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The performance of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is inferior to foreign jets it is expected to outperform in engagements and barely justifies replacing with it the older models currently deployed by the Pentagon, a scalding report says.
With an estimated price tag of $1.4 trillion, the Joint Strike Fighter is among Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program. The 5th-generation multipurpose fighter jets are meant to become the backbone of America’s air power for decades to come and play a significant part in defense capability of its allies. But the performance characteristics of the advanced aircraft are inferior to those of 4th-generation aircraft deployed by advanced foreign power like Russia or China, which it is meant to dominate through superior technology, a scalding new report (1) said.
The report released this week by US progressive think tank National Security Network identified four key areas in which the F-35 does not deliver : poor maneuverability that makes it vulnerable in dogfights, small internal payload capacity, short operational range and reliance on stealth technology for survivability. “The F-35 will find itself outmaneuvered, outgunned, out of range, and visible to enemy sensors”, NSN’s policy analyst Bill French said. “Going forward, full investment in the F-35 would be to place a bad trillion-dollar bet on the future of airpower based on flawed assumptions and an underperforming aircraft. To avoid such a catastrophic outcome, Congress and DOD should begin the process of considering alternatives to a large-scale commitment to the F-35. Staying the present course may needlessly gamble away a sizable margin of American airpower at great expense and unnecessary risk to American lives", he added.
The report compared the F-35 against the Russian-made Mig-29 and the Su-27, which is also produced by China under a license, claiming inadequacy of the US fighter. “Compared to both the Su-27 and the MiG-29, the F-35 is grossly inferior in terms of wing loading (except for the F-35C), transonic acceleration, and thrust-to-weight. All F-35 variants also have significantly lower maximum speeds”, the report said. It added that there was insufficient data for comparison with the Russian and Chinese 5th-generation fighter jets, PAK FA J-20 and J-31 for comparison. Comparison against the F-16, F-18 and AV-8B Harrier, which the F-35 is meant to replace in the US fleet, showed that the new aircraft was worse in thrust, acceleration and wing loading, according to the report. “These performance factors are critical to building up speed and gaining or retaining energy that enables the aircraft to maneuver and gain advantages in firing position against other aircraft or defeating incoming missiles”, French wrote.
Earlier the blog War is Boring published a leaked report by a test pilot that said an F-35 performed sluggishly in mock dogfights against an F-16.
The F-37 JSF has marked a milestone this month, when the US Marine Corps declared their version of the aircraft ready for combat. The Air Force and the Navy are still struggling to cut through computer glitches and engine troubles plaguing their variants.