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How stealthy is the F-35

Posted by picard578 on October 19, 2013


F-35 is the newest Western flying piano. Apparently US have already forgotten all the lessons of World War II and Vietnam war, where such impressive-on-paper-but-sluggish fighters ended up on mercy of far more nimble fighters and were thus relegated to ground attack roles. In fact, F-35 was designed as a ground attack aircraft, only to be pressed into service as “multirole” fighter after F-22 killed itself with cost overruns (how decision-makers figured that three-service aircraft would be better than a single-role single-service aircraft in that respect is beyond me, especialy after Aardvark disaster; only thing F-35 has for it is that it is lighter than the F-22, allowing for limited cost savings for some variants when compared to the F-22). And despite what some might think, F-16 was the first – and last – US fighter designed with maneuverability in mind; both P-51 and F-86 ended up maneuverable by pure luck, as they had to have low wing loading to function as high altitude bomber interceptors, and P-51 also got equipped with excellent British Merlin engine. F-22 is similarly a high-altitude bomber interceptor, and while it does have good maneuverability, it is not designed for it, as evidenced by the fact that it needs thrust vectoring to achieve angle of attack required for maximum lift; comparably low wing loading (about same as F-15C) and high thrust-to-weight ratios are features required by its role as a high-altitude fighter.

Due to this maneuverability shortcoming, F-35 has to rely on surprise attacks against the enemy: detect before being detected. That is, after all, entire purpose of stealth. But how stealthy is the F-35? Is it stealthy at all? What must be kept in mind is that stealth is not limited to just radar. For this reason, I will take a look at F-35s stealth in multiple areas.

F-35s stealth

Radar stealth

F-35 was designed from the outset to be less stealthy against X-band radar than the F-22. But it has characteristics which will reduce stealth level even further. Both F-35 and F-22 are only stealthy against enemy radars that are horizontal or few degrees from horizontal. Due to lower inclination of surfaces from the horizontal, this “stealth area” for the F-35 is far less than F-22s; and as soon as F-35 maneuvers, it becomes instantly unstealthy unless maneuvers are done only by vertical tail surfaces, keeping aircraft completely level. F-35 also has many irregularities in its surface – there is bulge above left wing, presumably where the gun is located on the A version, as well as bulges below wing root, on weapons bays doors, below the engine and below the nose where IRST is located. These all help increase F-35s RCS when it maneuvers away from horizontal plane.

VHF radars are radars with wavelengths in 1-3 meter range. For this, it is important to understand two terms: Rayleigh scattering region is region where wavelength is larger than shaping features of target or target itself. In that region, only thing that matters for RCS is actual physical size of target itself. Resonance occurs where shaping features are comparable in wavelength to radar, resulting in induced electrical charges over the skin of target, vastly increasing RCS.

F-35 in VHF band

As it can be seen, many F-35s shaping features are in either Rayleigh or resonance scattering region of VHF radars. Situation with early warning HF radars is even worse, as they not only have very long wavelengths, but also come from above after reflecting from the atmosphere. Situation is somewhat better with S and L band radars, but F-35s RCS against these is still far higher than against X band radars. Even against X-band radars, it is only stealthy (LO) from front and rear; against S-band radar, it is stealthy from narrow front aspect, while only limited reduction is achieved from direct front against L-band radar; this is in part thanks to nozzle design, whose segments act as Rayleigh or resonance reflectors in all bands with lower frequency than X band. Against ground-based X-band radars, its side RCS will likely be similar to that of conventional fighter.

When combined with lack of kinematic performance, it means that F-35 will be held back until F-22s and Growlers – or in European ventures, Rafales and Typhoons – have neutralized enemy air defenses. This removes only justification for all-aspect stealth.

IR stealth

There is an ongoing shift from radar to IRST as a primary sensor for air-to-air combat, and pilots fighting a competent opponent quickly learned to shut down radar. When it comes to ground threats, radar SAMs have had a disastrous performance, worse than IR SAMs. Consequently, IR stealth is far more important than radar stealth – even if it is not as flashy – and if somebody designs for radar stealth and not for IR stealth, he’s an idiot. Yet IR stealth is one of many areas where F-35 is sorely lacking.

In fact, F-35s IR stealth can be summed up in one word: nonexistant. It is the heaviest single-engined fighter in the world, and its single engine produces amount of thrust that equals that of many twin-engined fighters while having no IR signature reduction whatsoever (IR signature reduction measures were deleted to save weight). Its shape means large amount of drag, which also increases IR signature, as well as providing larger target for an IRST. Drag means that F-35 has to use afterburner to fly supersonically, increasing IR signature even further due to the large exhaust plume. Powerful radar also helps increase IR signature due to the cooling requirements.

Visual stealth

F-35 is comparably large aircraft. From top, its visual signature is comparable to that of F-2A, Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon. However, its signature from side and especially front is larger than signatures of aircraft mentioned. As modern IR sensors are basically visual sensors, and are capable of detecting differences in temperature on order of few degrees Celzius, its visual signature will also have a role to play in IR detection.

Acoustic stealth

Acoustically, F-35 is far louder than the F-16 or Gripen, and in fact one of problems with basing is that it is so much noisier than the F-16 that air bases which were able to accomodate F-16s without causing undue discomfort to people living nearby cannot accomodate F-35 without displacing lare numbers of inhabitants nearby. There are two basic reasons for this.

First reason is that F-35 is a far heavier aircraft and thus needs far stronger engine. Stronger engine means more noise, and F-35s engine (F-135) is the most powerful engine in the world – it has to be as it pushes around weight more suitable for two engines. Second reason is that F-35 has aerodynamic performance of a brick. Its basic shape does not offer good aerodynamic performance, and it has many irregularities in surface, just like conventional fighters.

Emissions stealth

All stealth features are irrelevant if aircraft has to use its radar to detect the enemy. This is one of few areas where F-35 fares well, as it has very good coverage with numerous IIR sensors. As a result, F-35 will not have to use its radar to detect the opponent, relying instead on detecting opponent’s IR signature. However, this situation is still a loss-loss for the F-35: if it uses IR sensors, it will be at disadvantage against most other fighters equipped with IR sensors due to its IR signature, and if it uses radar, its emissions will be detected far sooner than it will detect the enemy by using the radar.


In real terms, F-35 is as stealthy as a pink elephant in the porculan store, far less stealthy than Saab Gripen, Dassault Rafale, F-16 or Eurofighter Typhoon. While it does have comparably low radar signature from some angles and to some frequencies, as well as good passive sensor suite, it is severely lacking in two most important measures of visibility – visual and infrared. But US military is disconnected from reality, as are most Western policymakers, who either can’t or don’t want to understand limitations and compromises of designing fighters for radar stealth.

Problem when facing enemy radar-guided SAMs is that F-35 can only jam radars that are in front of it (+-60 degrees off nose), and are within frequency coverage of its own radar. This frequency coverage excludes anything except X-band radars. Its reliance on – rather lacking – stealth characteristics of airframe itself has left it without robust countermeasure suite likes of DASS or SPECTRA, including lack of DRFM jammers.

Further reading

F-35 Analysis

Value of stealth aircraft

74 Responses to “How stealthy is the F-35”

  1. HGRhgr said

    This is a great article. It is almost like they said lets build it and then figure out what to do with it.

    The Phantom and the F111 where developed by the Kennedy/McNamara regime to function in a dual role as Naval carrier air crafts as well as Air Force air crafts. F111 flunked as it kept gaining weight to the point that it could not be flown from a carrier so it became exclusive Air Force . So another problem was and remains that they are not just multi-role but also multi sevice air crafts.

    There is no way it will work well for the Marines because the F-35 will need to be deployed from ships and not shore (too expensive, too complex and will require a lot protection against ground attacks diluting the capacity of force on shore to do other things) and the Marines carry very few heavy weapons and need an aircraft that can fly many sorties per day and provide close air support. The vectoring of the exhaust has proven to be too hot for carrier’s decks and more so for assault ships. So with F35 the assault ships will always be floating close to shore instead of being able to seek the protection of open waters. I believe the Marines are already looking beyond the F35 to how else can they get certain missions done.

    The Navy is not happy because of cost. The air wing will swallow resources from other areas.

    The air force seems to be the only one happy with it.

    The IR topic is interesting because it mirrors a certain tendency in Naval missiles to rely more on IR. Naval vessels run very hot so a combination of radar and IR together gives the missile more discerning capacity than just radar. So the storyline goes like this… the missile is shot with GPS guidance leading it into the general direction of the target and as it nears the target it switches to Radar and IR combined to diminish the effectiveness of counter measures. For example a radar detection but no heat detection might be interpreted by the missile guidance as not likely to be a good target so it keeps looking for another or can try to judge which one among several targets looks more like a ship should.

    And the much maligned LCS was scheduled to have a beyond visual range missile that had optical reading capacity. It failed in try outs but there is an appetite for a missile like these both in the Army and the Navy who would prefer to guide the missile visually if they can.

    Granted, naval missiles can be very heavy, are designed to hit targets that are no where as fast as an aircraft so they might be impractical for aircraft to carry but it shows that the IR is a path forward at least in Naval war.


    • picard578 said

      IR detection is displacing radar detection in all areas of combat due to its practicality; it seems that USAF is the only Western service that does not realize it – F-35s FLIR is optimized for a ground attack, and can not rival modern IRSTs such as PIRATE in air-to-air combat. But then F-35 is a bomber.


    • Dennis said

      Concerning the F-111 for navops, I often remind Admiral Connolly:
      “There isn’t enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane (on an aircraft carrier).”


  2. GEORGE said

    Excellent article again…

    One thing that I just wanted to mention is that it’s das system is actually a short ranged system and not a long range scanning irst system, as they have very small apertures and in the wrong ir spectrum to be optimized for finding aircraft at long ranges so it likely will not be able to detect another aircraft until they are 10 to 15km away or closer as they are made to detect mostly ground based sam missile launches.

    Also all American 5th generation planes do not have a complete or much or an ecm system at all. Even the radar jamming ability of of f-35 or f-22 is actually the kiss of death rather than a defense. All they can do is jam radars using it’s own aesa radar, but all modern Russian sams also have home on jam, which means if they try to jam the missile or the sam radar with it’s own radar it will likely result in a certain kill. Also all modern Russian sams like s-300, s-400 and plus flient have the ability to triangliate and also track any radar or jammer passively and to fire on it, so this is no defense at all against any modern sam or radar guided missiles.

    There is only one 5th generation aircraft that combines stealth with a complete 5th generation ecm defensive suite.


