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America’s 5th-Generation, $1 Trillion, Cutting-Edge Fighter Is ‘About As Maneuverable As An F-16’

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which through its history has cost more than $1 trillion, just received a scathing review from one of its test pilots.

Earlier this year, on January 14, the F-35A flew with the F-16D in mock battle to test the capabilities of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). From the outset, the F-35 had an advantage, as the aircraft didn’t have to contend with weapons loading it down during flight, War Is Boring reports.

The F-16, on the other hand, was carrying two drop tanks, making it even harder for the older jet to compete.

But according to the pilot, “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement.”

The rest of the report follows the same pattern throughout the entire exercise, in which the F-35 was given the task of shooting down the F-16 using offensive and defensive maneuvers anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 feet in the air. The F-16 easily dodged the F-35’s 25-millimeter cannon.

When the situation was reversed in the dogfight test scenario, the pilot noted that the F-35 simply couldn’t evade targeting. The design of the cockpit didn’t help. Since the space was too small, the pilot’s helmet made it difficult to get an adequate field of vision behind the aircraft, allowing the F-16 a distinct advantage.

As a strike fighter, however, dogfighting is not part of the F-35’s main purview. The JSF, instead, focuses on air-to-surface combat and does not focus nearly as much on air combat.

Poor performance in the mock dogfight adds to a long list of problems with the F-35, including software and production delays, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Later this year, the F-35B will reach operational capability for the Marine Corps.

“Folks can argue about the F-35, should we have done it, should we not have done it,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said, according to Marine Corps Times. “The fact of the matter is, the United States Marine Corps now has the F-35. So I want to make sure the Marine Corps and Navy take full advantage of it.”

The Marine Corps does not yet know how to make full use of the aircraft, and a working group set to launch later this fall may take five months to determine how the Corps can integrate the F-35 into its overarching strategy.

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