stealthy signature. This applies to all variants of the F-35.

Optionally, in an air-to-air configuration, it can carry 4 x AAMs, and no bombs, but it is supposed to be a strike aircraft.

Only the F-35A carries an internal gun. Gun pods can be added to the F-35B and F-35C, but that may compromise stealth a bit. On the plus side, they're more accurate than the internal gun of the F-35A, so that is an unlikely "win" on that point.

Adding underwing missiles certainly will eliminate its stealth capabilities, making the F-35 just another underpowered aircraft with limited maneuverability, and low maximum speed compared to contemporary fighters, and in some cases, even those from the 1960s.

See here for a scenario in which you can clearly see, it seems to be important to carry at least 4 x AAMs internally, plus bombs, in order to get the job done, in even a moderately threatening environment against older Russian aircraft:


Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 7:11 a.m. PST

What is the threat? Who are we at war with? F-35s more than likely won't be in high threat environments by themselves, which is why they will have F-22s alongside during wartime. I watch F-22s and F-35s practicing together all the time, which is how the system was designed. For the current threat, which is dropping bombs on terrorist hideouts, the F-35 works great.

Gamers seem to think that there will be these massive dogfights sometime in the future with squadrons of F-35s going up against SU-35s or the latest Chinese fighters, which isn't going to be the case. Cruise missiles will take out many of those aircraft or bases first, then F-22s will clear out the remaining opposition, allowing the F-35s to carry out their strikes. Most nations can't even afford to keep their air forces operational and their pilots get limited flying time as it is now. I just fail to see who the opposition to the F-35s is going to be.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 9:16 a.m. PST

The payload in stealth mode, i.e. internal weapons only, is pretty small. My amateur guess has always been that this mode won't get used much. If you need a stealthy aircraft, the price you pay is more sorties to get all the bombs delivered. But once SEAD is complete the payload *quadruples*, from 5,700 to 22,000 lbs, if memory serves.

I would guess that SEAD is accomplished by cruise missiles, long range smart weapons, and the F-22, then the F-35 will come in and 99% of its sorties will include external weapons. That's *if* there is a major conflict.

Google "F-35 external weapons" and marvel at what it can carry when no one is shooting at it.

Personal logo 28mm Fanatik Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 9:21 a.m. PST

The F-35's real value lies in its ability to function as part of a digital network of weapon systems as a stealthy "mini-AWACS." Not to overuse the term, but it's a "force multiplier."

Fifth-generation aircraft shouldn't be judged in isolation but as part of a whole. That's also why the F-22's disadvantage in a close-in dogfight vs. more maneuverable fighters like the SU-35 shouldn't really concern us too much.

TMP link

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 1:36 p.m. PST

Amateurs talk "platforms", professionals talk "systems"

Personal logo 28mm Fanatik Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 1:48 p.m. PST

The adage that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" applies.

Lion in the Stars19 Sep 2018 2:33 p.m. PST

The F35 carries a bombload equal to the old F117, plus a pair of AMRAAMs.

Plus, the joys of the Small Diameter Bomb. When you can put your bomb on someone's front license plate, you do not need 2000lb bombs. The F35s can carry 8 of those in full-stealth.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 2:58 p.m. PST

What David said, +1. People tend to talk about modern equipment in terms of 'my tank/plane/ship can kick your tank's/plane's/ship's behind.' That's great if you have an engagement between two vehicles on equal footing. Militaries don't fight that way. If you are fighting on equal footing, someone messed up.

The tiger only needs to bite once to kill. How many modern engagements fire more than one or 2 ripple fires at a time?

The F35 currently carries 4 internal AMRAAMS with 2 Sidewinders externally. In Block 4, the plan is to add 2 additional internal AMRAAMS taking that up to 6 internal.

If you don't care about Stealth, the load out is 10 missiles, and they would still be stealthier than an equivalent F15, F16 or F18. (12 missiles when Block 4 is fully implemented).

In terms of maneuverability, according to pilots who have flown both older aircraft and the F35, the latter is on par with an F18 or F16 and has a top speed of Mach 1.6 (and higher if you turn off the limiter). Keep in mind that in full Stealth Mode, they can hit that 1.6 pretty easily since they aren't burdened with external stores. A 4th Gen Aircraft with external stores loses speed and acceleration due to drag. Sure, clean they can hit Mach 2, but loaded down? Not so much.

By most pilot reports, the engine has a better thrust than either of those older aircraft, giving it better acceleration and deceleration in a close in fight with equal maneuverability and better visibility via the 360 degree sensors that allow the pilot to look in any direction (including below) and see outside the aircraft using their helmet system.



Of course if you still believe that the flight laws envelope test that was so widely (and wrongly) reported as the F35 being less maneuverable than an F16, then have at, but that's been debunked.


The F35 is far from a clunker. It's late, it cost a lot to get here, but there's a reason so many countries are buying it after flight testing it after checking out competitive aircraft. Lockheed may be some devious folks, but they can't fool everybody.

Pythagoras19 Sep 2018 4:31 p.m. PST

… and then add in the swarms of small drones.

jdginaz19 Sep 2018 5:32 p.m. PST

All this negative press on the F-35 reminds me o the '80s when the same kind of bad press was being put out about how the Abrams, Bradly and Apache were all junk, too expensive and couldn't do the job they were designed to do. I remember watching a 60 Minutes program that pretty much accused the military of incompetence and that the acquisition prosses was corrupt and didn't care about the lives of it's soldiers.

Then Gulf War I happened and suddenly all that was forgotten and they were the best thing since sliced bread.

Don't believe everything you read online from other media. They seldom know what they are talking about and have their own agendas.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 9:00 p.m. PST

China is the threat.

Perhaps even China and Russia combined.

We have just a few score of F-22s. Certainly not enough to go around, especially if you start looking at those serviceable – usually around 60% – 67%, training accident losses, etc., etc.. That also doesn't include those that will be lost in combat, should we get into a shooting war.

187 – 4 (perhaps more lost now – info from Wiki) = 183 now.

That leaves roughly 110 – 120 that can be fielded on any given day. Of course, we'll want to keep some back for air defense of the USA too, so……..

Using the F-35s to target insurgents seems to be a waste of very expensive stealth tech, especially when if it is damaged slightly, it has to go back to the USA and Lockheed for repairs, since it can't be done in the field.

I suspect putting Aim-9Xs under the wings will compromise the stealth a bit.

Yes, it can carry 4 x AMRAAMs internally, but then it can't carry bombs.

Apparently, it also can't carry Sidewinders internally either, which was a bit of a surprise.

Lion in the Stars20 Sep 2018 4:45 p.m. PST

Yes, the F35's internal load was spec'd as a pair of AMRAAMs and a pair of 2000lb bombs, no Sidewinders. With the adapter rig, make that 2x AMRAAM and 8x Small Diameter Bombs internally.

Then, if you don't need the stealth, you load another 12+klbs on the wings.

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