    Which includes.

    1- Digital radio frequency memory Jammer (DRFM)
    2- Towed decoys
    3- Expendable rocket decoys
    4- Cross eyed jammer
    5- Active jammer
    6- Aesa jammer
    7- High powered L-band jammer
    8- (Directional Infrared Counter Measures) DIRCM
    9- Expendable flares
    10- Extensive IRST reduction measures applied to aircraft design itself
    11- Long range 360 degree QWIP based IRST made for searching and tracking of aircraft at long ranges
    12- Modern 360 degree RWS for detecting, tracking and engaging of other AESA radars
    13- Modern missile approach warning system (Maws) Both RADAR and DAS based
    14- Sensors over entire body of aircraft
    15- 360 degree radar coverage turned on once plane is already detected
    16- LPI (Two way) high speed data links
    17- All aspect radar stealth

    And this is just part of the counter suite that has been released to the public.


    • picard578 said

      DAS is equivalent of French DDM: it gives 360 degree situational awareness but its primary mission is that of a missile warner (DDM is general-purpose, if DAS is optimized for SAMs as you say then it will carry penalty in terms of AAM detection range).

      F-22 and F-35 will likely operate in presence of a dedicated jamming platform, such as F-18G; just like F-117 did. What you said about PAK FA certainly makes me like it, but I’ll wait until it is operational for definite conclusion.


  3. HGR said

    All this is very useful.

    Please correct me if I am wrong but it is my understanding that the PAK-FA is the basis a Russian and Indian co-production to be assembled in India. My recollection is that deal it not going very well. There are problems with the PAK-FA.

    It is also my understanding from reading an unrelated geo-pol article that India is now considering the Gripen as an alternative. There could be several reasons for this but the main one is likely to be the age of its current air-crafts will force her to buy something sooner than latter.

    The following is my opinion, one thing that affects Russian aircrafts like the PAK-FA is that they are developed from the get-go with an eye for exporting to certain customers like India. So for those type of customers the projected price of the Russian aircraft must be less than its rival US or European alternative.

    And my opinion too is that the rumored Gripen purchase is credible. The accident rate from those old MIGs is killing them and the Gripen is ready to go now.


    • picard578 said

      Yes, there are problems with T-50/PAK FA/FGFA, mostly political. As for Gripen, HAL Tejas is aircraft of a similar weight so if successful India won’t need Gripen, but Tejas project is in problems (development hell) so they may buy Gripen. I haven’t heard anything reliable, though, and Gripen never really worked for MMRCA contract.


  4. syntaxerror9 said

    Never heard of the Gripen in India!


  5. HGR said

    Emory University, Emerging India Summit 2011 — India’s Military Strategy and Sales Opportunities. Talk given by by Dr. Stephen Cohen Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution in Washington. The Gripen is mentioned in reference to air crafts being considered for replacements for aging MIGs.

    That talk was given in March and when I checked with Wikepedia it said that the Indians rejected the Gripen in April 2011 citing over reliance on USA technology.

    So I admit that line is an error and apologize for misleading but still impressed that India did not reject the aircraft on merits but rather on political strategic grounds. They have a reason for suspecting that the USA will cut off technology transfers or parts, upgrades, etc.

    Maybe if that concern goes away the Gripen will come back as a candidate. It has happened with the Israelis; in that same talk it mentions that from being anti-Israelis in the past the Indians are now comfortable with purchasing Israeli technology to upgrade its soviet equipment.

    But do keep in my toes. Keep asking.


  6. GEORGE said

    I spent a great deal of time following and studying the Pak-Fa over the last 5 years, and actually they are doing great on this project with no way near the problems as experienced on the F-35, on top of that it is actually surpassing the Russian expectations even, unlike the F-35.

    Sukhoi PAK FA exceeds all expectations

    India has picked the Rafael jet in the The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition as the interim or fill gap until the newer and more advanced Pak-Fa comes online…

    The Russian version is called Pak-Fa, the Indian version based on the same jet will be called FGFA, and will come about 3 years later.

    The Indian version might cost more, since they want up to 43 design changes done to the aircraft plus avionics changed just for them (Including a complete different 360 degree AESA system), so costs will go up for the Indians based on this request big time and that is were the problems come in, not for the Pak-Fa but the changes and delays in the Indian FGFA. The Pak-Fa which is not to be exported and will be for Russian use only. FGFA was to be delivered to India in the next few months for flight testing but due to these extensive last minute requests by the Indians their version might be delayed and might add billions to their version for cost, so this is the problem with the FGFA version, if only the Indians would have accepted the program earlier but they joined the program only years after Russia asked them to. You can read here were The Rafael will be interim or fill gap fighter till once FGFA come out. The 35 billion price tag for the FGFA in the article is to do research, buy 200 and operate the Indian version of the jets for 20 years.

    There are 5 Pak-Fa proto types being tested right now, with 5 more being delivered next year for testing, the first jet to be delivered for evaluations to the Russian air force just occurred, with serial production to start in the next 18 to 24 months.

    I just heard on the Russian news channel a few days ago that the Russian government will be signing a contract for the first 60 aircraft at a cost of 6 billion or 100 million each. In actuality the program cost 11 billion, 5.5 billion for each country, and that fly away costs after that is only 75 million each, but with developmental costs will be like 95 to 100 million each, Russia is planned to get up to 250 so far, entire production run could top 1,000 units worldwide.

