Lockheed Martin believes the fifth-generation F-35 fighter’s display of manoeuvrability in Paris will silence the skeptics.
By Jay Bennett
The F-35 has tripped over its own thrusters a number of times. Delays and cost-overruns have constantly plagued the development of the fifth-generation stealth fighter. So have engine fires and crashing computer systems. Most recently, airmen piloting the jet have been suffering hypoxia due to a lack of oxygen.
But perhaps the most damning report of them all is a June 2015 account from a test pilot claiming the F-35 couldn’t hold its own in a mock dogfight against the older F-16. “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement,” the pilot said at the time. Air Force officials contended that the F-35 is designed to take out a target before a close engagement, but ever since, the Lightning II has had a reputation as a sluggish jet with poor manoeuvrability.
Lockheed Martin would like nothing more than to change that reputation, and it hopes the F-35A’s flight demonstration earlier today at the Paris Air Show will prove the doubters wrong. “After 10 years since first flight, with our first opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities and the manoeuvrability of the F-35, we are going to crush years of misinformation about what this aircraft is capable of doing,” Lockheed Martin test pilot Billie Flynn told Aviation Week. He then hopped in the Joint Strike Fighter to wow the crowds in Paris. You can see his flight below.
The aerobatic display started with a steep vertical climb followed by a series of loops, sharp banks, and manoeuvrability stunts made possible by the jet’s 40,000 pounds of thrust. The fighter then looped around and slowed to a crawl above the spectators, a trick that could be used to cause an adversary to unintentionally blow by in a dogfight.
This is the first time the F-35 has had a chance to flex its muscles on the national stage apart from a few VTOL demonstrations from the F-35B at last year’s Farnborough Air Show in the U.K. Whether the demonstration will silence the skeptics is yet to be seen, but considering Lockheed Martin is currently negotiating more than $35 billion in F-35 deals with 11 foreign nations, we might soon find out if the Lightning II can stand up to the hype.
Video credit: Aviation International News
This article was originally written for and posted by Popular Mechanics USA.