‘In the same way the F-16 is fundamentally superior to the F-15C, the F-35 is fundamentally superior to the F-22,’ Rick Scheff, US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Viper pilot.
Designed as a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force aimed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances, the F-22 Raptor cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. Its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities.
Instead, the F-35A Lightning II is the US Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It will replace the service’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years, and bring with it an enhanced capability to survive in the advanced threat environment in which it was designed to operate. With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A will provide next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the United States and allied nations.
So, would you rather be the pilot of an F-22 or F-35?
‘The Raptor is about as cool as it gets, and it is the greatest air superiority fighter the world has ever seen, but like the F-15C that it was originally designed to replace it is an airplane without a real mission in modern conflict. When was the last time an American fighter killed another fighter in an air to air engagement? Go look it up, I’ll wait.
‘It is cool to think about WWII/Korea/Vietnam and the great dogfights of history, and believe me I wish I had been flying then, but that just isn’t the modern battlefield. None of America’s conflicts feature pitched battles against technologically modern opponents. Even if somehow a real war against a modern opponent kicked off, the days of within visual range fighting would be over. There is a place for visual identification and actual fighter maneuvering right now, but in a no kidding war against Russia or China there wouldn’t be. We would be killing them from as far away as we possibly could. With that in mind, the 35′s sensor fusion and ability to carry ordinance externally is more valuable than the 22’s ability to turn corners in style.’
‘Additionally, the real role of modern fighters involves an air to ground component. CAS (Close Air Support) and SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses), and old-fashioned dropping of bombs are the real reasons to have modern fighter jets. The ability to fight in and fight out (multirole) is an added bonus, but at the end of the day wars are won by killing people on the ground and breaking their stuff, so you want fighters that can A- kill people and break their stuff, and 2- make it safe for bombers and attack jets/helicopters to kill people and break their stuff.
‘The Raptor has some limited ability to do this, but the 35 was designed to do this. In the same way the Viper is fundamentally superior to the F-15C, the 35 is fundamentally superior to the 22. Multirole aircraft are designed with the mission in mind. Air to Air airplanes are designed to fight a war that we don’t fight, and mostly function as high-speed cheerleaders.’
‘At some point the question of which you’d rather fly boils down to this: would you rather be the world’s most badass high-speed cheerleader, or would you rather do the job? The 35 does the job.’
Photo credit: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia