Wednesday, March 6, 2013

F-35: Beware of critics without a clue

Unfortunately when talking about the F-35, the discussion has become very polarized.  And just as unfortunately, those who are critics of the program tend to do a lot of talking about a subject they seem to know little about or are prone to misrepresent it or both.

And example of that is here.  This particular person just can't seem to wrap his head around the fact that the F-35 is not an F-22 and was never designed to be an F-22.   Additionally he quotes Winslow Wheeler, which in itself, damages any credibility he might have.  He also misrepresents the low observability of the F-35. He uses dated and incorrect data. And, finally, it appears that the author has absolutely no concept of what the F-35's capabilities actually are or how they are used.

In other words, the usual mind-numbingly irrelevant stuff from a would-be critic.

As a review of what the F-35 is all about, I again direct your attention to the work of Robbin F. Laird and Edward T. Timperlake and their paper "The F-35 and the Future of Power Projection."

It would be nice, for once, to see a critic take on the real F-35 and talk about it's capabilities and it's purpose instead of, as usual, tearing into a straw F-35 they invent out of their ignorance.

I'll leave you with this little reminder:
An excellent insight into the role of the F-22 in anticipating the F-35 was provided by a Marine Corps F-22 pilot. ­Lieutenant Colonel Dave Berke is becoming a key F-35 squadron commander, but he provided an interview while at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) regarding his experience with the F-22 and how he saw the plane as part of the ongoing revolution in re-norming air operations. In response to a question about what the fused sensor experience is all about in fifth-generation aircraft and how the whole capability of an aircraft is not really an F series but a flying combat system, Berke provided the following explanation:

"I think you’re hitting the nail on the head with what the JSF is going to do, but it’s also what the Raptor missions have already morphed into. The concept of Raptor employment covers two basic concepts. You’ve got an antiaccess/global strike mission; and you have the integration mission as well. And the bottom line is that the integration mission is our bread and butter. When I say “us,” I’m talking about the Air Force and the F-22. Most of our expected operating environments are going to be integrated."

As a pilot with significant operational experience across the legacy fleet, Berke provided insight into how the fifth-generation solution was different:

"It’s a major evolution. There’s no question about it. My career has been in F-18s, but I also flew F-16s for 3 years. I was dual operational in the Hornet and the Viper when I was a TOPGUN instructor. I am now coming up on 3 years flying Raptors. I was also on carriers for 4 years, so I’ve done a lot of integration with the Navy and a lot of integration with the Air Force. Three years flying with the Air Force has been pretty broadening. 
For me, it’s a great experience to see the similarities and difference between the Services. Navy and Marine aviation is very similar. USAF aviation is very different in some ways. I actually was with the Army for a year as FAC [forward air controller] in Iraq as well. So from a tactical level, I’ve got a lot of tactical operator experience with all three Services—Navy, Army, and the Air Force. This has been really illuminating for me having the experience with all of the Services in tactical operations. 

Obviously I will draw upon that experience when I fully engage with the JSF. But flying a Raptor, the left, right, up, down, is just flying; flying is flying. So getting in an airplane and flying around really is not that cosmic no matter what type of airplane you’re sitting in. 

But the difference between a Hornet or a Viper and the Raptor isn’t just the way you turn or which way you move the jet or what is the best way to attack a particular problem. The difference is how you think. You work totally differently to garner situational awareness [SA] and make decisions; it’s all different in the F-22. With the F-22 and certainly it will be the case with the F-35, you’re operating at a level where you perform several functions of classic air battle management and that’s a whole different experience and a different kind of training. . . ."
So who are you going to believe - a pilot with "significant operational experience" or some know-nothing critic without a clue?


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