Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Advanced capabilities define the F-35

There's a long and very detailed "must read" article about the F-35 in Airforce Magazine that will be covered here in a number of posts.  It does a very good job of discussing some of the capabilities the F-35 brings to the game that are usually left out of more critical reviews.  This is an aircraft that is not just a fuselage and engine.  It is a weapons system of advanced capabilities, and discussing it as anything else presents an incomplete picture of what it is designed to do.

Today, though, let's put another claim the critics attempt to use to bed, shall we?  That claim is the F-35 doesn't have the combat radius of 4th generation fighters.  It is usually used as a justification to keep the supposedly less costly (and implied "better) 4th gen fighters and dump the F-35.

But, the claim isn't true:
In combat configuration, the F-35’s range exceeds that of fourth generation fighters by 25 percent. These are Air Force figures, [Lockheed Martin VP Stephen] O’Bryan noted. "We’re comparing [the F-35] to [the] ‘best of’ fourth gen" fighters. The F-35 "compares favorably in any area of the envelope," he asserted.
It is more than an assertion, it is common sense.  What is different about a fully combat loaded 4th generation fighter and a fully combat loaded F-35?

One carries everything on the outside and the other carries all its ordnance and fuel on the inside.

That means two huge differences, both of which negatively effect only the 4th generation fighter.  1 - a tremendous increase in drag that requires more fuel, reduces combat radius and performance.   2 - an increased radar signature from the exposure of the external ordnance and fuel tanks.

And what other advantage does such a configuration by the F-35 bring?
Stealth also permits (and requires) internal fuel and weapons carriage. The Air Force F-35 variant, fully loaded for combat, can pull nine-G turns with a full load of fuel and missiles. This cannot be done by fighters lugging along external weapons and fuel tanks.
Advantage F-35. 

And it is only one of many advantages the F-35 enjoys over 4th generation fighters as will be discussed in future posts.  The 4th gen manufacturers can make all the claims they wish that their fighters can be made "stealthier".  But none of them are configured to carry extra fuel or ordnance internally.  That's a bottom line point that makes their claim moot.



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