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DellaVedova notes that the AF-2 test aircraft involved is used specifically for flight science testing and is not equipped with the mission systems, software, weapons, sensors or stealth coating of an operational F-35.
According to AW&ST the Lightning IIs achieved an important result during GF 15-08: not a single F-35 was “shot down” during the drills, a significant achievement for the JSF at its first active participation in a major exercise, especially considering that A-10s and F-16s were defeated in the same conditions.
I spoke to another pilot who has closely watched the F-35s development and has extensive combat experience, Dave Deptula, who now heads the Air Force Associations’s Mitchell Institute. He’s also a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors. Deptula flew the F-15 and twice led joint task forces, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
His bottom line about what the test pilot said: It’s “interesting, but not relevant to the issue of campaign level utility of the other very significant advantages the F-35 possesses in the areas of low observability, sensor capability, and information integration that provide the F-35 an enormous advantage relative to legacy aircraft. If one can target and kill your adversaries prior to the merge, what they can do at the merge really doesn’t matter now, does it?”
He believes “the anti-F-35 crowd are so focused on how we fought in the last century with old equipment that they can’t conceive of, or understand the information edge advantage aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 provide.”
He even disdains the term “fighter” for the F-35 and F-22. “I’ve said for years and will continue to do so until the defense troglodytes finally get it (and some are slowly coming around)—5th generation aircraft are not ‘fighters’—they are ‘sensor-shooters’ optimized for different threat regimes, and can perform the roles of “F,” “B,” “A,” “RC,” “E,”EA,” and AWACS aircraft of the past.”
Deptula says that one F-35 “can create effects that require dozens of legacy aircraft, and in some cases dozens of legacy aircraft simply cannot accomplish with one or two ‘F’-22s or ‘F’-35s can accomplish.” Dogfighting isn’t the sine qua non of air combat, he argues. Killing the enemy before he knows you’re there is. “Bottom line—it’s about the information, stupid.”