F-16 vs F-35

Introduction

F-35 is intended to replace the F-16 and is promoted as F-16s successor. However, closer look reveals that this is not true. While the F-16 was designed as daytime visual-range dogfighter, F-35 was always intended to be a multirole aircraft with primary focus on air-to-ground missions and limited air-to-air performance. This did not stop Lockheed Martin from advertising the F-35 as a dogfighter, before its obvious inability to actually achieve high maneuverability forced them to change rhetorics.

This comparison will use both F-16A and F-16C for comparison, where applicable. When not noted otherwise, data will be assumed to apply to either both versions or only F-16C. F-35 used for comparison will be F-35A, since it is a standard model and is intended to replace the F-16 (F-35B being a replacement for AV-8 and F-35C being a replacement for F-18).

Air-to-air performance

Impact on pilot’s skill

Most important factors in fighter design are ones that directly affect pilot: sortie rate / maintenance downtime, operating cost, user interface and reliability. Good enough pilot will compensate for aircraft’s weaknesses and focus on strengths, and even if aircraft is inferior across the board, he will be able to beat the opponent through tactics. How important training is was shown clearly in Vietnam: early on, USAFs F-4s achieved negative 2:1 exchange ratios against NVAF MiG-19 and MiG-21. Once USAF put some effort into pilot training, they started regularly achieving positive 2:1 exchange ratios. This is despite the fact that in dogfight, angles fighter (MiG) has no inherent advantage over the energy fighter (F-4) – or the opposite. In fact, MiGs had advantage in Vietnam due to smaller size and less smoky engines.

F-16 can fly 1,2 hours each day. Fuel consumption is 1.208 kg/h at Mach 0,85 cruise. F-16A has fuel consumption of 22.699 kg/h at full afterburner. F-16C Block 50 has fuel consumption of 5.797 kg/h ar full dry thrust and 25.570 kg/h at full afterburner. Direct operating cost per hour of flight is 7.000 USD. F-35A can fly one hour every two days. Fuel consumption is 2.721 kg/h cruise, 8.890 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 39.000 kg/h with afterburner. Direct operating cost per hour of flight is 30.000 USD.

It is necessary for pilots to fly at least 30 hours per month. While F-16 allows up to 36 hours per month, F-35 only allows clearly insufficient 15 hours per month. Despite that disparity, direct operating costs will be 252.000 USD for the F-16 and 450.000 USD for the F-35. With 30 hours per month, F-16 will cost 210.000 USD per aircraft, allowing two aircraft to be operated for price of single F-35 while flying twice as much per aircraft.

Situational awareness

F-16C has AN/APG-68 radar with 70 km vs 1m2 target and 120* coverage, and no IRST. Its RWR typically covers only frontal sector, but MAWS provides 360* coverage. F-16 has 360* horizontal and 195* vertical visibility, including 15* over the nose, 0* over the tail and 30* over the side visibility.

F-35 has a single IRST sensor under the nose. It is a staring midwave (or dual-band) sensor covering low frontal sector. Additionally, its IR missile warning system (DAS) can be used as IRST. This system provides spherical coverage, with a caveat that it is short-ranged when compared to full-blown IRST systems. Lastly, it has radar; this however is primarily air-to-ground sensor and will typically stay offline during air-to-air combat to avoid providing the enemy with crucial data. Radar has 120* coverage and 160 km range vs 1 m2 target. F-35 has a sunk, framed canopy providing 340* horizontal and 188,5* vertical visibility, including 16* over the nose, -7,5* over the tail and 26* over the sides, with a maximum of 40* over the side visibility. F-35 may have spherical coverage with DAS providing optical feed to the pilot, assuming that helmet issues are solved. However, pilots still prefer not to use the helmet, as that way they can see with far more clarity and depth perception than what helmet allows. DAS also gives lower detection range against fighter aircraft than pilot’s own unassisted eyes do.

F-35 has overall situational awareness advantage, especially at beyond visual range, but it is significantly disadvantaged in visual-range dogfight by its lacking cockpit visibility. F-16 can compensate for its disadvantage by using external Sniper XR pod, which is equal in capabilities to EOTS.

Stealth

Stealth can be divided into several areas: visual, radar and IR. Visual stealth refers to how easy is to to see the aircraft with Mk.I eyeball. Radar stealth can refer to two things: aircraft’s radar cross section (RCS), and aircraft’s radar emissions (EMCON). IR stealth refers to aircraft’s IR signature.

In terms of visual signature, F-16 is harder to detect due to slimmer, more aerodynamic body. This is despite similar overall dimensions (F-16: 15,06 m L, 9,96 m W, 4,88 m H; F-35A: 15,7 m L, 10,7 m W, 4,6 m H).

In terms of radar signature, F-16 will have RCS of 1,2 m2 without missiles and 2,2 m2 with missiles. As AN/APG-81 has 160 km range vs 1m2 targe, F-35 will detect it from 195 km with radar, or 60-80 km (est.) with IRST. If no jamming is present, F-35 will be able to attack the F-16 from 145-150 km with radar, or 2-29 km if F-16 is using jamming. In either case, it will be able to attack the F-16 with IRST from ~50-70 km. F-35 has RCS of 0,00143 m2. F-16s AN/APG-68 has a range of 105 km vs 5 m2 target. Consequently, F-16 will detect the F-35 from 13,65 km. With jamming, it will be able to attack the F-35 only once it cannot present its nose any longer; without jamming, it will be able to attack the F-35 from 0,2-2,6 km. However, any aircraft actually using radar will be detected from several times the radar’s own detection distance.

When it comes to IR signature, standard F-16 does not have IRST which gives the F-35 huge advantage of being able to attack the F-16 not only from large distance, but also completely passively, preventing the F-16 from detecting its radar emissions. F-16A is capable of M 1,1 supercruise with two wingtip missiles and 50% fuel at 40.000 ft; when combined with smaller size, this gives it significantly lower IR signature than the F-35s. However, supercruise is not sustainable due to low fuel fraction, and allows the F-16 only two missiles versus four on the F-35.

Cruise performance

F-16 can cruise at Mach 1,1 with two wingtip missiles, or Mach 0,9 with 6 missiles, compared to the F-35s Mach 0,95 with 4 missiles. Using 30% (952 kg) of the onboard fuel would allow F-16C 9,85 minutes at maximum dry thrust.

F-35 is supposed to supercruise for 150 nautic miles at Mach 1,2 with 4 missiles. 150 miles at 40.000 ft and Mach 1,2 would take 13,08 minutes. At test bench and full dry thrust, F135 consumes 11.089 kg per hour, while the F-35 has 8.280 kg of internal fuel. 2.417 kg theoretically spent for “supercruise” (real value would be less) is 29% of the F-35s onboard fuel. F-22 can cover a maximum of 0,04 miles per pound of fuel at 45.000 ft and Mach 1,5. Its combat radius is 400 nm with 100 nm supercruise; this means that it uses 5.000 lbs of fuel for supercruise and 8.600 lbs for subsonic cruise. As the F-22 has 18.000 lbs of internal fuel, 13.600 lbs of fuel would equalize 76% of the onboard fuel, with just supercruise requirement accounting for 28% of the onboard fuel. Since F-35s supercruise is done without extended subsonic leg, it means that either F-35 has to burn off a portion of fuel to supercruise, or else it can only achieve Mach 1,2 at low afterburner. Following quote suggests the latter, as does the fact that the F-35 can achieve top speed of only Mach 1,67, due to drag issues but also due to using divrterless intakes, which are unfit for supercruise.

“What we can do in our airplane is get above the Mach with afterburner, and once you get it going … you can definitely pull the throttle back quite a bit and still maintain supersonic, so technically you’re pretty much at very, very min[imum] afterburner while you’re cruising,” Griffiths said. “So it really does have very good acceleration capabilities up in the air.”

F-35A also has combat radius of 1.082 km with 4 missiles, compared to 925 km with 6 missiles for F-16A and 900 km with 6 missiles for the F-16C. This is despite the higher fuel fraction (0,385 vs 0,31 for F-16A and 0,27 for F-16C), higher internal fuel load (8.280 kg vs 3.160/3.175 kg) and the fact that the F-35 is flying clean while F-16 has only 2 conformal (wingtip) missile stations. F-35 is limited to maximum cruise speed of Mach 0,95, which gets reduced to cca Mach 0,8 with external fuel tanks, compared to Mach 1,1 with 2 wingtip missiles for F-16A.

Maneuverability

F-16A has instantaneous turn rate of 28.1 deg/s (9 g at 350 kts), and sustained turn rate of 14,3 deg/s. F-16C has instantaneous turn rate of 26 deg/s and sustained turn rate of 18 deg/s. F-35A should have instantaneous turn corner speed of 26,6 deg/s (9 g @ 370 kts and 15.000 ft) and sustained turn corner speed of 10,03 deg/s (4,6 g @ M 0,8). In terms of transonic acceleration, F-35A takes 63 seconds to accelerate from M 0,8 to 1,2 @ 30.000 ft, compared to 40 seconds for F-16A and 43 seconds for F-16C. F-16s acceleration is comparable to that of clean F-35A only if the F-16 is carrying two supersonic fuel tanks (~60 s w/ 2 EFT + 4 AMRAAM). [Note here; according to Stevenson, 2006, F-16s acceleration values given above are achieved at 40.000 ft; at 30.000 ft F-16C would need 28 seconds, which is less than half of time that the F-35A needs.] Initial climb rate is 259 m/s for F-35, 315 m/s for F-16A and 254 m/s for F-16C.

It can be seen that the F-35 is outmatched in air-to-air combat against both F-16 variants. F-16A outmatches the F-35 in all listed parameters, while F-16C is comparable in terms of instantaneous turn rate but has superior energy management capabilities. Roll performance should be better for the F-16 due to smaller wing span and superior mass distribution (smaller engine, slimmer body), though the F-35 can achieve higher maximum roll rate. F-16 is aerodynamically clean with two wingtip missiles, compared to F-35s clean configuration of four internal missiles.

(Note that the best way to escape either missile or gun shot is instantaneous turn in order to put the attacker at 3/9 o’clock followed by acceleration, and if necessary another turn. Sustained turns do not have much place in dogfight. In a multi-ship dogfight, no turn should be followed for more than 90 degrees).

