By Dragoljub Bosnic – Apr 15, 2019 – The F-35 jet has received an overly fair hearing in world media, despite same media rightly pointing out the serious, indeed critical and major flaws in this jet. The flaws are not only conceptual – tackling a non-existent problem, designed to fit a military doctrine that was suspiciously rolled out to justify the creation of the jet itself – but in execution, the thing just doesn’t work.
The F-35 jet is the epitome of how American Military-Industrial Complex works. Endless supply of money to the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE systems, Northrop Grumman etc. This financial boondoggle (the F-35 program) is projected to cost as much as 1.3 trillion dollars through most of the 21st century, and this is without any possible cost overruns (which have constantly been happening ever since the JSF program started). And what’s more, F-35 isn’t even a true 5th generation fighter. According to the American standards, a 5th gen aircraft is any aircraft with all-aspect stealth, advanced, highly integrated avionics, super-maneuverability and super-cruise (ability of supersonic flight without the use of afterburners).
The F-35 can’t super-cruise and it’s anything but super-maneuverable. Its 1.6 Mach speed (with afterburners on) is pretty meager, even when compared to single-engine aircraft, like the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 and the American F-16. JF-17 is Mach 1.6, but the entire program cost was $500 million, while its unit cost is not more than $30 million apiece. It’s a single-engine platform powered by a single Klimov RD-93 afterburner turbofan (the same engine powering the MiG-29). F-16 is an old, but combat-proven, single-engine design which can also fly Mach 1.6, with a single unit costing no more than $30 million (depends on the variant).
We might say: “But F-35 has advanced stealth capabilities!” But does it? It’s stealth is questionable, given the fact that its large single engine (Pratt & Whitney F135) generates so much heat, that the advanced IRST (Infrared search and track) sensors, which are found on virtually all Russian jets will be able to track the jet from at least 50 km away.
So, there goes the stealth “advantage”. Plus, the heat generated by the engine causes so many problems to the highly sensitive electronic components, that the pilots are advised not to turn on their afterburner, which further limits the speed of the jet to the meager 900 kph, which is preposterous for a jet costing up to 100 million dollars apiece.
So, there goes its “highly integrated avionics” advantage. And the F-35 is slated to replace a plethora of aircraft in US service, namely, A-10, F/A-18, F-16 and F-15, including all variants of these jets. If we compare these stats to Russian top-notch fighters, like the deadly Su-35 (capable of Mach 2.25, super-cruise, super-maneuverability, capable of flying 2-3 sorties per day, as proven in Syria, costing less than half the price of a single F-35), then who can blame even NATO members like Turkey, for “taking the risk” of getting an advanced SAM system, like the S-400, instead of this flying turkey.
If we were to add the new Russian Su-57 to the equation, with the speed of Mach 2.25, super-cruise Mach 1.6 (slated to be 1.8-1.9 after the Izdelye 30 engines enter service!), highly integrated avionics and networking, unrivaled super-maneuverability (3D thrust vectoring) and similar all-aspect stealth, but without the engine overheating problems, with a price-tag of no more than $80 million apiece (lower price than a single F-35!), I don’t find it strange at all that so many countries, even those which have spent billions for participating in the program, are either reducing their initial orders of the jet or are even considering other options (this even includes staunch US allies, such as Canada).