In defence of the F-35: Why future air combat will be different

Former RAF group captain shoots down claims F-35 can’t protect itself as modern aerial battles demand a new way of thinking

Air combat is advancing at such a pace and about to head in a new direction that reports of a hi-tech F-35 fighter “losing” a simulated dogfight to a 1970s-design F-16 are irrelevant to the new stealth jet’s future, according to an ex-RAF group captain.

The advanced systems and sensors aboard the F-35 mean its pilots will fly and fight in a new way, and the jet should not be measured using the same standards as older fighters, according to Andrew Linstead, who spent 27 years in the RAF flying in Tornados.

His comments came after a test pilot’s report was leaked that indicated his 7 Comments at close-in dogfighting because it was too sluggish.

  • Una Salus

    There’s nothing new about claiming the dogfight has had its day. This has been going on since Vietnam apparently.

    • Very true. Let’s hope history is not repeating itself.

      • Una Salus


    • Clausewitz

      That was the main reason why the US Navy instituted the Top Gun school. They found in Vietnam that a lack of dog fighting skills was the main reason for pilots being shot down. Missiles with fire and forget capabilities are not all they are cracked up to be.

      • Una Salus

        None of the experts seem to actually be pilots for some reason.

        “It would be trite to say dogfights are over. But if an F-35 got into a dogfight situation then the pilot would have probably done something wrong.”

        No, it wouldn’t be trite to say dogfights are over if that was really the case. It’d be trite to say it was the pilots fault if it wasn’t. Any time I have some guy essentially telling me what’s needed is a paradigm shift when he hasn’t even got a new paradigm I get worried.

        There are issues identifying planes from long distances by radar too apparently. According to Pierre Sprey that’s one of the main reasons why the system doesn’t work.

        • Minicapt

          The expert being consulted flew Tornados.


          • Una Salus

            The guy works for Lockheed Martin.

            “The F-35A is an agile aircraft, it has speed and can pull a 9G turn like an F-16” and yet it’s useless in close combat.


          • Minicapt

            You’re not paying attention.


          • Una Salus

            We’re not paying attention to the same things I think.

  • Brett_McS

    The only point he makes is that the avionics in the F-35 are better. Well, the Israelis completely replaced the avionics in their F-16s. Also, stealth isn’t all that stealthy against advanced radar systems, so for how long with that be a feature?

    • Clausewitz

      That’s why the US developed the Wild Weasel concept of sweeping radar before the real fighting begins.

      • Una Salus

        but if you destroy all the ground radar with wild weasel why do you need a stealthy aircraft?

        • Clausewitz

          Because opposing aircraft have radar capabilities of their own.

          • Una Salus

            Yeah but according to Brett replaced avionics nullify that advantage to some extent too.

            I’m not an expert in this at all but I’m worried because it seems to me what’s been sold is a plane with superior avionics and stealth.

            Improved avionics could go in almost any plane. According to the test pilot that flew the helmet is too big to get a proper view behind the plane.
            Stealth seems dubious.
            This is most expensive plane in history and way over budget. Yes most projects go over budget but the fact that it’s still having teething problems is a problem in itself.
            It’s not good in a dog fight. It’s not a good bomber and the air force is fazing out the A-10.
            It’s supposed to be replacing everything across the board as far as I understand it and it’s ridiculously expensive.

            The is a plane designed to fight war the way generals want to fight it but historically that hasn’t always been how things pan out.

            I want the F 35 to be a game changer I’m just very worried it isn’t.

    • Norman_In_New_York

      And you can bet your ass that the Israelis will do the same with the F-35s that they ordered.

      • Rami

        There is a limit, however, to what you can accomplish purely by changing out the avionics. The Israelis will continue to rue the day that they cancelled the Lavi program and sacked their indigenous fighter manufacturing capability.

        I saw recently that there was a book coming out on the Lavi program at year-end. Enough time has elapsed to perhaps revisit the ramifications of this decision with the benefits of hindsight.

  • simus1

    The F-16 was an outlier in American aircraft designs because it was a fighter pilot run crash program in the Pentagon to address the need for a “close in and personal dogfighter” in environments like Vietnam.
    The left are concerned the F-35 won’t be good enough?

    • Una Salus

      The left would like to crash the F35 just because I agree but that doesn’t mean it’s a good aircraft.

  • Malcolm Y

    Well they said this in the 1960s – it would all be missles at long range and they had to quickly produce “old” kinds of fighters. The F-35 is supposed to be a “do it all fighter”; Robert McNamara tried this with the F-111 and it was a failure; they were used as all-weather bombers.

    The major problem to solve is china. They can produce thousands of cheap fighters with the pilots to man them. Even if we had a 50 to 1 kill ratio we would still lose the air war.

    • This seems to be a case of arrogance in the part of the backers.

  • El Martyachi
  • Minicapt

    Air Combat Manoeuvring is most effective against an opponent who doesn’t practice it.