F-35 SPO Responds to “Can’t Dogfight” Blog

The F-35 Joint System Program Office responded to a blog report—picked up by many other blogs and major British newspapers—alleging that the F-35 can’t beat the F-16 in a dogfight. The War is Boring blog, which quoted a “for official use only” test pilot report, argued the F-35, in a close-in, turning dogfight, could not best the F-16. The SPO acknowledged the document seemed to be genuine, but said the piece “does not tell the entire story.” Spokesman Joe DellaVedova said the F-35 in the report was an early test model, not equipped with production-representative mission systems software, stealth coatings, or sensors “that allow the F-35 to see its enemy long before it knows the F-35 is in the area.” The jet was also not equipped with the missiles or software needed to allow the pilot to target an enemy with his helmet-mounted system. The test was meant to give the F-35 a “visual reference” to fly against and demonstrate that it could fly to “the edge of its limits without exceeding them.” He said the F-35 is meant to “engage, shoot, and kill its enemy from long distances, not necessarily in visual ‘dogfighting’ situations.” In multi-ship engagements where four-ship flights of F-35s have engaged F-16s, “the F-35 won each of those encounters because of its sensors, weapons, and stealth technology.” The release of the out-of-context document is being investigated, DellaVedova said, but test pilots are always encouraged to offer “candid feedback … because it makes what we do better.”