    I have a vast amount of info, charts and diagrams on the project and will likely be developing an entire website dedicated to this aircraft latter this year.


    • picard578 said

      I’ll believe when I see it in production. That being said, Russian aircraft do have a tendency to be cheap and rugged, though maybe not exactly easy to maintain.

      Rafale is a medium-weight aircraft, Su-30MKI is more analagous to PAK FA / FGFA in mission and characteristics, so either Indians are stupid or whoever said that Rafale is an interim solution until FGFA gets introduced is wrong.

      And good luck with website.


  7. syntaxerror9 said

    Anyway, Gripen is too short legs for India.
    And in terms of low altitude strike: Rafale is the best: 600 Kts/100ft
    In all weather conditions!
    I would add that SPECTRA has no equivalent for now.
    So, in my opinion, ok, Gripen is a good system, but far from Rafale.


  8. HGR said

    600 Kts/100ft is impressive. In all terrain?

    Today’s NY Times has an article on Chinese sales of an air defense system to Turkey. I have known of that sale for a while. The Times highlights the low price of Chinese weapons. But what was more important still was that China agreed to transfer substantial technology. India is the same way; they might choose second best if they can get technology transferred.

    For these “medium” size militaries there is a perceived and real loss of independence when they are wholly reliant on someone else for their technology. Their suppliers can cut the flow of spare parts to them if they disagree with your politics (USA does that) and if the supplier has an economic crisis it might be unable to produce timely or quality up-dates to his technology (that has happened with Russia’s weapons).

    The swedes are willing to transfer a lot of technology and the Indians liked that feature about the Gripen.

    My prediction is that India will buy an aircraft from someone that agrees to transfer enough technology to them that they feel secure about parts, etc. even if that aircraft is not perfect for them.

    This is a more technical blog than I am used to but India has two potential adversaries: China and Pakistan. Both nuclear armed and both quarrelsome neighbors withy different strategies. Pakistan cannot possibly defeat India in any war including a Nuclear. Their strategy against India is based on terrorism. China can’t defeat India either because the Himalayas are a difficult barrier to breach and the Indians have a decent enough Navy could cut off Chinese imports of oil through the Indian Ocean or even blockade Chinese shipments through the strait of Malacca and cripple China with out resorting to Nuclear weapons.

    So, the Gripen could work.


  9. syntaxerror9 said

    Yes, 600Kts/100ft/automatic fight, all terrain.

    Rafale has been chosen by India.
    There is no more competition.

    We are just waiting for the signature.
    It takes time because Dassault has to deal with HAL for the Rafale to be built in India.
    (Who makes what, and at what conditions…)
    Only the first 18 should be built in France.


  10. HGR said

    I can see why buying a 100% French built aircraft might be a better fit politically; technology would be easier to transfer with only one country involved (France). And it is also a maritime strike aircraft that is currently operational in the French Navy. It is a nice fit.


  11. GEORGE said

    Technology transfer is key and a big point for me, so you are right on that.

    But One thing everybody is missing, on top of the technology transfer it is this…

    With all the spying u.s.a is doing etc can you trust them?

    And most military equipment you buy from u.s.a has a closed not open software, so you have no idea what is in it, and at one push of a button and a signal from a satellite overhead it is possible the f-35 would not even turn on. Since the f-35 has 10 million lines of code in the software, it would take 10,000 programers over a decade to make, so you can forget about buying u.s made equipment that comes with any software or chips that might have an embedded chip inside.

    France Rafael might be a better fit, I been studying Rafael alot last while, and I do believe it is the best western 4.5 gen fighter out their, it is an amazing machine,…. There is a reason why Rafael has won the Indian fly off even against other western u.s fighters, it is better. If it has open architecture and software it would be a good fit for the Canadian military.

    One reason I like Russian equipment so much besides the fact that it is durable and inexpensive, is that the new equipment they are coming out with they have a standard nato serial bus compatibility and an open architecture software as well, so you can look at the code inside, this is key. Look at the Mig-35 a 4.5 gen aircraft and at only 35 million a piece a good price and can takeoff and land on short unprepared airstrips as has an open serial bus.

    “The final configuration of the MiG-35’s onboard equipment has been left open intentionally using the MIL-STD-1553 bus.[19] The main advantage of an open architecture configuration for its avionics is that future customers will have options to choose from components and systems made by Russian, United States, French and Israeli sources. The Ramenskoye Design Company will act as systems integrator”

    I prefer the sukhoi’s over the migs, but I just saying of some of the Russian advantages. Russia is willing to go develop and also transfer technology as well, this is a big deal.


    • GEORGE said

      I know you have seen my video’s before picard578, you even posted links to them on this site in the past but I doubt if you knew they came from me… I guess how could you right?

      But for the rest of you on this forum I have made a playlist of some of the video’s detailing all the problems with the F-35, it is shocking to say the least, and are a must see, You can view my utube channel and play list here.



      • GEORGE said

        Just click on playlist on top left corner of video, to see all the video’s in this playlist. then pick the ones you want to watch from there.


