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)

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

By Dario Leone
Feb 12 2024
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The F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor is combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.

The F-22, a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.

The F-35 Lightning

The F-35 is the US Air Force (USAF)’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It will replace the USAF’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.

The conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A gives the USAF and its allies the power to dominate the skies – anytime, anywhere. The F-35A is an agile, versatile, high-performance, 9g capable multirole fighter that combines stealth, sensor fusion and unprecedented situational awareness.

Would you rather be the pilot of an F-22 or F-35?

So, would you rather be the pilot of an F-22 or F-35?

‘F-35, no doubt,’ Rick Scheff, US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Viper pilot, explains on Quora.

‘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.

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

‘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.’

The F-35 is fundamentally superior to the F-22

Scheff continues;

‘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.’

Scheff concludes;

‘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.’

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

Photo credit: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia

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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. Edward Wyne says:

    That’s what the naive people thought of the F 4 …
    Yet guns were still mounted after people realized you sometimes get caught in a phone booth in a fight with somebody that brought brought a knife and not missile. Doesn’t history teach us anything? You have to knock the planes out of the air BEFORE the ground strikes… One plane cannot do it all… Give your heads a shake and keep you’re eye one the ball please

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