[Editor’s Note–Yesterday, C.W. Lemoine a Naval Reserve F/A-18 pilot and prior AFRES Viper Driver, opined about several articles tied to this report. Most the pieces launched onto the Interwebs were designed specifically to raise hackles and blood pressure, and boy did they ever succeed! Here at FighterSweep, we do our best to present factual information from vetted, reliable sources, and keep our work as unbiased as possible. The notion that somehow Lockheed-Martin is lining our pockets for writing pieces in favor of their new jet is bullsh!t. Just to make that explicitly clear. So without further ado, here are the author’s afterthoughts.]

Boy, that escalated quickly…

Perhaps people misunderstood the intent of my article yesterday, or I wasn’t clear enough or both, but I am in no way defending the F-35. As a program, it is a bloated failure. I made several references to that fact.

What I was responding to was a very slanted article, one that took a very myopic set of data points (and out-of-context pilot comments from a “leaked report”) and jumped to a very big conclusion–one that is neither accurate nor fair. I am not making any excuses for the aircraft’s performance, but I also don’t think the article (written by someone with no fighter experience) was anything more than clickbait, as they say.

Response_To_F-35_Trolls

We have sold out our fighting capability on many levels for the F-35. Like my friend and fellow fighter pilot Jack Stewart spoke of here, I think an investment in upgraded jets (Like the Block 60 Viper with AESA radar and conformal fuel tanks) would’ve been better suited for the short term. The F-35–in theory–is a great “Day One” fighter, but it should never have been touted as a one-size-fits-all answer to all tactical aviation problems. LO is just too expensive and we simply didn’t buy enough to make it cost effective. I am disappointed that the program has cost this much money without results after nearly a decade. And I am even more disappointed that it has been at the cost of our fighter fleet across all services.

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Read Next: Why The "F-35 v F-16" Article Is Garbage

But at the end of the day, American fighter pilots will be flying this aircraft, whether we like it or not. The money is already spent, and the train has already left the station. These pilots will adapt and overcome, making it a formidable fighting machine – just as was done with the F-4 in Vietnam. The F-15, F-16, and F-22 ALL had growing pains in their early years. Have you ever heard the term Lawn Dart applied to the F-16? Or how about Craptor as it applies to the F-22?

A Raptor assigned to the F-22 Combined Test Force taxis out for a sortie at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
A Raptor assigned to the F-22 Combined Test Force taxis out for a sortie at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

I take issue with irresponsible journalism that creates problems where there may not be any. The F-35 has PLENTY of issues, but as I said yesterday, it’s best to focus on those that are real, tangible, and quantifiable. Hyperbole, strawman arguments, and the like do nothing for this debate.

What happened in the “test” was just that. BFM is an art, and it takes time to develop tactics suited for each aircraft. There are some good things about the aircraft (like its high-Alpha capability) that came from that test. There are also things that need to be corrected. Any other conclusions are just flat out wrong without more data to substantiate them.

I know bashing the F-35 program is the cool thing to do right now, but I don’t think taking one pilot’s comments out of context (with very little understanding for what he was actually saying from the original author) from a leaked FOUO report is a valid way to do it. Technique only.

(Featured photo by Jonathan Derden)