  12. syntaxerror9 said

    GEORGE, please! 😉

    RAFALE: Dassault fighter jet.
    RAFAEL: Israeli derfense company


  13. GEORGE said

    opps sorry, sometimes George mis-spells when he types to fast.. 🙂

    In news…


  14. Now everyone is trying to build a RADAR that could detect stealth aircraft

    “South Korea to procure stealth aircraft detecting RADAR by 2020”

    I think it’s a smart, developing or buying stealth fighters would be costly for most countries.. Especially South Korea with no concrete plans to buy or develop any stealth aircraft


    • HGR said

      You touch on another subject that it is interesting too. The Israelis believe that the F-35 will require an up-grade in 5 to 10 years to remain current against projected threats. This would include electronics. So while the aircraft is to exist for 60 years barely 8% into its useful life it will already be in need of an up-grade.

      And re-reading the Wikepidia article I noticed that “The F-35A includes a GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the GAU-12 Equalizer 25 mm cannon.[250] The cannon is mounted internally with 182 rounds for the F-35A or in an external pod with 220 rounds for the F-35B and F-35C;[251][252] the gun pod has stealth features.”

      The mounting of a gun in an external pod was tried with the F4 and did not work. The gun was hard to aim.

      Also from Wikepidia the C version has a much larger wing area than the A and B version of the F35. I assume this is to give carrier version a slower landing speed. A larger wing also helps with range since it carries a little more fuel. But no gun unless you use the “pod”.

      There is a lot of questions.


  15. HGR said

    From the video… “The navy might back out of it (F35)” – The Marines too.

    This aircraft presents many problems to the Marines. I already mentioned many of them including the upgrade of the flight deck of all the amphibious ships to handle the heat from the VTOL engine’s exhaust and the problems of supporting it and defending it from ground attacks when operating in forward operations.

    The Navy shares the same problem with the engine’s exhaust albeit a little less severe than the Marines since the aircraft carrier’s deck is heavier than those of the amphibious ships. Also important are issues of single engine operation in open water, range, pay-load, logistic, etc. I just found out that Navy ships that replenish the aircraft carrier with parts cannot handle the weight/size of the F-35 engine so at least for now between port calls the carrier has to carry all the replacement engines that it might need on board.

    But the real problem that both services have with this plane is its price. With this purchase price and its maintenance cost that will not leave enough money left. A high initial cost reduces the margin of error; it will steal from other necessities such as ships as well as from the ability to make it right in the future.

    I like the Rafale too. I am not an expert but things that stand out is its low landing speed (very important!), it can carry a lot of weight and still can do other things like fly very low in all terrain. This plane could stop any armor assault dead on its “tracks” and can pair with P-8 Poseidon that India is acquiring to extend India’s area denial capabilities from both surface and submerged threats. It is a really nice fit.


  16. GEORGE said

    HGR I agree there is alot of things to like about the Rafale.. The range would be great for Canada and maneuverability, rate of climb and turn rate are all first rate. The IRST, is also first rate and can detect other fighters head on up to 100km away, and 150km from the side and rear passively. Spectra is also one of the best in the business. India wants to buy 126 for 15 billion with AESA radar, so that is more expensive than I thought at about 120 million per copy, so it is getting expensive to, still half the price of a F-35..


    • picard578 said

      Procurement cost often includes things other than the aircraft itself. As a rule of thumb, half the cost are aircraft themselves (unit flyaway price) and half the cost are support systems (which themselves are more complex for the more complex aircraft).


    • HGR said

      George, In addition to what Picard said about cost which is applicable in a general sense in the very particular case of India there are probably large bribes included in the plane’s price.

      Also left out is that with a large amount of the work being done in India some of that money will find its way back to India in the form of contracts and commercial spin offs from that technology. This is a benefit of this sort of arrangement but t takes a little time for economist to figure out its value.

      Going back to the F-35; I am not an expert or anything close but it seems to me that the F-35 is definitely not a fighter in the classic sense. It is something else designed for the American way of aerial war which starts with Tomahawk strikes against airports, known radar locations, etc. and then an air attacks with fleets that include aerial tankers, awacs, electronic warfare aircrafts, etc. and very few dog-fights. If you also fight that way then this plane would be fine.

      The real problem would be for a small to medium size military that has to defend and control its air space on a budget and who is surrounded by opportunist neighbors. India is such a country. It is a good study of why the F-35 simply does not work for them but a Rafale will do very well.

      And returning to the Rafale, I know that you guys are air-force oriented but the Rafale will fit very nicely alongside the P-8 providing protection for the latter as well as the ability to deny access to a larger portion of the littoral waters. One feature that has not been touched is that the Rafale can re-fuel itself (buddy system) in mid-air. Great advantage in maritime environment allowing you to extend you access denial even further out. It is a really well thought out system.


  17. GEORGE said

    HGr I not sure if it is even good for U.S since many of the new radars are getting better and better it will no longer be able to fly around radars… For example if Baghdad in the future would have a S-400 even the x-band radars can see the f-35 at 60km from the front and 110km from the sides, with L band radars you could double those ranges. So if you had a few radars in even the middle of the city it would cover the entire city and surrounding area. So now the f-35 would have to fight it’s way and use jamming etc.

    Plus the fact of moores law, which states transistors and circuits boards double in ability ever 2 years, the radars 10 years from now would make the f-35 no better than 4th gen now and the f-35 would just start being built then and 80% of the F-35 fleet would not even been built yet. The west will have to spend 50 billion more adding jammers and EW and ECM systems to keep it alive, and spending billions more buying stand off weapons. Even one Israel general said it would be 20 times cheaper and probably more effective if they just buy stand off weapons and better ECM for their existing 4th gen fighters.

