If you type “F-35” into Google, you’ll find tens of thousands of links to stories and posts that either characterize the F-35 program as the future of military aviation or the poster child for wasteful spending. The truth, as is so often the case, is likely somewhere in between, where ineffectual procurement strategies and Lockheed Martin’s massive political leverage resulted in an extremely capable aircraft for a whole lot more money than the tax payer may have initially signed on for.

With the F-35 just entering into combat operations over this past year, first through the Israeli military and then with the U.S. Marine Corps, we may well have entered into an era where the latest and greatest air frame in the U.S. arsenal begins showing us exactly what makes it so valuable… but even if it is an effective multi-role fighter, that multi-role moniker will always hold it back from doing certain jobs as well as some older aircraft can.

Even in this video of an F-35 pilot arguing the economic benefit of the F-35 program, he has to acknowledge that “multi-role” inherently means the F-35 lacks the ability to do a number of tasks as well as more specialized predecessors: