Perhaps the best known dialogue, though indirect, is that between two test pilots who hold differing views about the fighter’s capabilities. One, a Norwegian Air Force pilot, Maj. Morten Hanche, defends the fighter’s capabilities in a rebuttal to another unnamed pilot’s evisceration of the plane after tests. FlightGlobal.com writes of the exchange:
That year-old leaked report described in detail a single flight on 15 January 2015 in which a test pilot – a veteran of Boeing F-15 and F-16 cockpits – ridicules the F-35A as dangerously lacking power after high angle of attack manoeuvres, putting the aircraft at a “distinct disadvantage” in mock dogfights with an F-16 Block 40 loaded with two external fuel tanks.
By contrast, Hanche writes on the MoD’s official blog that he is “impressed by how quickly the F-35 accelerates when I reduce the [angle of attack]”, suggesting the aircraft instead rapidly regains energy after “breaking” to a near stop with its nose pointed up to 40˚ high in mid-air.
Hanche also writes that the F-35 can tilt its nose upward under control beyond the ability of the F-16. Even at these extreme angles, the pilot can still “point” the nose easily by simply tapping the rudder pedals, Hanche says, adding that he is “impressed with the stability and predictability of the airplane”.
That again puts Hanche’s review at odds with the leaked test report. The previous test pilot complained that the controls of his particular F-35A – the AF-2 prototype – felt, by turns, sluggish, counter-intuitive and non-responsive in twisting maneouvres with the F-16 Block 40.
Meanwhile, the jet is coming under heavy fire from the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and former Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain calls the F-35 program a scandal. MilitaryTimes.com explains:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said during an oversight hearing held by the committee that the aircraft’s development schedule has stretched to 15 years, deliveries of the F-35 have been delayed, and costs have skyrocketed.
“It’s been a scandal and the cost overruns have been disgraceful,” McCain said. “And it’s a textbook example of why this Committee has placed such a high priority on reforming the broken defense acquisition system.”
In trying to trim the cost of the F-35 program, McCain has targeted the Joint Program Office for elimination after the jet is in full production. The JPO coordinates development of the jet between forces, and once eliminated the Navy and Air Force would take over administration. According to sources for DefenseNews.com though, McCain’s criticisms may be overwrought.
The JPO declined to comment on pending legislation. But a source familiar with the issue said McCain’s proposal fails to account for the international reach of the JSF program.
“They took a very US-centric viewpoint on it, forgetting about that there are 11 other countries involved in the F-35 program,” according to the source. “I don’t think that the provision accounts for international aspects to the program.”
There may be something to that considering the positive reception the F-35 is getting overseas. Popular defense news blog, Foxtrot Alpha has reported a very positive response from Denmark after tests with the fighter.
After evaluating the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35 as Denmark’s next primary fighter jet, the country’s government is recommending the F-35 “unequivocally” as superior in “strategic, military, economic, and industrial aspects.” Is this a needed win for this troubled jet?
That’s the exact language from the Danish government, which has posted an entire website explaining how they decided that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is far and away the best possible plane to replace the country’s current fighting fleet of F-16s.
Those jets have been flying for about 35 years, and are approaching the end of their usable lifespan according to an executive summary about picking Denmark’s next top jet fighter.
The Danish testing methods did not involve sending all three jets into the sky and seeing which could take the other two down or blow more stuff up first (a shame, I know.) The comparison was conducted hypothetically– with expert panels comparing the three jets’ functional abilities and economic models developed to tabulate lifecycle costs. Saab’s Gripen NG was initially on the short list as well, but retracted by Swedish authorities.
And apparently, in spite of the F-35’s ongoing developmental issues and reputation for running over budget we’ve been hearing about for the past few years, the Danes are saying this jet beats the F/A-18 or Typhoon both on capability and cost.
The Danes’ comprehensive evaluation of the F-35 compared the Typhoon and the Super Hornet can be viewed in the PDF embedded below. To keep up to date on the F-35 and more, follow Richardcyoung.com on Facebook.