    F-35 is to expensive which means you can’t buy many also you can’t do enough sorties like only 1 sortie ever 3 or 5 days and has small pay load which means it is not much use.

    Imagine using the 250 million dollar F-35 to do missions in Afghanistan with the heat and sand, they can hardly keep the thing running in perfect conditions, there is alot cheaper ways the bomb guys running around in the desert with diapers on their head.

    As for other countries my country of Canada which is an advanced G7 country has a hard time keeping the f-18 going with our budget here, the f-35 would be a night mare, now imagine a poor country trying to maintain one? Out of the question.


    • HGR said

      Read the article about the Rafale. Indian politics are very obscure but it could be that the Russians out-bribed the French. The article could be propaganda.

      The SAM situation is such that you must suppress them first before you can do anything else. But once they are dealt with if you do not have an airforce that can deny the airspace to the enemy then it is all over. That was what the recent Syria mess with the USA was all about.

      And if you think you will be fighting a NATO country then your air bases will be destroyed by Tomahawks so you might need to plan for not have an airforce available after that. In may ways the air battle is the battle to protect the airports from being destroyed so you can operate the aircrafts.

      I do not know about Canada. You need a modern fighter that can fight along with the rest of Nato so maybe if not the F-35 then one of the others that are available. I have heard nothing but good things from the Eurofighter. The Rafale is a great aircraft too.

      The F/A 18 is a very versatile aircraft. It will be around for a few more years because I do not think the Navy is rushing to the F-35.

      Let me tell you something interesting. The Marines bought the entire inventory of Harriers including all the spare parts from the Royal navy for $187 million dollars. Now they are the only operator of Harriers in the world. The Marine versions are a little different from the RAF but a huge percentage of the Harrier’s parts are the same for both versions so this works. The Marines plan to use the Harrier for years to come.

      So when will the Marines start using the F-35? Years from now when the bugs have been worked out of it and hopefully the price has dropped. In the meantime the Harrier while antiquated by today’s standards was such a solid design when it was first conceived in the 1960’s that it is still effective today and will continue to do the job for years. There will be Harriers fighting with the marines past 2020. Maybe this is also what Canada should do with its fleet of F/A-18s; upgrade them and continue to fly them until the US AF fixes the bugs on the F-35 and it comes down in price.


  18. GEORGE said

    HGr I agree the p-8 is good but don’t forget it would make any fighter better that worked along it as well. Even cheaper ones. Alot of the new russian planes just coming out also have buddy refueling and are 3 times cheaper, there needs to be more fly offs in the futre to test all the new updated designs to see what is the best bang for the buck. Even india might not buy the Rafale now due to rising costs, at least some are saying that now.

    With the MiG-29 on steroids, who needs the Rafale


  19. syntaxerror9 said

    In that struggle between sword and shield, you must always invest in the sword.
    Because the final goal is to eliminate the threat; and not only being protected from it.
    F-35 has forgotten that. In consequence, it has lost its agressivity.


  20. Charles said

    I’m sorry but you really are wrong on all aspects here. Many people love to jump on the F-35 hate bandwagon but honestly your facts and conclusions are all wrong or misleading. First of all, the F-35 isn’t an all aspect stealth fighter. When it comes to radar wavelength, it has superior stealth over some wavelengths and not others that’s true. It is stealthiest when facing a radar transmitter head on, that is true as well. Although, you have to remember that the composite materials that actually make up the F-35 are radar absorbing stealth materials as well. Not only is its shape important and by engineering (of which a major part is changing the air intakes) the plane is shaped to deflect radar signatures away and around it. Another large part of it is keeping its weapons internally, obviously. Materials wise is where the targeted radar absorption happens. The F-35 isn’t an undetectable as the F-22, but its skin does provide absorption of frequencies that are used for targeting and tracking of targets. Frequencies that the skin does not do well with are emitted from the larger over the horizon radars used to detect incoming planes from long range, but guess what, that’s where shaping is important. So, the mission of the F-35 is pretty simple, if you know where the larger transmitters are (and you do since search and track radars are often on and since its your damn job to know when you about to go to war) than you fly straight at it, absorbing any possible radar waved emitted from smaller mobile SAMs that are tracking themselves (and engaging if you want since it is loaded with excellent strike sensors (EOTS)) and blow up the main transmitter (if you didnt just cruise missile it). The truth is the F-35 is a SAM killer, it was designed to be. What it is not designed to be is an excellent dog fighter, but what the pentagon is hoping that it will be able to use its 360 degree IR sensors in lui of aerodynamic performance to target and kill enemy aircraft as well as its stealth shape/skin and AESA radar for frontal long range engagements with enemy fighters. You also mentioned it’s IR sensors emitting some kind of energy when it uses it’s IR sensors? …What? That’s not how IR sensors works. It reads the IR signature of other objects. Does the F-35 have IR stealth, no it does not, but it does have top of the line countermeasures.

    People hate the F-35 for its development costs and lack of clear objective, its a stealth fighter, its a SAM killer, its a strike fighter, it’s a jammer (canceled), it air superiority, it has anti ship capabilities. Yeah when you try to make a plane do all of those things, its going to fail. From my research and impression of the plane this is what the F-35 will be capable of doing.

    Precision striking, Killing mobile SAMS, Superior WVR air to air offense to that of an F-16 and similar WVR air combat survivability, Mediocre BVR combat, Superior communications and drone interface (ie communicating with drones, shooting missile at targets designated by drones) and situation awareness targets and threats from improved data linking and communications. It’s a first day stealth fighter bomber and a protracted war SAM hunter and precision striker,

    It is not an air dominance fighter, I wouldn’t want to fly 100 F-35’s into 100 Su-35’s any day, but i wouldn’t mind bombing their hangers before they knew to take off.

    How to kill an F-35: shooting at it from the rear, ya it’s pretty simple. Get a good lock on it from behind with either an IR or radar guided missile and it will be vulnerable, or gun it down from behind if you can sneak up without being detected by the rearward IR sensor.

    P.S. Almost all planes have to use afterburner to go supersonic, only a few top of the line planes can do it (F-22, Eurofighter, and a few more when if make their payload just right.)


    • picard578 said

      “I’m sorry but you really are wrong on all aspects here.”

      No, it’s just that you don’t want to look at reality.

      “First of all, the F-35 isn’t an all aspect stealth fighter.”

      It isn’t, and? F-16 wasn’t supposed to be stealthy at all, why then some say that F-35 is superior because it is “stealth”, by that logic?

      “Although, you have to remember that the composite materials that actually make up the F-35 are radar absorbing stealth materials as well.”

      How and wether radar absorbent materials work is dependand on wavelength as well, far more so than is the case with shaping.

      “Not only is its shape important and by engineering (of which a major part is changing the air intakes) the plane is shaped to deflect radar signatures away and around it.”

      Which doesn’t work as well against VHF radar as well as it does against X band radar, and doesn’t work against HF radar at all.

      “Frequencies that the skin does not do well with are emitted from the larger over the horizon radars used to detect incoming planes from long range, but guess what, that’s where shaping is important. ”

      Except shaping as used on the F-35 does jack all against such radars, B-2 is in better position because it is far larger but is not invulnerable.

      “absorbing any possible radar waved emitted from smaller mobile SAMs that are tracking themselves”

      VHF radar + IR SAM = targeted F-35.

      “You also mentioned it’s IR sensors emitting some kind of energy when it uses it’s IR sensors? …What? That’s not how IR sensors works. It reads the IR signature of other objects. Does the F-35 have IR stealth, no it does not, but it does have top of the line countermeasures.”

      Read again, I never mentioned any such thing, I only mentioned that F-35s IR signature is huge, but that does not have to do with its IR sensors.

      “From my research and impression of the plane this is what the F-35 will be capable of doing. ”

      And you’re wrong, F-35 can’t match any modern fighter in visual range combat, in BVR combat it is still at disadvantage due to kinematics. It is a strike aircraft, nothing more, nothing less.

      “P.S. Almost all planes have to use afterburner to go supersonic, only a few top of the line planes can do it (F-22, Eurofighter, and a few more when if make their payload just right.)”

      F-22 can supercruise at Mach 1,7 with 8 AAMs, Rafale can supercruise at Mach 1,4 with 6 AAMs, Typhoon can supercruise at Mach 1,5 with 6 AAMs, Gripen NG can supercruise at Mach 1,3 with 6 AAMs.

      Next time read the article before replying, I’m not interested in BS.


      • Charles said

        It’s funny when we agree with me and try to make it sound like an insult.

        “You also mentioned it’s IR sensors emitting some kind of energy when it uses it’s IR sensors?” – got me there, you were discussing it’s IR signature and radar emissions in the same section. You never stated IR emissions from sensors my bad.

        F-22 can super-cruise at Mach 1,7 with 8 AAMs, Rafale can super-cruise at Mach 1,4 with 6 AAMs, Typhoon can supercruise at Mach 1,5 with 6 AAMs, Gripen NG can super-cruise at Mach 1,3 with 6 AAMs- sounds like a few top of the line planes with the proper air to air only load outs to me.

        VHF radar + IR SAM = targeted F-35- yes, in fact just an IR SAM or IR AAM = targeted F-35, but c’mon, you know that the dangerous SAM’s out there are the radar guided, accurate, long range systems like the S-300 and the SA-6, we’re talking about engaging targets from miles out.

        “How and whether radar absorbent materials work is dependent on wavelength as well, far more so than is the case with shaping” – said this as well- basically shaping deflects radar energy, materials absorb certain wavelengths. Shape also matters to wavelengths too just to put that out there.

        “Except shaping as used on the F-35 does jack all against such radars, B-2 is in better position because it is far larger but is not invulnerable”.- B-2 is stealth largely due to its shape (no tail) and it’s stealth skin is much more designed to not be detected, which is different than the F-35’s resilience to being targeted and tracked.

        “And you’re wrong, F-35 can’t match any modern fighter in visual range combat, in BVR combat it is still at disadvantage due to kinematics. It is a strike aircraft, nothing more, nothing less”.- Would agree, especially about the kinematic disadvantage although mach 1.6 isn’t slow by any means, but we’ll have to see about the WVR combat. The only reason I say this is because of the capabilities of DAS and high off bore sight weapons. After the fall of the Soviet Union when East and West Germany were reunited, NATO got to test some of the Mig-29’s with their high off bore sight Adder missile and IRST. They found this to be an overwhelming advantage to WVR combat against modern NATO aircraft. The theory is that the F-35, while being aerodynamically inferior to planes of its size and (especially) cost, will be able to compensate with a 360 degree IR tracking targeting system. in a head on BVR engagement its stealth shape/skin might give it an advantage in engagement range (enough to make up for its kinematic loss? well that’s a different discussion) due to the fact that another aircraft, while aware that its being targeted and from which direction, might not be able to receive a strong enough return radar signal to pump a fire control into it’s weapons until it is closer.

