As one  of our followers here on FighterSweep, you’re probably someone that likes to keep track of the latest news on America’s most advanced fighters–especially the stealthy, badass fifth-generation F-22 and F-35. More specifically, you’ve probably been keeping tabs on the development of the F-35–its setbacks, its achievements, and its march toward IOC. That also means you may have run across an article that screams, “The F-35 can’t beat the plane it’s replacing in a dogfight!”

As a taxpayer, reading that probably pisses you off. After all, the F-35 acquisitions program is one of the most twisted and over-budget jobs programs in the history of the U.S. military. It’s late. It’s expensive. It’s bloated. It can’t even fly within twenty-five miles of a thunderstorm because they had to remove lightning protection to save on weight–a requirement for the Marines so they could take off and land vertically in the F-35B.

There are hundreds of valid complaints on this aircraft, but the latest clickbait headlines scattering social media aren’t among them; it’s as though suddenly everyone is Colonel John Boyd reincarnate and knows what the problem is.

NSAWC assets getting ready to depart Fallon NAS.

Now, before we get into the why, let me first preface all of this by saying I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t work for Lockheed-Martin. I have nothing to do with the Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps acquisitions process. As I mentioned in my Hornet versus Viper comparison, the Viper is my first love–so naturally I smiled a little when I read the headline.

But at the end of the day, I–just like every other fighter pilot out there–have to be fair.

First, let’s talk about what really happened. According to the article, an F-35A and a two-bag Block 40 F-16D took off on Jan 14, 2015 to engage in Basic Fighter Maneuver setups to test “the overall effectiveness of the aircraft in performing various specified maneuvers in a dynamic environment…this consisted of traditional Basic Fighter Maneuvers in offensive, defensive, and neutral setups at altitudes ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 feet.”

English please?

Just like a normal  1v1 proficiency sortie, the two fighters did canned setups to practice basic dogfighting. In the offensive setups, the F-35 would start off behind the F-16. At the specified range, the F-35 pilot would call “Fight’s On” and maneuver to the F-16’s control zone to employ weapons. In the defensive setups, the F-35 would start off in front while the Viper maneuvered to the F-35’s control zone. And finally, in the neutral (high-aspect) setup, the two aircraft would start completely neutral and fight until whatever DLOs (Designated Learning Objectives) they had were met, be they valid gunshots, valid missile shots, or whatever.