Displacement is an old term with a new application. The theory of a floating object weighing the same as a rock, suggests it should not float. However, creating a space inside a rock will displace a volume of water which weighs the same as the hollowed out rock thus making it float. The critics look at the F-35 as a rock that can’t float nor does the rock have enough power to make it fly using those conclusions as a core criticism.
But in reality the F-35 program has both the necessary displacement and power to make it swim in a sea of air and fly very fast. Many critics have not factored in how the F-35 program's little displacement can float a program. Looking at a block of cement, conventional wisdom, would demand it won’t float and could only fly a few feet from a brick layers hands. Yet there are concrete boats that float.
The primary criticism speaks of plausible opinions where the F-35 will lose in combat. The assumption infers that it’s a Bumble Bee and it shouldn’t fly at all, yet a Bumble bee can navigate between rain drops or the sprinkler hose drops. An F-35 will just plain lose because its wings are too small like the Bumble bee where fifth generation computers won’t make up the difference.
Additionally, the worry here is that the F-35 is too far down the road and there is no turning back. It can’t survive a fight. Just like the concrete boat sinks or the Bumble bee dodges rain, it can’t do what its developers say it can do. Traditional wisdom tells us concrete sinks, Bumble Bees shouldn’t fly and the F-35 can’t fight. Who is right and who is wrong?
The answer comes from tests after tests and then war games after war games. War after-all is real and how real is the F-35 fighting a war? The critics weigh in at this point. Those are same ones that never have flown an F-35. The pilots who fly them are either earning their pay by agreeing with its bosses or out of pride. After all the DoD pays the salary. The pilots will not reveal secrets when asked, but they will reveal how well the decision it was to build this aircraft.
The industry wide consensus patronizes support of the government position and the critics sell opinion as gamblers gamble for a living. In fact, the opinionated tends to critique the government for its gambling with the nation’s defense as a curious twist of reasoning.
Everything bad about the F-35 supports the nay-sayers and everything remarkable about the F-35 is embellished by the defense of this nation.
So what has Lockheed wrought? The best answer at this point is looking at Red Flag exercises for which the F-35 finally participated. Even if it were a fixed fight, the F-35 flew remarkably over the best 4th generation American fighters with fantastic 15:1 kill ratio over adversary aircraft in the event.
However, this was a test of capability without a final version of its software installed. It will become more lethal with version 3F installed even since that Red Flag war game version. It dodges rain drops at Mach 1.6 and the Bumble can’t fly that fast. It drops bombs faster than a concrete boat launching, but on a dime.
The critics have not included how technology displacement is floating this concept. The new school of thought is not in dog fighting. It is supersonic techno fighting where it doesn’t have to go Mach 2.0. However, the F-35 pulls 9+ G’s. It takes the inside corner away from escaping dog fighters and shoots.
Much has been written about its already “old” stealth capability. You can’t fight what you can’t see approach that the F-35 offers is years away from being caught up with from its onlookers. Its super computer capability fuses data into one giant computer rendering where any two-seater neck jockeys has to retire from eye strain when trying to keep up. This isn’t a dog fight, its annihilation time for any adversary.
If the US wanted to use X-15’s for dog fighters, it could have done that 60 years ago. Having a drag racer for a fighter jet is not wise nor is it practical. The F-35 is more of an extremely smart sports car. Put six of them in the air and it becomes a swarm of Bumble bees attacking a hapless sun bather. The only weakness is its weapons load capability. It may run out of munitions before clearing the battle space. Even its paltry 25mm cannon has too few rounds to sustain a spanking. It was put there in case some day it might need to use it as a last resort. Remembering the early generation fighter pilots carried a side-arm with six shots on the hip as some kind of courage maker when shot down. The 25mm cannon will make a mark when needed.
The critics will sound smart and adversarial players will copy the F-35 or its concept but what lies beneath its skin is where the fight begins.