        When it comes to the F-35’s stealth I’m not concerned it will massively fail, do I think it will be the “invisible” plane? No, it will just have an advantage. Are there other concerns of mine? Yup, engine failure, engine heat damaging the aircraft/radar profile, constant sensor malfunction, pilot information load bearing.

        Oh, and there’s no way the Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale are stealthier than the F-35, although they probably are as stealthy as the Super Hornet. External weapon stores buddy.

        Look, you’re obviously not a stupid person, you have a grasp of the science involved. To think though, that Lockeheed Martin would just build a “stealth” plane that wasn’t actually stealth against anything is kind of a odd concept to push. That somehow everyone working on the project is somehow disillusion or massively incompetent means you have a pretty odd ideas of how a high tech engineering firm works.

        Does it all add up? No. Well, you don’t know everything, you’re not working on the project. What are the tactics designed for the plane? Do the designers even know if it will really work in a real threat environment, or is there something they’re overlooking? All they can do is look at the previous data and test for as many situations as possible. The F-117 proved to be very capable of stealthy striking platform, penetrating some of the densest IADS of the time- although they were essentially hand made, with each plane a little different from the next in terms of stealthiness and what kind of stealthiness, the F-22 is largely a huge success in terms of stealth technology. Both planes made by Lockeheed Martin. I wouldn’t just assume that the one of US’s best military aircraft companies just decided to put their heads up their asses one day and stay there ever since. I’m not trying to “accept” anyone’s reality, including yours or the military propaganda. It seems like you have some personal feelings about this project (Russian maybe? JK), and I don’t know all the answers or if it will work as intended, but I do know that it’s not a pink elephant.

        P.S. I corrected your spelling when quoting you, didn’t want you to look bad. 😉 (That’s just a Parthian shot for the way you responded -Having a discussion doesn’t mean we have to be dicks to each other, I respect you’re opinion even if we disagree, the internet’s not known for having classy conversations but when it comes to science, lets be professional)


        • HGR said

          Picard needs to explain to you a little better what he believes in. Single role, less expensive per unit but more units, better aerodynamic performance and with-in visual sight combat. It is opposite of the F-35. It is a different philosophy. And he is not alone in believing in it.

          But his criticism of the F-35 can be very tough.

          I do believe that the radar absorbing technology and the coating are important and not a gimmick. But the expense and the limitations are something that no all want to put up with. And I have read substantially about the concept of snipping by interconnected aircrafts to know that while not as agile a fighter as others in a group they will be very dangerous… they can have the missile of another F-35 target the aircraft that is in your tail, etc. It is a different concept.


        • picard578 said

          “sounds like a few top of the line planes with the proper air to air only load outs to me.”

          There is also Su-35. Point is, F-35 is not good air superiority fighter when compared to modern fighters, only when compared to designs from 1970s at latest.

          “but c’mon, you know that the dangerous SAM’s out there are the radar guided, accurate, long range systems like the S-300 and the SA-6, we’re talking about engaging targets from miles out. ”

          Actually, IR missiles are more dangerous than radar-guided missiles, and that applies to SAMs too.

          “B-2 is stealth largely due to its shape (no tail) and it’s stealth skin is much more designed to not be detected, which is different than the F-35′s resilience to being targeted and tracked. ”

          F-35 is more difficult to target and track with X band radar but there are other ways to do it – VHF radar, multistatic radar, passive radar…

          “The only reason I say this is because of the capabilities of DAS and high off bore sight weapons.”

          You still want to point the nose at the opponent to reduce his reaction time as well as amount of maneuvering that has to be done by the missile. HOBS can compensate for the lack of maneuverability to an extent, but it is very far from being a silver bullet.

          “Oh, and there’s no way the Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale are stealthier than the F-35, although they probably are as stealthy as the Super Hornet. External weapon stores buddy.”

          That depends on sensors used. Against radar, F-35 is stealthier. Against IR sensors, Typhoon and Rafale are stealthier (especially Rafale – smaller size, better aerodynamics, supercruise capability). External stores don’t change that as far as air-to-air combat is concerned.

          “To think though, that Lockeheed Martin would just build a “stealth” plane that wasn’t actually stealth against anything is kind of a odd concept to push.”

          It is odd, but remember F-35s original purpose: it was to be dedicated ground attack aircraft, while F-22 would perform the air superiority. Virtually all of F-35s shortcomings in the air superiority mission can be traced to that.

          “What are the tactics designed for the plane?”

          You design doctrine first, then you design aircraft around that…

          “The F-117 proved to be very capable of stealthy striking platform, penetrating some of the densest IADS of the time-”

          It also operated only at night, which might well have been greater plus in its survivability than radar stealth. In fact, it was painted black precisely to prevent it from being operated at day.

          “It seems like you have some personal feelings about this project (Russian maybe? JK),”

          I’m Croatian, actually.


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