USAF F-16 Pilot explains why he would Rather Fly the F-35 in combat than the F-22 (even in a War against Russia or China)

Naval Aviator explains why the F-35 can give the F-22 fits in BVR while 4th Gen Fighters have 1:100 chance at best to beat the Raptor

By Dario Leone
May 19 2023
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‘Where the F-35 Lightning II would give the F-22 fits would be BVR. The primary advantage the Raptor has, first detection, is negated.’ Adam Daymude, US Navy EA-18G Growler pilot.

The Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor is the world’s first stealthy air dominance fighter. Its radar, weapons control and electronic warfare systems work together as one integrated unit. The Raptor combines stealth, maneuverability and the ability to fly long distances at supersonic speeds — or “supercruise” — in performance of air superiority and air-to-ground missions. Furthermore, it requires less maintenance than older fighters.

From the very beginning, the F-22A exceeded the USAF’s expectations, and during exercises and deployments, it proved to be more than a match for any fighter opposing it.

F-22 Raptor model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

During the highly realistic Exercise Northern Edge 2006, the F-22 proved itself against as many as 40 “enemy aircraft” during simulated battles. The Raptor pilots achieved a 108-to-zero “kill” ratio against the best F-15, F-16 and F-18 “adversaries.”

Still, the Raptor is not invulnerable, though it makes life very difficult for opponents.

What modern fighter planes have the best chances against the F-22?

Adam Daymude, former US Navy EA-18G Growler pilot, explains on Quora;

‘As Joe Rogan would say, let’s look at the tale of the tape.

In the event of a No-Fly-Zone over Ukraine, the F-22 Raptor stealth fighters could sanitize the skies within an hour but they are not deployed to Eastern Europe. Here’s why.

‘F-22 Raptor capabilities/qualities:
1. First and foremost, extremely low RADAR cross section (RCS).
2. Infrared signature reduction.
3. Supercruise (flying supersonic without the need for afterburners).
4. 2-D thrust vectoring.
5. All aspect missiles.
7. Sensor fusion.
8. Missile Launch Detection systems.

‘With the exception of not having a Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS), this is basically a wish list for any fighter. It’ll be hard to beat for sure but not necessarily impossible.

‘Let’s start with gen 4 or 4.5 aircraft, and not just any gen 4. How about the best of the best, one undefeated in aerial combat:

"LIMA ALPHA ZERO ONE, Tango Scramble Two!" F-15 Driver describes what it's like Sitting Hot Alert in the Cold War

‘F-15C Eagle capabilities/qualities:

1. Not LO.
2. Slight infrared signature reduction.
3. Supersonic, but requires afterburner.
4. No thrust vectoring.
5. All aspect missiles.
7. Limited sensor fusion.

‘In a BVR fight, where we all want to be, it just doesn’t stand a chance. The Raptor will see the Eagle first, even though the Eagle’s AESA RADAR does help somewhat with detection range, though not enough to make a difference. Also, the F-22 will be higher and faster meaning it can shoot from further out. Most likely result will be a kill from the Raptor before the Eagle even knew it was there.

‘Now if we did end up in a dogfight where the primary advantage of the Raptor is mitigated (low RCS) I do like the chances of some gen 4 aircraft, particularly small and nimble aircraft like the F-16 but you have to get there first. All in all, though, I would give gen 4 aircraft a 1:100 chance at best and they’d have to surprise the Raptor.’

Daymude continues;

‘That leaves us with gen 5 aircraft and there’s only one choice here:

In a Blow for Boeing, Germany drops the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G and Buys 35 the F-35 Lightning II Stealth Fighters and 15 Eurofighter Jets equipped for Electronic Warfare

‘F-35 Battle Penguin…sorry…Lightning II.

‘I won’t list them all out here but the capabilities and qualities are comparable to the F-22 with a couple of changes.

1. Slower and no supercruise.
2. No thrust vectoring.
3. Next gen sensor fusion and avionics.
4. Improved network capabilities.

‘Dogfighting, I’d give the F-35 a puncher’s chance due to its HMCS with the AIM-9X but I think it would lose more often than win. Where it would give the F-22 fits would be BVR. The primary advantage the Raptor has, first detection, is negated; both aircraft would have troubles…on their own. Where the Battle Penguin absolutely rules is in its network capability, where it can fuse the variety of detection sources, internal AND external, to form one single air-to-air picture. Stealth is great, but you can’t be virtually invisible from all angles. That means if you spread your sensors out in a wide array, you would have a better chance at detection. Not great, just better. And that little bit may be enough to tip the scales.’

Daymude concludes;

‘To summarize, any gen 4 aircraft, NATO or otherwise, would only stand a chance if it surprised the Raptor and got into a dogfight. The F-35 is the only aircraft I’d feel comfortable in taking it on.’

Photo credit: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia and U.S. Air Force

F-35A print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  1. Wayne Bell says:

    I was a USMC Fighter RIO. So when I read, “A BVR Fight, is where we ALL want be”, the Author’s credibility from that point on was in the “$hitter”. I had my doubts prior to reading the Article when I saw that Adam Daymude was a Growler Driver. The BVR comment confirmed them. The Article was well written and it made me think, which is always a good thing. What it was missing was a real world perspective from a Fighter Pilot. Note: there is no “F” in EA-18. I digress. Apology to my fellow EW Warrior.Bottom Line, it was a good Article and a good read and there was indeed some very significant variations presented in the Article on the various Aircraft capabilites / performance characteristics. However, it lacked the perspective from any Drivers or Community members of the Aircraft presented.

    On a personal note, I have logged Flight Time and / or Sim Time in all of the Aircraft, save the Raptor, and may be the only Marine alive who has been shot down by all of the Aircraft at the various AF Aircraft Fighter Weapons Schools, the Naval Fighter Weapons School, Marine Corps Weapons Tactics Instructor Course and any and all Aggressor Squadrons participating in Maple Flag and Red Flag Operations. I believe I have helped More Air Force Weapons School (Students) Instructors earn their Designation than any Marine whoever strapped on a Phantom, EA-6A Intruder or EA-6B Prowler. I have never bought a Drink at any AFB O’Club where I bravely served as the “Simulated Enemy” and I have the NO DES photos and after action reports to prove it. And in one very intense moment in my early years, I and my Pilot, both 1st Lts., strapped in our trusty F4B Phantom II, and at the merge (interlocks out) demonstrated our skill and ability in killing the Simulated Enemy, the Teledyne Ryan Firebee Jet Target, with a Fox Two Kill (direct hit with a Sidewinder) while in a high speed ” Death Spiral” Manuever.

    On a Final Note:
    1. “BVR” is NOT a Fight. The F-35 is basically a “BVR ” Launch and Leave. F-35 Drivers will beat the F’-22 Drivers back to the O’Club Bar everytime.
    2. The last of the “Pure” Fighter Pilots are few and soon they will be gone leaving only “BVR” Pilots who will eventually become Drone Pilots. And within a generation AI will rule the skies. Remember the Medal Fiasco with Drone Pilots. Well standby for the DFCs to go to Software Engineers.
    3. No other Nation has the F-22 Raptor. We have flooded the World with the F-35. Why?
    4. The most obvious of what will settle the “BVR” vs. the “Dog Fight” Debate between the F-35 and F-22 is the difference in their Canopy. Check it out.

    Moral of this story:
    The F-22 like the F-35 they will see you and they will Kill you. If, they don’t see you (“BVR”) they will eventually see you (via 5th Gen. Technology and then they will Kill You. In either scenario the only and last thing other aircraft pilots will see is the Missile in their windscreens. I shall reference here Col. Cesar “Rico” Rodriguez’s USAF BVR Kill and the view from the cockpit as recorded on the Gun Camera Film from his third Mig Kill, a Mig-29 near Pristina. Kosovo.

    In a real world 1 vs. 1 (F-35 vs. F-22) the F-35 will never acquire the F-22 before the F-22 acquires the F-35.. All things being equaling. in fact, the F-35 may never see the F-22 until the F-22 chooses to be seen. As in an offset rear quarter attack starting from the forward quarter, the first time the F-35 Driver sees the F-22 will be from the $850,000 Helmet. And that will be a rearward display while facing forward. Not a good start for the F-35. Should that result in an Aerial Engagement ( Dog Fight) the Canopy and the weight of the Helmet, under high G forces, alone would ensure an F-22 victory in no more than 2 turns.

    My apologies for the length of my comment. I got on a roll. Would like to hear what anyone in this August Aviation Community has to say. Feel free to throw the 🦬🌰🚩
    Cheers 🍺

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