F-16 does not have good post-stall maneuverability capabilities; this may not be a problem normally, but deep stall issues caused a 26 degree angle of attack limit to be instituted. This led to significant reduction in the F-16s instantaneous turn rate, as it achieves maximum lift coefficient at 32 degrees AoA. Main reason for this is excessive lift forward of Cg due to large amount of vortex lift from LERX and forebody, moving Cl forward and preventing elevators from pitching aircraft down. Both F-35 and F-16 have similar wing sweep (35* and 40*, respectivelly), being optimized for transonic maneuverability. Still, F-35s lower wing sweep results in extended transonic region and somewhat faster supersonic drag rise with Mach number.

Weapons

Both aircraft use AIM-9 for within visual range combat and AIM-120 for beyond visual range combat. AIM-120 is an active radar missile; consequently, it will give itself away with its own radar, quite possibly long before enemy MAWS notices it. Once it does so, its limited maneuverability and usage of easily jammed or decoyed RF seeker head means that any enemy fighters will easily avoid it (even Pentagon is getting worried about that). AIM-9X is an IR missile with 26 km range; 40 km range BVR version was cancelled, and as a result F-35 cannot take full advantage of its IRST, unless it is using British ASRAAM (50 km range).

F-16 has a standard loadout of 4 RF BVRAAM, 2 IR WVRAAM and 4,7 gun bursts. F-35 has a standard loadout of 4 RF BVRAAM and 2,6 gun bursts. Total number of onboard kills is 1,84 for the F-16 and 0,996 for the F-35. “Heavy” loadout for the F-35 is 8 RF BVRAAM, 2 IR WVRAAM and 2,6 gun bursts, translating into a total of 1,62 onboard kills. As it can be seen, in both cases F-16 has advantage in number of onboard kills, and F-35 has to give up much of its RCS advantage in order to come close to equalizing F-16s number of onboard kills. Further, F-35 cannot utilize AIM-9 in “stealth” configuration, and thus has to choose between being radar-stealthy but hopeless in a dogfight, or being not stealthy even to radar but capable of some limited self-defense in visual-range combat. This however does not hold true for UK F-35s, which can carry dual role BVR/WVR IR ASRAAM in their internal weapons bays.

Numbers in the air

F-16 allows 36 hours per month in the air, compared to 15 hours per month for the F-35. Direct operating cost per hour will be 252.000 USD per month for the F-16 and and 450.000 USD for the F-35. Two F-16s would allow 64 hours per month for 448.000 USD per month, a 4,3:1 advantage over the F-35. Total (direct + indirect) cost per flight hour is 22.500 USD for F-16C and likely cca 52.000 USD for F-35, a 2,3:1 advantage for the F-16.

If initial costs are compared, F-16A costs 30 million USD vs 70 million USD for F-16C and 120 million USD at the very least for the F-35, giving a 4:1 advantage to F-16A and 1,7:1 to F-16C. Further, each F-16 can sustain 1,2 sorties per day, while F-35 can sustain one sortie every 2 days. Therefore, F-16 can provide either 9,6 or 4,1 sorties for each F-35 sortie flown.

Response to attacks

Both aircraft typically require full-blown air bases for operation due to lack of STOL capability. Neither aircraft is capable of supercruise with standard air-to-air load; F-16A can achieve Mach 1,1 supercruise with two wingtip missiles only. This Mach 0,15 advantage over the F-35 may slightly improve response time, but it will not exist with a typical air-to-air load and comes at major penalty to combat radius – which is already lower than the F-35s.

Engagement kill chain performance

http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-05072010-1.html

Kill chain consists of following steps:

  • detect
    • detection capability
    • identification capability
  • engage
    • cruise speed
    • maximum speed / mach on entry
    • altitude on entry
    • lock on / firing solution range
    • missile seeker diversity
    • endgame countermeasures (inbuilt, towed, disposable; jammers, decoys, chaff, flares)
  • defeat the missile / disengage
    • airframe agility
    • sensors coverage
    • mach on egress / fuel reserves on afterburner
  • destroy
    • BVR missile seeker diversity
    • BVR missile agility
    • BVR missile warhead lethality
    • WVR missile agility
    • WVR missile warhead lethality
    • gun lethality

Detect

As shown before, F-35 will detect F-16 from 195 km with radar, or 80-100 km with IRST. F-16 will detect the F-35 from 13,65 km with radar, and some 5-7 km visually. Since both F-16s and F-35s radars will be detected at 200+ km by any competent radar warners*, F-35s IRST gives it a major “first look, first shot” advantage over the F-16. This is especially important as only reliable identification is visual; F-16 will have to come within 400-800 meters to establish positive VID while F-35 will be able to use IRST to ID aircraft at several tens of kilometers. F-16 can use IR pod to compensate for this disadvantage, at the expense of increased RCS, IR signature and drag. NCTR works at longer ranges, but is very unreliable (30% identification reliability at best) and can be disabled by jamming or by target maneuvering. Consequently, 82% of the enemy aircraft engaged during Desert Storm had to be identified with help of AWACS, which will not be avaliable against a competent opponents as comlinks will be jammed, and AWACS aircraft will not survive for long against serious opposition.

* Even assuming that target is a flat plate and that entirety of the signal reaches it, radar will get back 1/16th of the signal – at best. However, RCS comparison shows automobile to have an RCS of 100 m2 (likely from the side; from the front, 25-50 m2 value can be expected).F-16 has an RCS of 5 m2, meaning that the F-35 will get 1/80th of a signal that it sent out.

Engage

Both F-16 and F-35 have standard cruise speeds of Mach 0,95, though F-16 can achieve Mach 1,1 with two wingtip missiles. Top speed is Mach 2,0 for F-16 and Mach 1,67 for F-35. As it can be seen, F-16 has excess power for maneuvering when compared to the F-35. However, lower fuel fraction results in lower combat endurance. F-16 has service ceiling of 50.000 ft, which is limited by pilot’s suit; aircraft itself can achieve considerably higher service ceiling (likely 55.000 – 60.000 ft). F-35 similarly has service ceiling of 50.000 ft but is likely capable of higher service ceiling without flight suit restriction; some data show 60.000 ft.

As shown before, F-16 can only attack the F-35 from within visual range, while F-35 can engage F-16 from beyond visual range distances regardless of jamming and IFF issues due to its possession of IRST. Still, a properly-equipped F-16 will be able to jam AIM-120, but not ASRAAM.

Defeat the missile / disengage

Once warned of a missile launch, first reaction is to properly position the aircraft for evasion. At beyond visual range, it is oftentimes enough to turn the aircraft away from the missile. At shorter ranges (near-visual and visual range), pilot has to quickly position the missile to the aircraft’s 3 or 9 o’clock and then turn into the missile once close enough. Both of these require high instantaneous turn capability, as well as acceleration / climb to recover lost energy. F-16A has instantaneous turn rate of 28,1 deg/s, acceleration time from M 0,8 to M 1,2 of 40 s and maximum climb rate of 315 m/s. F-16C has instantaneous turn rate of 26 deg/s, acceleration time from M 0,8 to M 1,2 of 43 s and maximum climb rate of 254 m/s. F-35 has instantaneous turn rate of 26,6 deg/s, acceleration time from M 0,8 to M 1,2 of 63 s and maximum climb rate of 259 m/s. This means that F-16 will have major advantage when evading missiles, especially the F-16A variant.

F-16 has RWR as a standard, but MAWS may or may not be present, depending on exact air force specifications. F-35 has 360* coverage with IR MAWS as a standard, giving it a significant superiority in survivability against more dangerous IR missiles. AESA radar will provide some 120-140* coverage in front of the aircraft, compared to 120* for the F-35; F-35s EOTS also only covers the frontal sector. Consequently, both aircraft will have to choose wether to keep track of the target and risk getting shot in the face or initiate defensive maneuvers. F-16 will be disadvantaged compared to the F-35 due to its lack of IRST forcing it to use the easily jammed radar, which is also highly limited against LO platforms. This will force it to come close to its targets, significantly increasing danger from enemy missiles. While it can use targeting pod to alleviate this deficiency, it will add drag and increase IR signature and RCS.

Fuel reserves for afterburner are also important. Assuming that both aircraft have 40% of the fuel avaliable for maneuvers, F-16A/C will have 1.264 kg of fuel and F-35 will have 3.312 kg of fuel. F100-PW-200 used in the F-16A has 10.809 kgf of afterburning thrust and SFC of 2,10 kg/kgf/h, giving a fuel flow of 22.699 kg/h. F110-GE-100 used in the F-16C has 12.700 kgf of afterburning thrust and SFC of 1,971 kg/kgf/h, giving a fuel flow of 25.032 kg/h. F135 used in the F-35A has 19.512 kgf of afterburning thrust and fuel flow of 36.739 kg/h. Consequently, time in afterburner will be 3,34 minutes for the F-16A, 3,03 minutes for the F-16C and 5,41 minutes for the F-35A. However, this is not a good indicator of combat endurance as higher-performance aircraft can throttle back to preserve fuel while still outmaneuvering lower-performance aircraf. Combat endurance should thus be measured solely by a number of maneuvers that can be done. For comparison, I will use two sets of maneuvers. First comparison will assume 360* corner-speed sustained turn (or, rather, four 90* turns) followed by acceleration equivalent in time to M 0,8 – 1,2 acceleration. F-16A will use 25,17 seconds for turn and 40 seconds for acceleration, for a total of 65 seconds of maximum aferburner and 3 maneuvers. F-16C will use 20 seconds for turn and 43 seconds for acceleration, for a total of 63 seconds of maximum afterburner and 2,89 maneuvers. F-35 will use 33,33 seconds of maximum afterburner for turn and 63 seconds of maximum afterburner for acceleration. This gives 96 seconds of maximum afterburner and a total of 3,37 maneuvers. Second set will assume four 90* instantaneous turns instead of a sustained turn. F-16A will need ~13 seconds for turns and 40 seconds for acceleration, for a total of ~53 seconds and ~3,7 maneuvers. F-16C will need ~14 seconds for turns and 43 seconds for acceleration, for a total of ~57 seconds and ~3,2 maneuvers. F-35A will need ~14 seconds for turns and 63 seconds for acceleration, for a total of 77 seconds and ~4,2 maneuvers. As it can be seen, F-35 has superior combat andurance when compared to the F-16, mostly due to its higher fuel fraction (fuel fraction is more important for combat endurance than total fuel capacity). (Note here that this is based on sea-level figures; at 30.000 ft, actual thrust and fuel consumption will be closer to 1/3rd of those used, which will extend endurance. However, relative figures should stay similar, or slightly change in the F-16s favor).

In terms of countermeasures, both aircraft have chaff and flares. Some versions of F-16 have internal DRFM jammers. This gives it an advantage over F-35, as latter uses its own radar for jamming – this means that it can only jam four targets within 120* cone to front of the aircraft. Both aircraft can also carry disposable jammers. That being said, F-35s low radar crossection makes usage of onboard jammer less beneficial than for the F-16, and in some cases counterproductive. F-35 will likely have disposable RF decoys, which would give it an option to use jammers, as well as provide immunity to home-on-jam weapons; their effectiveness is improved by F-35s low RCS. F-16s DRFM jammer is more-or-less immune to home-on-jam mode of modern missiles, but not entirely so.

Destroy

F-16 and F-35 use same air-to-air missiles. AIM-120D has maximum range of 180 km, but is easily jammed due to being a RF missile. AIM-9X is a WVR missile, and Block III with maximum range of 42 km was cancelled, negating F-16 (and likely US F-35s) an IR BVRAAM. F-35 has a major advantage in being able to mount IR ASRAAM and MBDA Meteor in its internal weapons bays. ASRAAM has advantage over other missiles in that it is a IR BVR missile with 50 km range. However, Meteor has significant advantage in both range and lethality over AIM-120D due to its ramjet engine – it has maximum range of 315 km and straight-line range of 100 km, allowing the F-35 to use it passively with IRST, giving minimum advantage to target (Meteor’s radar seeker will give it away). For completely passive engagement, F-35 can use ASRAAM. F-16 has to use its radar for targeting even when using IR missiles, giving itself away and allowing the enemy to jam its radar.

In terms of agility, AIM-120D and Meteor can both pull 40 g at Mach 4, ASRAAM can pull 50 g at Mach 3. This means that maximum turn rate is 18,54 deg/s for AIM-120 and Meteor, and 30,9 deg/s for ASRAAM. Comparing this to respective aircraft turn rates (28,1/26 deg/s ITR for F-16A/C and 26,6 deg/s ITR for F-35), it can be seen that both aircraft are capable of outmaneuvering AIM-120 and Meteor, but are in trouble if shot at by ASRAAM.

When it comes to WVR missiles, F-16 carries AIM-9X while F-35 carries no WVR missiles as they have to be mounted on external hardpoints; UK version may be capable of carrying ASRAAM in internal bays. AIM-9X can pull 60 g at Mach 2,7, for 41 deg/s ITR, which the F-35 does not have good chance of evading, though it is not an impossibility (missile may need to have at least as much as twice the aircraft’s turn rate to hit in some conditions). Similarly, 30,9 deg/s ITR of ASRAAM is superior to the F-16s instantaneous turn rate, though by far smaller margin.

If both aircraft are flying at Mach 0,9, 9 g limit results in 18,55 deg/s turn rate. Consequently, neither aircraft will be capable of defeating any of the missiles within their no-escape zones, barring less-than-ideal launch parameters for missiles.

In terms of gun lethality, both aircraft use rotary guns – M61A1 for F-16 and GAU-22/A for F-35. M61A1 fires 98 g projectile with 11% HEI content at 1.036 m/s muzzle velocity. GAU-22/A fires 184 g projectile with 16,7% HEI content (~31 g) at 1.040 m/s muzzle velocity. M61 projectiles have crossectional density of 31,2 g/cm2 compared to 37,48 g/cm2 for GAU-22, leading to more rapid loss of speed. Combination of these factors gives GAU-22 significantly higher per-projectile effectiveness. Further, F-35 has to open up gun trap doors to use the gun, which adds 0,5 second delay. If gun doors are opened beforehand, M61 will fire 30 projectiles in first 0,5 seconds, compared to 16 projectiles for GAU-22/A. This gives a total throw weight of 2,94 kg for M61, with 0,32 kg of HEI. GAU-22 has total throw weight of 2,94 kg with 0,49 kg of HEI. As it can be seen, GAU-22/A is more lethal than M61A1.

F-16 vs F-35 test report

View story at Medium.com

http://aviationweek.com/site-files/aviationweek.com/files/uploads/2015/06/F-35%20High%20AoA%20Maneuvers.pdf

While the test was intended to test F-35s high-AoA control laws, it was operationally representative. There were offensive, defensive and neutral BFM setups at 10.000 – 30.000 ft; offensive setup was at 22.000 ft, while others were at 18.000 – 22.000 ft. Test pilot had experience in F-15E, F-16 Blk 30/40/42/50 and F-18F; he has also fought dissimilar combat against all listed types, as well as F-15C. F-35 fought 17 engagements against F-16.

F-35s energy maneuverability was inferior to the F-15E due to higher wing loading, lower TWR and similar weight. Consequently, usage of high-AoA maneuvers resulted in significant loss of speed which could not be retained quickly enough; despite flying with external fuel tanks, F-16 remained at an energy advantage. Effectiveness of such maneuvers was also reduced by insufficient pitch rate, allowing the F-16 to relatively easily evade F-35s gun shots. All of this meant that F-35s high angle of attack capability (50 degree operational limity, 110 degree aerodynamic maximum) was useless in combat. While lack in pitch rate could be somewhat compensated by using yawing maneuvers, inability to recover the energy lost during high-AoA maneuvers meant that any such maneuvering was a last-ditch effort, as failling to gain a kill immediately after committing to high AoA meant loosing the fight.

Best flying qualities in the blended region (20-26* AoA) were achieved at the lower end of the region, but were still unfavorable. Lateral/directional response was confusing and aircraft often failed to achieve expected roll rate. F-35 demonstrated significant delay in response to rudder inputs.

F-35 demonstrated a complete inability to mount an effective guns defense despite various approaches tried. Slow pitch rate and lack of motion response to floor/slow-speed jinks meant that the aircraft was easy to track. Buffett and transonic roll off were not a problem, but aircraft demonstrated major issues regarding situational awareness. Helmet was too large for space inside the canopy and impeded ability to see rearward. In multiple situations bandit was not blocked by either the seat or the airframe yet helmet still prevented getting into position to see him. Seat blocked the visibility as well, and helmet could jam against the canopy. These problems will not be solved even if LockMart’s promises about HMD making the aircraft “transparent” are ever realized, meaning that there is no solution for the F-35s lack of rearward visibility.

It should also be noted that the F-16 in question was a two-seater D variant and was carrying two 370 gallon external fuel tanks. F-35 variant was A, the most maneuverable of the lot, was flying clean with empty weapons bays, and did not have stealth coating, saving a small amount of weight and reducing drag. Despite this, it was noted that F-35 demonstrated inferior maneuverability and that energy deficit to the bandit would increase over time – indicating that F-35s energy management is inferior compared to that of the F-16 carrying two external tanks (which is in line with figures I have provided previously, showing that acceleration of a clean F-35 is comparable or inferior to that of F-16 lugging external fuel tanks, but energy management involves more than just acceleration capability). F-16s advantages will be far greater if it is not encumbered with fuel tanks, especially regarding acceleration and transient performance.

Overall, report indicates that F-35 is most similar to F-18E when it comes to flying qualities, except that it is a 9-g capable aircraft. F-18 similarly struggles in energy fight, loosing energy fast and being unable to regain it. Its only winning move against the F-16 is to get slow and use AoA advantage to point a nose at the F-16. However, F-18 has excellent nose (especially pitch) authority, a quality that the F-35 lacks despite its high AoA capabilties. F-35 also had insufficient situational awareness, in good part for causes that even integrating DAS video feed into helmet will not solve – assuming it ever happens. And even if helmet issues are solved, and F-35 gains full HOBS capability, it is only capable of carrying IR WVRAAM externally, sacrificing its radar stealth. If it wants to be RF-stealthy, it has to limit itself to internal AIM-120 missiles, which means that it still has to point its nose at the adversary in order to shoot.

Of course, Pentagon did not like this, and in its proud tradition of half-truths, lies and “from certain point of view” tactcs it immediately engaged in reality denial. They pointed out “the AF-2 test aircraft did not have the mission systems software designed to utilize the aircraft’s next-generation sensors.” They also pointed out that the F-35 in question did not have RAM coating, and did not have helmet-cueing systems.

Pentagon’s defense ignores some things and misrepresents others. Test was designed to assess the F-35s capability to fight in a maneuvering visual-range combat. In such situation, F-35s extensive sensor suite is of limited value and would not have changed the outcome, as Mk.I eyeball is always a primary and most intuitive sensor during WVR fight. RAM coating is ineffective in preventing gun or missile lock at visual distances, especially since externally carried IR missiles do not have to rely on aircraft’s onboard sensors to lock onto a target. While HMD would have helped, it would have been of a more limited value than in an e.g. F-16 due to the F-35s limited maneuverability and already noted limitations in pilot’s ability to actually turn his head.

F-35 program office also falls back on their favorite “argument”, stating that simulated combat scenarios have shown that four F-35s have won encounters when pitted against a four-ship of F-16s. But such scenarios are useless for evaluating aircraft’s capability in air-to-air combat as long as assumptions used in them are unknown. Scenarios also ignore the fact that F-35, being more expensive and harder to maintain than F-16 (resulting in lower sortie rate), would have been in a position of numerical disadvantage when flying against F-16s. This disadvantage could potentially be as great as 10:1 against F-16A, or “only” 4:1 against F-16C.

While typical counterpoint is that the F-35 is designed to defeat the enemy at beyond visual range, and not engage in a dogfight, that also tells only part of the story. Other countries have capable ECM/EW systems which can prevent radar lock at long ranges while cueing IRST sensors to achieve long-range lock-on and launch IR BVR missiles. Further, energy maneuverability is just as relevant at beyond visual range combat scenarios as it is within visual range: aircraft with higher cruise speed will be able to choose when and where to engage. Greater acceleration, top speed and service ceilling increase effective missile range, while better turn rate, acceleration and cruise/top speeds allow aircraft to more quickly engage and disengage, enabling hit-and-run attacks while reducing enemy’s effective missile range.

Sensor fusion was also pointed out as F-35s advantage, and rightfully so since it makes interpretation of data easier and thus gives pilot early advantage in OODA loop. However, F-35s advances in sensors and other electrical systems could be retroactively incorporated into older-type aircraft such as F-16s, improving situational awareness of pilots flying aircraft that actually can shoot down enemy fighters in combat. USAF F-16s have no internal IRST system, despite its passive surveillance and engagement capability which has a potential to significantly improve pilot’s OODA loop against an adversary. Giving F-16s sensor fusion capabilities would also improve their effectiveness, at lower cost than procuring new F-35s. But that is the key: at lower cost, which means less profit for military industry and less advancement opportunities for generals. Hence the need to defend the F-35 at any cost.

F-16 was designed after Vietnam War has clearly shown that dogfighting is not a thing of the past. F-35, an aircraft designed to replace the F-16, ignores these lessons, going for the same BVR missile truck combat dream that was pursued by F-105 and F-4 bomber interceptors. While F-4 did prove itself able to fight MiGs at close to even footing, this was solely due to its massive energy advantage over MiGs, allowing it to use vertical maneuverability in order to compensate for its deficiency in horizontal maneuverability, and superior USAF pilot training. But even when compared against F-16A/C, F-35 is disadvantaged in both vertical and horizontal maneuverability, having inferior acceleration, climb, instantaneous turn and sustained turn capabilities. Against newer fighters, situation is far worse.

Lexington Institute has pointed out that the last time a US aircraft has fired its gun against aerial target was during the Vietnam war. But all wars since the Vietnam have followed a pattern of outnumbered, underequipped and less than competent opponent, close basing and persistent AWACS presence.

Air-to-ground performance

F-35s standard payload of internal fuel, 2 AIM-120 and 2 bombs + EOTS is intended to match F-16Cs standard payload of 2 external fuel tanks, 2 AIM-120 and 2 bombs + targeting pod (EOTS is primarily an air-to-ground sensor with limited air-to-air performance). This automatically means that the F-35 will have superior lift-to-drag and thrust-to-drag ratios.

To be more specific, F-35 has wing loading of 434,3 kg/m2 and TWR of 1,05 at combat weight in stated configuration (18.543 kg), or wing loading of 531,7 kg/m2 and TWR of 0,86 at takeoff weight (22.703 kg), while F-16C has wing loading of 448,4 kg/m2 and TWR of 1,02 in stated configuration at combat weight with tanks present (12.498 kg) or wing loading of 586,8 kg/m2 and TWR of 0,78 at takeoff weight (16.354 kg).

F-35 carries everything inside it, which is not so important with low-drag air-to-air missiles but makes a major difference with external fuel tanks and bombs. Bomb-loaded F-16 is limited to subsonic speeds, while F-35 can fly supersonically, improving weapons range and survivability. Further, with air-to-ground load, F-35 cruises some 10.000-15.000 ft higher than the F-16 in military power with 50-80 kts higher cruise speed. When combined with F-35s passive sensors suite, superior maneuverability and agility in air-to-ground configuration as well as RCS reduction, this will provide the F-35 with likely significant survivability advantage in air-to-ground missions.

If stealth is not an issue, F-35 can add two missiles, two bombs and two external fuel tanks. This will allow it to achieve longer range than the F-16 while carrying twice as many munitions.

When finding targets, both F-16 and F-35 will likely have similar performance, though the F-16 will need external pod to match the F-35s EOTS. On the other hand, F-16s superior cockpit visibility may prove advantageous during low-level flight.

In deep strike, F-35 has range and performance advantage. Further, F-16 will likely fly at low altitude, making it vulnerable to AAA and MANPADS. F-35 will at the same time only have to contend with long-range VHF SAMs. While both aircraft are capable of SEAD/DEAD, F-35 again has advantage due to integrated FLIR and IR MAWS; on the other hand, if F-16 only carries anti-radiation missiles based on AAMs, it will have agility advantage.

Vostok-E manufacturer claims 72 km detection range against F-117A in a jammed environment or 352 km in unjammed environment; these ranges will likely be same or higher against F-35, unless it is flying below radar horizon (65 km at 500 m altitude). F-16 will be detected at 100-200 km in jammed environment. F-35 at Mach 1,6 will cover 72 km in 2,5 minutes, or 4,2 minutes at Mach 0,95. F-16 at low altitude will cover 65 km in 2,7 minutes at speed of 1440 kph. As it can be seen, SA-6 is vulnerable to both F-35 and F-16, despite its new versions being one of the most mobile SAMs in existence. However, F-35 will need jammer support to achieve this performance, whereas F-16 can do it on its own, but will have to utilize nap-of-the-earth flying and expose itself to AAA and MANPADS. Consequently, package price is at minimum one F-16C (70 million USD) vs 1 F-35 + 1 F-18G (a total of >198 million USD), allowing F-16s larger force presence and higher lethality (better ability to find and hit mobile SAMs) but at a price of greater vulnerability and reduced situational awareness. More data on SAM mobility (and other technical data) can be found here. It should be noted that S-400 has instantaneous turn rate of 22 deg/s at sea level, compared to 26 deg/s at unknown altitude for F-16C and 26,6 deg/s at 15.000 ft for F-35; consequently, both aircraft can easily evade it but only if they eject air-to-ground weapons and external tanks.

Ground survivability

Ground survivability includes possibility of camouflage and ability to operate from road bases. Latter includes STOL capability, wingspan limits, fuel consumption and ease of maintenance considerations. Wingspan should not be greater than 8,74 meters.

F-16A requires 535 m takeoff distance and 810 m landing distance with 1.815 kg external load. F-16C requires 457 m takeoff distance and 914 m landing distance. Wingspan is 9,96 m. Fuel consumption is 1.208 kg/h cruise. F-16A has fuel consumption 22.699 kg/h at full afterburner. F-16C has fuel consumption of 5.797 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 25.570 at full afterburner.

F-35A requires 2.400 m runway for safe operations, which indicates 1.200 meter takeoff requirement. F-35B can take off in 173 meters (with 2 JDAM, 2 AMRAAM and fuel to fly 450 nm; rolling takeoff) and land vertically; this performance likely requires jump ramp. Wingspan is 10,7 meters for the F-35A and B variants. Fuel consumption is 2.721 kg/h cruise, 8.890 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 39.000 kg/h with afterburner.

As it can be seen, there is a difference in aircraft on-ground survivability in F-16s favor. F-16 also requires smaller maintenance support and far less fuel for operations, leading to reduced logistical footprint.

Notes

F-16 will detect the F-35 at 13,65 km with radar

Acquisition will start at 11 km without jamming and will take 10 seconds

Acquisition will start at 2-4 km with jamming and will take estimated 30 seconds

Mach 0,95 + Mach 0,95 = Mach 1,9 closing speed = 560,32 m/s at 40.000 ft

Mach 2,0 + Mach 1,67 = Mach 3,67 closing speed = 1.082,28 m/s at 40.000 ft

Attack range without jamming: 0,2-5,4 km

Attack range with jamming: 0 km

F-35 will detect the F-16 at 195 km with radar

Acquisition will start at 156 km without jamming and will take 10 seconds

Acquisition will start at 34-51 km with jamming and will take 30 seconds

Mach 0,95 + Mach 0,95 = Mach 1,9 closing speed = 560,32 m/s at 40.000 ft

Mach 2,0 + Mach 1,67 = Mach 3,67 closing speed = 1.082,28 m/s at 40.000 ft

Attack range without jamming: 145-150 km

Attack range with jamming: 1,6-34 km

F-35 will detect the F-16 at 60 km with IRST

Acquisition will start at 48 km and will take 5 seconds

Mach 0,95 + Mach 0,95 = Mach 1,9 closing speed = 560,32 m/s at 40.000 ft

Attack range: 45 km

Conclusion

When it comes to air-to-air combat, things are decidedly mixed. F-35 has advantage in situational awareness, stealth and weapons whereas F-16 has advantage in cruise performance, maneuverability, numbers and response to attacks. Overall, combat could go either way depending on conditions, with F-35 having advantage in BVR combat and F-16 having an edge in WVR combat. Still, F-16s greater sortie rate and lower cost, enabling better training, can compensate for its disadvantages, and its superior on-ground survivability is a significant strategic advatage.

F-35 is a superior ground attack platform, especially in contested environment. This advantage is reduced by lower numbers, making F-35 more suitable as a surgical strike specialst as opposed to the F-16s role as a general strike aircraft.

Further reading

http://www.conservativedailynews.com/2015/07/rebuttal-of-the-pentagons-pro-f-35-spin/

https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/comparing-modern-western-fighters/

https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/f-35-analysis/

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Categories: weapons

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73 replies

  1. Hello Picard: we stil do not know much about f35, I mean expecially on maintenance costs which are fundamental considering that f35 will be around for next 30 years;not considering political issues, such as faction which would like to see the A-10 retired as quick as possible in order to gain funding for more f35 and f22, and opposite faction which see A-10 as still fundamental, I can say 2 things about F35 which you did not enlight and that are essential in my pointof view:

    1) assuming detection range of 35 double of f22 detection range, we can speculate that F35 will have the capacity of ambush huge rcs fighters like all the sukhois for example, beeing f35’s internal bays designed from the very start to accomodate meteor (F22 cannot, and this is its major flaw from my point of view)
    You said that “limited air-to-air performance. This did not stop Lockheed Martin from advertising the F-35 as a dogfighter,” So I strongly disagree with your words both in form ( beeing a dogfighter may be was equivalent to beeing a good air to air performer 40 years ago ) and in substance: f35 with meteor will be an extremely lethal combination, inferior to eurofighter one from a difensive point of view, (which is getting also the first world mobile AESA with 220 degrees field and range comprable with f22 AESA) but superior in term of offensive potential:
    assuming that what happenedn at langley in 2006 was true, and that means unofficial reports between f22 and eurofighter exercises, beeing reported thta EF’s radar, the best mechanically scanned radar of the world with even better range then latest sukhoi gigantic section PESA, EF could get a constant detection of 22 at 40km distance; assuming that detetcion range of f35 could be double, and assuming thta sukhois’ radar detection range is on par with EF’s old CAPTOR , ( even if should be at least 20% inferior), thta translates that latest sukhois should be able to detect f35 not before 80kms, but it should be more in the 60-70 detection range. Meteor uffcial not escape zone, which is in acquisition now after all tests have been completed during last 2 years on typhoon,is 150 kms+ : that means that on a supersonic-only fighter like typhoon , expecially with the new AESA with 220 degrees radisu and almost double range detection then old captor, we are in more in the 180-190 km range, but assuming that f35 will launch it subsonic, 150km are at leasts double of detection range of 35’s by best sukhois radar..That translates in an hell of window of silent kill by F35’s considering that f35 have been developed primarly with sensor fusion and datalink operations effectiveness in mind. (So the f35 in air to air killing mode does not have to keep his AESA switched and can rely in datalink by other wingsmates )

    2) RAM coating of 35 is rumored to be very effective and very cheap to mantein, and there many rumors about programs of applying it also to f22s, considering that f22’s RAM is one of the key factors limiting is flyable hours per months and having his top speed severly limited to mach2.

    Happy to hear your thoughts about this 2 points.

    • Furthemore i consider your position about “Vostok-E manufacturer claims 72 km detection range against F-117A in a jammed environment or 352 km in unjammed environment; these ranges will likely be same or higher against F-35,” highly dubious: do you really think that F35 all aspect RCS gonna be equal or inferior to the presithoric F117 ? Ah !

      • From what is reported I read that f35 rcs should be not superior to F117 rcs: we dont know how much inferior …

      • Actually, I do. F-117 was designed for stealth, stealth and nothing else. F-35 was also expected to go supersonic, and maneuver to an extent, which automatically compromises stealth. Can’t remember where, but I found a statement that F-22s RCS is about equal to F-117s. If that is true, then assuming these figures for F-35 is rather generous.

        Newer =/= better, especially if you expect it to be better at *everything*. There are still things that World War II P-47 is superior to F-16 (namely Close Air Support, especially COIN work).

    • “1) assuming detection range of 35 double of f22 detection range, we can speculate that F35 will have the capacity of ambush huge rcs fighters like all the sukhois for example, beeing f35’s internal bays designed from the very start to accomodate meteor ”

      That is only partly true. As I have pointed it out, F-35s combination of low RCS and IRST allows it large advantage over F-16 and other fighters which have no IRST, especially if such fighters are not stealthy. However, in order to pull off an ambush, radar has to be kept off, meaning that radar use will be sporadic at best. Hence radar stealth is only really useful for (some) ground attack missions. Further, successful ambush is always done from the rear quarter, which requires either high top speed or high cruise speed (preferably both), combined with high fuel fraction (>30% at the very least, preferably >40%). Only Western fighters which have *all* elements required for a successful ambush are Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen NG, and even that is only true as long as there is no AWACS or ground radars around (that being said, AWACS will not survive for long, and VHF radars can detect stealth fighters at considerable range as well). Due to importance of passive detection, low IR signature is more important than RCS, and F-35 is at disadvantage in that area as well.

      “So I strongly disagree with your words both in form ( beeing a dogfighter may be was equivalent to beeing a good air to air performer 40 years ago ) and in substance: f35 with meteor will be an extremely lethal combination, inferior to eurofighter one from a difensive point of view, (which is getting also the first world mobile AESA with 220 degrees field and range comprable with f22 AESA) but superior in term of offensive potential:”

      Maneuverability never was, never is and never will be irrelevant; being able to position for a shot and outmaneuver the enemy (or his missiles) is still necessary. What has happened with new technologies is that high-end limit of combat maneuvering speed has extended considerably into supersonic range. But at supersonic speeds, F-35 is at even greater disadvantage against other fighters than at subsonic. (And I really don’t get it why people think that maneuvering = visual-range dogfight).

      Meteor is an important point, but that is only an advantage over the F-22. As far as Typhoon is concerned, F-35 is only superior at ground attack missions, especially SEAD/DEAD and deep strike. Whenever air-to-air work is necessary, Typhoon is a superior choice.

      “That translates in an hell of window of silent kill by F35’s considering that f35 have been developed primarly with sensor fusion and datalink operations effectiveness in mind. ”

      Sukhois do have MAWS and EW suite, so actual effective range will be far shorter than those 150 km you have cited. And even within that range, a kill is not guaranteed, especially not considering F-35s limited loadout.

      “2) RAM coating of 35 is rumored to be very effective and very cheap to mantein, and there many rumors about programs of applying it also to f22s, considering that f22’s RAM is one of the key factors limiting is flyable hours per months and having his top speed severly limited to mach2.”

      Rumored, yes. It is certainly cheaper to maintain that the F-22s, but stealth requirements still increases maintenance time compared to other fighters (remember that shape, not coating, is the primary way of reducing RCS, meaning that stealth fighters must not have any surface damage).

      • 150km and more is no escape zone of meteor; detection range of F35 AESA vs sukhois is not less that 300km; there is plenty of range to keep a couple of 35 radar silenced operating via datalink from othes behind; at the opposite, even if no escape zone of a meteor launched by a typhoon in supersonic is int he 180-200km figure fighters, gigantic PESA of sukhois should be able to detect typhoon with full AA load in a 150km range.

        • Detection range is not the same as tracking range. Tracking range is generally 80% of the detection range *against cooperative target*, jamming can reduce that to as little as 20-30%. Using your figures for detection, attack ranges will be 50-70 km for F-35 vs Su-35, and 25-40 km for Su-35 vs Typhoon. Only way out of that is to use radar for detection and IRST for tracking.

      • That is why I have said that f35 will be able to “ambush” sukhois more easily then typhoons; you have still not answered at this issue.

      • I know that detection range is different from tracking; IRST on eurocanards and F35 of course have at least double range then one on sukhoys and most of all is built tp be triangulated via daatlink and used for tracking; russian airplanes have not this feature ; a part from that, your radar tracking ranges with jamming looks extremely,extremely , extremely unreal : sukhoy vs F35 with meteor are deadly sukhoys if meteor missiles are enough; full stop. ( I mean deadly sukhoys without none of them had chance to even detect F35s)….In the meantime russian propaganda enlight a visal id between a su30 and a predator drone: everybody knows that 6 f22 are acting as minyawacs in Syria for drones; that means that one or more f22’s where watching behind curtains the visual encounter between the su30 and the predator drone…Are you sure that AESA radars can be detected an jameed as non AESA? I have read exactly the opposite…

        • “a part from that, your radar tracking ranges with jamming looks extremely,extremely , extremely unreal ”

          It is not unreal, tracking range is 80% of the detection range and jamming takes off *at least* 2/3rds of radar range, assuming that jammers are of the same generation as radar.

          “sukhoy vs F35 with meteor are deadly sukhoys if meteor missiles are enough; full stop”

          Meteor is superior to AMRAAM or any other radar BVRAAM, but that is overhyping it. Radar-guided missiles always have major issues with jamming and decoys, and IIRC Russians also have ramjet BVRAAM.

          “In the meantime russian propaganda enlight a visal id between a su30 and a predator drone: ”

          Which is far more likely than US dream of “shoot down four enemy fighters with four missiles at 100 km and then go home and drink coffee”.

          “Are you sure that AESA radars can be detected an jameed as non AESA? I have read exactly the opposite…”

          They can, it is just that techniques necessary are different and more processing power is required. Which is exactly same as has happened with all radar developments since World War II.

      • Ah ! So you admit that russian cant properly jam AESA since they have none to work with ! Secondo point : russians have no ramjet missiles intended to shoot fighter manouvring jets but just for awacs and boing 747 type manouvring planes…Furthermore meteor’s radar can be programmed to activate just at a certain point of track and furthermore it is classified as the most resilient missile to chaffs ever created….The famous 40% succes rate of bvr missiles is old and in case of metero should be well more then 50% even in case of proper defensive systems like in F35 or eurocanards..Much much more vs sukhoys ( 90 % ? )To catch an huge rcs target like sukhoys should be the easiest task for meteor compared to other much smaller rcs fighters…Sukhoi rcs clean is in the 4-5 square metres range: we dont know how much their rcs increase with proper missiles load…For sure the su-34 full back with trasponder off intercepted by typhoons over baltic last summer was within the 4-5 square metres rcs figure as, like shared picture showed, it was carrying no missiles at all !.( Kinda ridicoulous demostrative act ).Detecting ranges proposed before are for a 4-5 square metres rcs fighter…

        R “In the meantime russian propaganda enlight a visal id between a su30 and a predator drone: ”

        Which is far more likely than US dream of “shoot down four enemy fighters with four missiles at 100 km and then go home and drink coffee”…You did not answer…Some f22s were there an sukhoys did not see them…Answer this with another ironic and out of topic comment pls..Stay on issue pls.

        • “So you admit that russian cant properly jam AESA since they have none to work with ! ”

          Not having operational AESA doesn’t mean one is incapable of jamming it. It is not like AESAs operating principles are a secret. That being said, it is very likely that Russian jamming will at the very least be less effective against AESA than Western jamming.

          “Secondo point : russians have no ramjet missiles intended to shoot fighter manouvring jets but just for awacs and boing 747 type manouvring planes…”

          You are mixing up types. They do indeed have missiles dedicated to shoot down AWACS, but these are different types and AFAIK none of them are ramjets. They currently have no operational medium-range ramjet missile, but there is a variant in development for PAK FA.

          “The famous 40% succes rate of bvr missiles is old and in case of metero should be well more then 50%”

          Against straight-and-level aircraft with no proper ECM/EW systems, for sure. Against modern fighters piloted by competent pilot, expect four- to six- -fold reduction.

