January 8, 2017
WASHINGTON — According to some reports, America's fifth-generation stealth aircraft doesn't excel at dogfighting.
But fortunately, the F-35 Lightning II is not built for dogfighting.
While some analysts have argued that the air-to-air-combat capabilities of the F-35A won't match some of its peer aircraft, pilots who spoke to Business Insider pointed out that the US's fifth-generation fighter is designed in such a way that dogfighting may be an afterthought.
"If you were to engage an F-35 in say, a visual dogfight capability," US Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus began, "the capabilities of the F-35 are absolutely eye-watering compared to a fourth-generation fighter."
"The airplane has unbelievable maneuvering characteristics that make it completely undefeatable in an air-to-air environment," said Pleus, who has 153 flight hours in the F-35A and is the director of the F-35 integration office.
"So if it's a long-range contact, you'll never see me and you'll die, and if it's within visual-range contact you'll see me and you're gonna die and you're gonna die very quickly."
Pleus, a former commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base and a command pilot with just north of 2,200 flight hours, F-35 "is leaps and bounds ahead of anything else in the world today."
"The best thing about flying against an F-35, from the F-35 perspective is, you never knew I was there," US Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, director of the F-35 integration office, told Business Insider.
"You literally would never know I'm there,"
"I flew the F-35 against other fourth-generation platforms and we killed them and they never even saw us."
"As a pilot, dogfighting is fun, but it doesn't get the job done," US Air Force Maj. Will "D-Rail" Andreotta, commander of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team, told Business Insider.
"If I'm dogfighting I'm not bombing my target. I'm not getting my job done, and what I'm probably doing is wasting gas and wasting time."
Andreotta, a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base who has flown both the F-16 and F-35, says the F-35A's unprecedented situational awareness and stealth gives him "the utmost confidence that this plane will operate perfectly" in a dogfight with fourth-generation aircraft.
"I have stealth, so I've fought against F-16s and I've never gotten into a dogfight yet. You can't fight what you can't see, and if F-16s can't see me then I'm never going to get into a dogfight with them."
What's more, Andreotta says, the US Air Force's F-16s and F-35s work well together.
"The F-16s, F-35s, F-22s, no matter what the aircraft, they all bring something to the fight, they're all different and they all are great compliments to each other. We just all have different capabilities that we can use to get the job done."
"The F-16s and fourth generation are really benefitting from all the information we are able to pull in and send to them," Andreotta said. "I can take information that I'm getting from the F-35 and push it out to other aircraft that don't have the capabilities that I have. That's huge. I would have killed for that when I was flying an F-16."
"I think if you talk to any fourth-generation pilot that has flown with the F-35 they'll rave about the information they're getting from us, and we're not even at the point where we are sending out all the information."
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