          “even in case of proper defensive systems like in F35 or eurocanards..Much much more vs sukhoys ( 90 % ? )”

          90% Ph (not Pk) is only achievable at close range against aerostats and Zeppelins. Against fast-moving fighter aircraft, even if they do not maneuver and do not use ECM, there will always be issues of conflicting radar returns, improper positioning of attacking fighter, endgame engagement profile being less than optimal when it comes to properly timed fuze activation and/or warhead fragment dispersion, datalink or missile malfunction, too early launch, nonlethal damage infliction…

          “You did not answer…Some f22s were there an sukhoys did not see them…”

          This is completely irrelevant as long as more details aren’t known. First, F-22s are too valuable to be escorting every single drone flight. At very most US can deploy 60 F-22s abroad, if they really push themselves, and these 60 F-22s can support 20-30 sorties per day, so your assumption that they were present is not necessarily correct. Second, there is an issue of type of IRST. Older-type Russian IRST devices had to be cued by radar, and could not perform VID. Only with new QWIP IRST deployed on PAK FA (and Su-35?) did they gain completely independent IRST. Fact that Su-30 had to close in to visual range to perform VID means that it was not equipped with modern IRST. Third, Su-30 “detected radiation coming from unknown aircraft”, which was drone. Fighter aircraft in combat operations typically fly with their radars off, or only turn them on for short bursts, so F-22s – if they were present, which is far from certain – may not have used their radars at all. Fourth, there was no mention of F-22s escorting them, and indeed it would be impossible for F-22s to escort all UAV / UCAV flights. Fifth, Russians are now using US drones to help in locating islamist terrorists as US do have superior sensor systems. Because of that, it is unlikely they would have reacted even if F-22s were present and detected.

          http://theaviationist.com/2015/10/15/su-30-intercept-vid-us-aircraft/
          http://www.wnd.com/2015/10/putins-pilots-intercept-u-s-predator-drones/

      • ..Obviosuly F22s were there with AESA well turned on as it is widely known that those drones are flying guided by f22 acting as mini awacs…

      • BVR range success of 40 %is an historical data: dont mix facts.
        F22 are not escorting drones but acting as mini awacs with their AESA well turned on: that does not mean they were 40 km close to that drone but more in a 200-300km range, but with thier AESA well turned on..
        YOu admited russian jamming vs AESA will be much more effective then western one at least!…Western sources say that Jamming AESA is much more complicated and you need dedicated planes like ea-18 growler..Russian never had neither a proper awacs or an AESA..Jamming western AESA is pure sciencefiction for russians!
        YOu admitted russian have no ramjet missile vs fighters..If they will develop a crappy one like PAK-FA it is a good new: it will only contribute to wreck their military finances like PAk-FA.
        Meteor is a game changer, and if fired from stealth fighters with radrs swtiched off in datlink with other wingmates it will have the ability to ambush aother fighters expecially ones with huge RCS and poors defensive systems at least compared to eurocanards or F35 (sukhoys): AA properly ambush tactics are new since no one had something similar to meteor before and either a stealth platform to launch it. I am sorry if are not happy about that : the few shukoys flying are dead metal.

        • “BVR range success of 40 %is an historical data: dont mix facts.”

          I’m not mixing facts, you are. You are taking success rate against aircraft with limited avionics (no EW suite, no RWR, no MAWS, typically no or inoperative IRST and inoperative radar) flown by pilots who got 50-100 hours per year, and assuming that the exact same success rate will be achieved against fully outfitted aircraft flown by well trained pilots.

          “YOu admited russian jamming vs AESA will be much more effective then western one at least!”

          I said that Russian jamming vs AESA will be less effective than Western jamming, I never said it will be *in*effective.

          “Meteor is a game changer, and if fired from stealth fighters with radrs swtiched off in datlink with other wingmates it will have the ability to ambush aother fighters expecially ones with huge RCS and poors defensive systems at least compared to eurocanards or F35 (sukhoys): AA properly ambush tactics are new since no one had something similar to meteor before and either a stealth platform to launch it.”

          Meteor still has to use its own radar, or radar from another fighter, for endgame engagement, which automatically precludes the possibility of fully successful ambush.

      • Sorry I meant “less effective”above…

      • ..O yes: meteor activates its own radar when close to target..So the sukhoi pilot will know for 2 or 3 seconds that he has been targeted by a meteor…

      • The video shows F-35’s IRST capabilities with tracking/detection >1300Km range.

        F-35’s EO-DAS has 360 degrees IRST distributive sensors with detection range around >1300Km. The range is not short.

        • That range is against ICBM. PIRATE tracked Venus, by that logic it has range of 42 million km. Cler winner, no?

          What is relevant here is range against fighter aircraft at subsonic cruise.

  2. “DAS also gives lower detection range against fighter aircraft than pilot’s own unassisted eyes do”

    This cant be true. Unassisted eye is roughly 5 miles, DAS can detect much further than that. And, DAS is always searching, pilot can’t do that cause he has many other things to do.

    • That is in context of F-35s “see-through” helmet. And DAS can’t zoom in like IRST can, so while likely higher than visual detection, its detection distance will still be fairly low.

      • DAS sensitivity and range have been highly touted. There is even a confirmed (as confirmed as most claims can be) report of SAM detection at 1900km.

        Helmet is still needing further development I agree.

        F-35 is not yet in production. It will need continued system development.

        Other than price, I like the F-35 for the mission of ground attack on fixed targets, especially in well defended airspace. Also for EW and SEAD.

        I just dont think it should be sold as an AtA fighter or as CAS.

        F-35 biggest contribution might be in the systems that will be developed to go into future projects.

        I would not buy a huge number of F-35’s. You should not base your airforce around F-35 but, it can be a key contributor.

        • “There is even a confirmed (as confirmed as most claims can be) report of SAM detection at 1900km. ”

          That was not SAM, it was ICBM. Using it to compare it to other IR systems is equivalent to saying that “PIRATE detected Venus, ergo PIRATE > any other IRST”. DDM would have probably been able to do it as well (not to mention any other IR / UV MAWS used on modern Western fighters).

          “Other than price, I like the F-35 for the mission of ground attack on fixed targets, especially in well defended airspace. Also for EW and SEAD. ”

          Agreed, albeit it might have issues generating necessary sorties for SEAD.

          Agreed with the rest.

      • “F-35 is not yet in production. It will need continued system development. ”

        Actually your wrong on this one. Thanks to concurrency (look it up, worst idea in military procurement, ever) the F-35 bypassed the prototype/testing stage and went right to pre-production stage, and then to production stage all before testing was completed. Currently there are about close to 100 F-35 in use although the Initial Operating Capability has only been declared so far by the USMC. Even this IOC is highly dubious as I don’t know if they even solved the SDB fitting in the bomb-bay problem on F-35B, not to mention a whole lot of other problems like the exhaust being to hot for USS America class flight decks to handle (another brilliant result of concurrency, also look up USS Ford class and her launch before both it’s state of the art high-tech EML catapults and and state of the art arrestor wires had succeeded in completing their tests, both system so far have more failures in testing then successes )

        • USMC IOC basically means that they can fly from assault ships without exploding. Weapons and sensors capabilities are limited, and untested.

        • F-35 has not actually entered use in an operational squadron. The other stuff is PR stunt, yes. F-35 might be truly ready for War by 2020, not before.

          If there is any positive out of concurrency is that it allows testing in field use by real crew and that makes the fixes much more effective.

          LM and its engineers make more $$$ the longer they drag on this development. That is a big issue and why the concurrency idea got legs in first place.

          F-35 will be a lifetime (and very lucrative) job for many at LM.

      • Actually it’s far worst then that: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/not-a-big-suprise-the-marines-f-35-operational-test-wa-1730583428
        Basically it was all a PR stunt probably to prevent Canada withdrawing from the project, which it failed at seeing as the new Canadian PM annouced they would drop the F-35 and do a competition.

  3. I have to keep saying that your statement that RWR will easily detect LPI AESA is not widely accepted. I have read much to the contrary.

    With Radars off, you have said that most kills will come as result of surprise jumps. DAS gives F-35 ability to mostly avoid being surprised. This is big AtA advantage.

    I think in defense of F-16 you should have emphasized its reduced maintenance requirements and reduced flight costs. This is huge advantage in pilot training, sortie rate, and ability to operate from dispersed sites.

    • “I have to keep saying that your statement that RWR will easily detect LPI AESA is not widely accepted. I have read much to the contrary. ”

      Once upon a time, it was widely accepted view that Earth is flat. It doesn’t mean it was correct.

      “With Radars off, you have said that most kills will come as result of surprise jumps. DAS gives F-35 ability to mostly avoid being surprised. This is big AtA advantage.”

      If (when) it works, yes. But by that time it is unlikely to be a unique feature, and due to proliferation of IRST sensors F-35s ability to surprise the enemy will still depend on the F-35 sneaking up, from behind, so basically neither the F-35 will be surprised nor will it be able to achieve surprise.

      • F-35 is not an offensive AtA asset. So if it can protect itself from being jumped (by aircraft or missile) that is enough.

        DAS is further along than any other system that does same thing. And LM has a current edge in development of true sensor fusion. According to you it does not work but many disagree.

        Just like many feel that IRST has poor offensive capabilities due to range at which positive ID is possible and due to lack of tracking data it produces for guidance. But, you and others disagree.

        Its really the processing and software issue that is still causing problems. F-35 has a tremendous amount of code and processing used to accomplish its various tasks.

        Who has the flat earth theory this time? Only time will tell.

        I dont like F-35 because it is too complex (and too expensive) to function well in war. But, it does have some leap forward capabilities in its true mission.

        I would say F-35 is an very good technology demonstrator and will pay future dividends and should be war usable in limited numbers but I dont like as a large production aircraft.

        • “F-35 is not an offensive AtA asset. So if it can protect itself from being jumped (by aircraft or missile) that is enough. ”

          It is not an air-to-air asset, correct. However, there are several countries which will be using it as such if they buy it (United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, Denmark… basically any and all F-35 partners other than United States – and even US will join the club once F-15/16/18 are retired), so its air-to-air capabilities are far from irrelevant.

          “DAS is further along than any other system that does same thing. And LM has a current edge in development of true sensor fusion. According to you it does not work but many disagree.”

          Yes, DAS may be further along the road, but LM does not have overall edge in sensor fusion.

          “Its really the processing and software issue that is still causing problems. F-35 has a tremendous amount of code and processing used to accomplish its various tasks.”

          True. Even with helmet, part of the problem was that huge amount of data being transferred caused significant lag, which prevented (and may still be) its “see-through” feature from being used. Which just proves that sometimes less is more. Especially where weapons are concerned. Technological laundry list does you no good if it doesn’t work, or doesn’t work properly, or makes the aircraft too difficult to maintain.

          “I would say F-35 is an very good technology demonstrator and will pay future dividends and should be war usable in limited numbers but I dont like as a large production aircraft.”

          Precisely this.

      • “DAS is further along than any other system that does same thing. And LM has a current edge in development of true sensor fusion. According to you it does not work but many disagree. ”

        After all the time spent on this site you still believe Lockheed propaganda ;). DDM-NG on the Rafale offers at least the same capabilities when it comes to detection and tracking as DAS with only a minor blind spot bellow the aircraft but with considerable range rivaling IRSTs, it is also 2014 tech unlike DAS which is based on 2001 Litening pod technology, so it has better resolution then the 320×192 of the DAS. If you are referring to the see through the aircraft thingy, that is of dubious usefulness considering the low resolution. As for the edge LM has in development of “true sensor fusion”, that is mostly according to they’re spinsters, Rafale, again (you really should have been expecting this 😀 ) has demonstrated, in combat since 2011, the same capabilities when it comes to sensor fusion that LM says the F-35 will achieve sometime around 2021-2025. Gripen NG also has demonstrated those capabilities in testing and Typhoon is only a Tranche away for both AtA and AtG sensor fusion, currently it has only AtA. Also whatever Sensor Fusion the F-35 will achieve will not be “true” seeing at it dose not have link 16 and it will only be able to fuse data from other F-35s not AWACS or other allied fighters the way F-22, Rafale, Typhoo etc are doing. So where is that edge? Or are we living in Bizaro-world where everything is reversed and one should interpret edge as meaning lagging behind.

        • You make claims that only match up with the spinsters on the other side of the table. There is good data (well not that good but at least as good as what you claim as data) to refute your claims. But, i wont go there. I already know your spin Andrei. I will not engage in a dispute with you that I know exactly where you want it to go.

          You may have more time and probably more knowledge but I know where you want to go and you will make a good attempt to prove what you want to believe.

          After all the time on this site it is clear to me that you and others have no problem with believing the press spin on Rafale but yet when it comes to LM or mostly anything American you want to say its exaggerated.

          I dont beleive LM claims but those claims are no more dubious than all the claims you quote on the Rafale and other European stuff.

          I could give you a million links and claims on why F-22, F-35, Eurofighter, Rafale, Sukhoi, Etc are so much more capable.

          We either disbelieve them all or believe them all.

          Andrei you have clearly chosen to believe what you want to believe.

          I also know what I want to believe but what I really want is the truth.

          I wont get truth from you when it comes to US equipment or French equipment.

      • All I’m saying is that LM claims are from power point presentations on what they want to achieve while the claims for the Rafale at least are from pilots that have flown the aircraft in combat. Which is more believable? Claims from marketing agents about future capabilities or articles such as this: http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/feature/125860/rafale-in-combat:-%E2%80%9Cwar-for-dummies%E2%80%9D.html which relate real combat experience? They are both marketing spins but one is based on wishful thinking that continues to be disproved by reality (F-35) the other on real combat actions (Rafale).

        I’ll quote a little from the above article in case you don’t have time to read:

        On sensor fusion:
        “The Rafales work in a truly networked environment, and are fed targeting and other tactical data from a wide range of coalition sources through the Link 16 datalink. Incoming data is combined with that collected by the aircraft’s own sensors – Thales SPECTRA self-protection suite, OSF electro-optics, RBE-2 radar and even the infra-red guided version of MBDA’s MICA air-to-air missile which, as it scans continuously, can provide IR imagery to the central data processing system. “MICA is not just a missile, it’s an extra sensor as well,” says Pierre G., and its detection range is much longer than generally supposed.
        Data from all on-board and off-board sensors are combined into a single tactical picture presented to the pilot on the cockpit’s central color display or, if desired, on one of the lateral displays. The pilot can select the data he wants, combine it with other data, and pass it on to his wingman or to other allied aircraft, ships or ground troops through the Link 16, without speaking a single word on the radio and, if not using the radar, without any transmission whatsoever. Link 16 can also be used to de-conflict assignments with other aircraft without using radios.”

        ” In a similar vein, the system analyzes and combines tactical information received from all sensors; for example, “if you receive a track from an AWACS, from your SPECTRA self-protection suite, or from your ‘wingee’ at the same time, the system will analyze all the inputs and show you only one track.”

        Another pilot simply says that “the Rafale’s man-machine interface is so good it’s like ‘war for dummies’.” ”

        On Spectra (which included at the time the DDM as the DDM-NG was not yet installed ):

        “Rafale pilots are also very complementary about their SPECTRA self-protection suite, which is of critical importance as France does not have any aircraft dedicated to the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) missions. “SPECTRA allowed us to begin operations over Libya the very same day the political decision was taken, and to fly deep into Libyan territory without an escort,” says one pilot, adding that “the Americans also flew in, but only after they had fired 119 Tomahawks to take out Libyan air defenses.” ”

        And for Picard on Rafale maintenance:


        Aircraft turn-around, even with live weapons on board, requires only 90 minutes and an engine change requires one hour, although none have been changed during current operations.

        ….

        Maintenance requirements of the Rafale are about 25% lower than for the Mirage 2000, and there is no scheduled or preventive maintenance; maintenance depends only on the type of mission flown, and on the condition of components. Pilots at Solenzara say that, in just over two months of operations, no missions were aborted because of aircraft unavailability, and detachment commander Lt. Col. Pierre G. says that the availability rate is close to 100%. “

        • Thanks for the info Andrei. Its interesting, I enjoyed reading it but, if pilots of a particular aircraft were to be believed then F-22 would be invincible.

        • F-22 is invincible… but that is against US teen-series fighters and in exercises. So technically speaking the claim is true, but it is also irrelevant since it includes a lot of unknown rules and assumptions (and unless things have changed significantly in the last few years, a lot of blatantly false ones as well, such as ~60-90% BVR missile Pk, invincible AWACS etc.). Also, F-22s never fought alone but always with support from F-15s and F-16s on the Blue team, as well as with support of invincible AWACS (and with no Russian anti-AWACS weapons being simulated).

      • ” Its interesting, I enjoyed reading it but, if pilots of a particular aircraft were to be believed then F-22 would be invincible.”

        Like Picard said F-22 pilots boast about their capabilities in highly biased exercises. Rafale pilots boast about their capabilities in combat.

        • What combat? are you talking about Libya or Mali? Simulations are a bigger challenge than those two.

          Truth is, no modern aircraft has faced real combat. Not Rafale, EF, Gripen, or F-22.

          We have to go off of claims and simulations.

          There is data that a good engineer could use to make a case but since all the experts disagree based on their perspective its hard to know what is true.

          There are some obvious things but in many aspect (air to air capabilities and capabilities of competing technologies being key here) it seems that its just a matter of who is making the argument, what facts they are using or choosing to ignore, and who they choose to believe.

          One thing i do know is that I hope we can continue to make these arguments for decades to come without any good combat data.

          I do have a question? In these Red Flag type exercises why is the USAF able to make up their simulation parameters. Dont the other air-forces participate in the design or at-least in accepting parameters?

          F-22 has taken on EF, Rafale, Gripen, SU-30Mki (UK, Germany, France, Sweden, India) in simulations.

          I am pretty sure these airforces have very proud pilots and generals who would not stay quiet if they disagreed with parameters.

        • “Simulations are a bigger challenge than those two. ”

          Entirely true. But they also tend to produce incorrect results.

          “I do have a question? In these Red Flag type exercises why is the USAF able to make up their simulation parameters. Dont the other air-forces participate in the design or at-least in accepting parameters?”

          They don’t all the time, but even if they do, they themselves are no better. In the Anatolian Flag exercise, BVR missile Pk was assumed to be 90%.

          “I am pretty sure these airforces have very proud pilots and generals who would not stay quiet if they disagreed with parameters.”

          But they don’t disagree. A case for buying few hundred 3-million-USD BVR missiles is that stronger if you tell everyone they are one-shot-one-kill, or close to that.

        • Ok, so if the parameters are the same for everyone, and everyone agrees they are fair (even if not combat realistic) than we should be able to get some good ideas from these as to comparative performance.

          Many simulations are not for BVR. Many are VR dogfights. Most of the scenarios pilots talk about online are VR. BVR is very boring and not very personal for a pilot.

          There is debate as to winners and losers in some engagements but I think we can get some sense from these.

          Probably better than trying to analyze aerodynamic features with limited design data or other knowledge about actual performance. Then you have to believe a lot of manufacturer claims and test results.

          I think the one thing we can say for sure is that fighter design is complicated and without inside info its tough to make good guesses on capabilities. Some things are pretty clear but most capabilities are hard to guess on.

          Also that air combat is highly complicated and skill intensive requiring highly skilled and experienced pilots to be able to perform the right maneuvers to correctly take advantage of aircraft capabilities.

        • “Ok, so if the parameters are the same for everyone, and everyone agrees they are fair (even if not combat realistic) than we should be able to get some good ideas from these as to comparative performance. ”

          Not if parameters blatantly play to certain aircraft’s strength and downplay its weaknesses (such as in F-22 vs F-15 tests, where F-22s had advantages of unrealistically high BVRAAM Pk, invincible AWACS, very small scope of engagements, unrealistic force ratio and no unknown bogies). To have a fair view of possible outcomes, one should run the entire spectrum of possibilities (AWACS avaliable / not avaliable for Blue / Red / both, Red does have / does not have AWACS killing missiles, satellite support avaliable / not avaliable for Blue / Red / both, ground support avaliable / not avaliable for Reb / Blue / both, datalinks avaliable / not avaliable for Blue / Red / both, communications in general possible / impossible for Red / Blue / both, IFF does work / does not work, BVRAAM Pk of 10/20/30/40/50%, WVRAAM Pk of 10/20/30/40/50/60/70/80/90/100%, secure basing avaliable / not avaliable – some F-22s taken out / not taken out before takeoff, support of non-stealth fighters avaliable / not avaliable, enough fuel to top off all fighters avaliable / not avaliable for Blue / Red / both, Red does have / does not have stealth fighters, standoff jamming avaliable / not avaliable for Red / Blue / Both… and so on, and so off).

          “Many simulations are not for BVR. Many are VR dogfights. Most of the scenarios pilots talk about online are VR. BVR is very boring and not very personal for a pilot. ”

          True. But these are rarely pulled as an argument for procuring a certain fighter.

          “Probably better than trying to analyze aerodynamic features with limited design data or other knowledge about actual performance. Then you have to believe a lot of manufacturer claims and test results. ”

          Actually, it is far worse. Aerodynamics are relatively clear area, and with access to correct technical literature (which I have plenty of) it is possible to extrapolate aircrafts’ relative aerodynamic performance with a fair degree of accuracy – much of it without having any access to manufacturer’s claims or test results – albeit it is never perfect. On the other hand, in exercises you have many parameters that are either unknown or unaccountable for: rules of the exercise, engagement parameters, preset assumptions, aircraft configuration, pilot expertise… keep in mind that, especially in WVR, aircraft performance is less important than pilot’s skill. And at BVR, preset rules and assumptions can easily be *the* deciding factor, to complete exclusion of all other factors. It can happen even in WVR, if aircraft are flying in different configuration or one side is deliberately performance-limited in order to approximate performance of a possible threat.

          “Also that air combat is highly complicated and skill intensive requiring highly skilled and experienced pilots to be able to perform the right maneuvers to correctly take advantage of aircraft capabilities.”

          Entirely correct. Which is why I typically stress that good fighter is, first and foremost, easy to operate (to maintain, to support and to fly). And for that reason, Gripen is THE best Western fighter – not F-22, not Typhoon, not Rafale, and *definetly* not F-35.

      • “Not if parameters blatantly play to certain aircraft’s strength and downplay its weaknesses (such as in F-22 vs F-15 tests, where F-22s had advantages of unrealistically high BVRAAM Pk, invincible AWACS, very small scope of engagements, unrealistic force ratio and no unknown bogies). ”

        This reminds me of an Aviation Week Article I read in 2008 about F-22 first Red Flag. They were totting a kill ratio of 106 to 0. Later I found out that that year (or the next) was also Rafale’s first, and last, appearance at Red Flag. The French pilots complained (of course what do French do best 😛 ) about the Rules of Engagement that were biased against them by forcing them to keep their radars on, which goes against Rafales combat doctrine which stresses passive engagement at high altitude and usage of radar at medium and low altitude and in Air to Ground engagements. The USAF response was that the Rafales where simulating some Arab air-force some where who’s doctrine is to always use radar. The result French called the exercise a farce interested only in validating F-22 doctrine and not actual training and never sent their Rafales there again.

    • The DAS on the F-35 is not entirely optimized for air combat – it is more designed for ground attack. As Picard alluded to, IRST is far more specialized for the job.

      As far as your statement on radars, it’s the laws of physics.
      – Radar warning will be a square function distance
      – Radar itself will be a fourth degree function with distance

      Radar detectors for that reason will trump radar. It’s the laws of physics. It is also why submarines do not constantly use active sonar – detection range exceeds the benefits.

      • I get what you are saying About RWR (at least a basic understanding) but, Modern LPI methods are designed to do things to avoid detection and go around that straight forward issue of Radar transmission being much stronger than radar return.

        I am just repeating what other folks who are experts in this field are saying in research papers and on the internet. I don’t know who is correct or if any are. I’m just saying that Picards statement is not widely accepted as fact.

        As far as DAS. EOTS is purely Ground attack. DAS is tailored more for situational awareness and missile warning. It should have no trouble detecting aircraft trying to sneak up on it. DAS wont have the range of traditional IRST but it has various IR sensors fusioned together giving quicker no gaps coverage. DAS is not tailored for offensive, that part is true but it can Que the pilot.

      • The problem with that is that they cannot beat the laws of physics. LPI radars use two things:

        1. Frequency hopping
        2. Pulse compression

        It still doesn’t beat the laws of physics and at an equal level of technology, my money is on the RWR technology winning since you are talking about something that still needs a fourth degree power versus a second degree function.

        Even if it did not, there’s still the matter of IRST.

  4. Hello Sir,

    I became adept of your website and I just saw today a news (in french) about the first flight of the F-16V. I didn’t saw any IRST mentionned but there is some improvement. AESA radar APG-83, new combat software and improved abilty to follow the ground are said.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.air-cosmos.com/premier-vol-du-f-16v-44849

    • I don’t know French, but thanks (and God bless Google Translate). Albeit:
      “Lockheed Martin calls the F-16V, the “fourth generation fighter the most advanced in the world.” ”

      Lockheed is BS-ing as usual.

      • Not a surprise they are BS-ing.

        Maybe it will be better than F-16C against F-35.

        • I believe that F-16V upgrades are mostly focused on ground attack performance. So in AtG yes, in AtA somewhat but improvement will be far less (modern AESA radar is a good thing but IIRC V still has no internal IRST).

      • They introduced an external pod IRST for the F-16. But it’s a huge 200 kg thing compared to the 35 kilos of the Skyward and it’s at least a generation behind, seeing as the main producer main American IRST producer announced they would be buying IRST tech from Selex: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/isr/2015/05/11/northrop-grumman-selex-radar-eurofighter-infrared-irst/26508459/
        Basically the US has been so enamored with AESA radars that they forgot completely about IRSTs and they lost the lead they had with the IRST from the Tomcat in the 80s.

        • Skyward weights 60 kilos, not 35 – you have to account for the weight of processing unit as well, since external IRST pod contains both IRST and processing unit. So your comparison was apples-to-oranges.

          Funny, I often got laughed at for pointing out that Europe has advantage in IRST technology, and here we are.

      • Thanks Andrei.

        So an external IRST is probably for ground target more than aircraft, no?

      • In this case is for Air-to-Air use. It was even used in Red Flag by aggressor F-16 simulating IRST equipped aircraft. But it has lower performance then internal IRST on Euro-Canards, Russian Fighters and F-14 because it is placed in a very acquired position, under the aircraft, and has a lot of blind spots, and being external it lowers the performance of the aircraft because of increased drag and weight.

      • I wonder how hard it would be to license something like PIRATE (or Skyward its successor) and put it onto the fuselage?

        I’d imagine some modifications would be needed.

      • “Skyward weights 60 kilos, not 35 – you have to account for the weight of processing unit as well, since external IRST pod contains both IRST and processing unit. So your comparison was apples-to-oranges.”

        True. Still Skyward is counted as part of the empty-weight of the aircraft so it was accounted for in all flight regimes, while Legion IRST-pod is external and comes with penalties to drag and weight.

  5. ” Still, a properly-equipped F-16 will be able to jam AIM-120, though not AIM-9X (a version capable of BVR engagement should enter service at about the same time as F-35).”

    No it won’t. From Sidewinders wikipedia page, on the Block III AIM-9X (the BVR one):

    “However, the Navy’s FY 2016 budget cancelled the AIM-9X Block III as they cut down buys of the F-35C, as it was primarily intended to permit the fighter to carry six BVR missiles; the insensitive munition warhead will be retained for the AIM-9X program.[33]”

  6. Article assumes perfect conditions for F35.
    -Both aircraft will meet head on to the disadvantage of f-16 and not say 15 degree off nose or even 45 or 90 degree. And both are alone.
    – F-16 is land base fighter (if defending) so it will have position of F-35 from ground base long range search radar (long wavelength early warning) + airborne radar (defending or attacking), also using datalink, positioning itself for opportunity.
    – On tactics. F-16 having Detected F-35 on RWR will try to avoid F-35 while trying to vector accompanying fighters to position on non-stealthy area of F-35.
    Sorry if I miss something I haven’t read entire article just look here and there.

    • Wow, this is the first time I have been accused of being biased in favor of the F-35.
      -/1 you are correct that F-35s RCS figure is only head-on (as is F-16s). However, if both aircraft are using their radars for search (which the F-16 will have to do, having no IRST), their emissions will get detected and basically guarantee a nose-on meeting; unless F-16 has support from ground-based VHF radar in which case it can try to surprise the F-35 from behind
      -/3 entirely correct, though the F-35 will have friends too (but considering the difference in numbers…)

      • Can you write something about data link and Net centric warfare and its implication on air battles. Every air force is paying more attention to it than anything else.

        • And they are quite correct, albeit they shouldn’t forget traditional warfare either (no communication channel is disruption-proof).

          Good suggestion, thanks. I’ll add it to schedule.

      • Basically the F-35 is in trouble in a multitude of ways.

        Numbers
        Sortie rate
        Dogfighting performance
        No ability to carry a good short range IR Missile

        The only real advantages if you can call them that are the radar stealth and possibly the radar.

        I suppose that you could consider Das an advantage unless the other aircraft carries a podded IR sensor

  7. “When finding targets, both F-16 and F-35 will likely have similar performance, though the F-16 will need external pod to match the F-35s EOTS. On the other hand, F-16s superior cockpit visibility may prove advantageous during low-level flight.”

    Acording to this: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/is-the-f-35s-targeting-system-really-10-years-behind-cu-1676442535 the EOTS is based on technology used in the Sniper XR pod which was state of the art 10 years ago, and is currently in the process of being replaced by a more advanced version of it. Meanwhile EOTS is close to impossible to upgrade or replace cheaply, so F-35 will be stuck with the equivalent of a pod from 10 years ago for the foreseeable future. I think it’s safe to assume that by the time the F-35A will have all it’s sensor operational the F-16 will have better performance in finding targets thanks to its brand new Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement.

  8. I have noticed you use 1.2 sorties per day for F-16. While that is a rate the U.S has perhaps averaged with the F-16 I would say it is way on the low side of its intrinsic rate. For example in peacetime Israel easily does 2 sorties per day with the F-16. During war they boost sortie rate to 7 per day by more than doubling ground support crew.

    • The 1,2 sorties per day is USAFs sustained sortie rate. Israel can achieve higher sustained sortie rate because they have less ground to cover, and 7 sorties per day is surge rate, it cannot be sustained for long.

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