F35 - superfighter or lame duck?

Hossfly

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Mushroom

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I live 2 miles from where they're built and the guys who make them say the pilots love them.
A few years ago I talked to a Marine Pilot that absolutely adored his F-35B. He had been an AV8B pilot before, and he said the difference between the two was like night and day.

He said the Harrier was more like a big helicopter, that could fly kind of like a fighter, but it was in no way capable of fighting other fighters. If they were ever to encounter a Soviet made fighter, their doctrine was to fire any air to air missiles they had and to run like crazy. They simply lacked the speed to out run them, and other than at low speed were not maneuverable enough to fight them at high speed.

He said the F-35B in comparison really was a fighter jet. It could still do the same ground support missions that were their reason for existing in the first place, but now if at sea on their amphibious carriers at least had a damned good chance of blunting if not destroying a ground based force intent on sinking the ships they were supposed to defend.
 
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Daryl Hunt

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Mushroom

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And as always, for some reason people tend to forget there really is no "F-35". There are 3 distinctly different models, the F_35A, F-35B, and F-35C. Other than in basic avionics and other parts they really are 3 completely different aircraft. And intended for completely different roles.

Of course, it also must be noted that just like the F-117, the naming of the F-35 is wrong. The F-117 should have always been called the B-117 or A-117, but the Air Force loves it's fighters (and the F-117 had absolutely no air to air capability - it only attacked ground targets). And the real designation for this aircraft should be the F/A-35X, in recognition that these are all multi-role aircraft.

I would even argue further that the Marine Corps should be the AV-35B, because it's primary role is not air combat at all but in supporting troops on the ground. The Marines would expect to have to face fighters in their F-35B about as much as they would expect to face fighters in their AV8B. This newer bird would do a better job of it than that old Vietnam era fossil, but still nowhere as good as a dedicated fighter would.

And for the Marines and Navy, that is one reason why they are still keeping the F/A-18 around. It is a dedicated fighter that was modified for ground attack roles, so it will always be a superior fighter in a dedicated air to air role than an aircraft designed from the ground up as multi-role.
 

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And as always, for some reason people tend to forget there really is no "F-35". There are 3 distinctly different models, the F_35A, F-35B, and F-35C. Other than in basic avionics and other parts they really are 3 completely different aircraft. And intended for completely different roles.

Of course, it also must be noted that just like the F-117, the naming of the F-35 is wrong. The F-117 should have always been called the B-117 or A-117, but the Air Force loves it's fighters (and the F-117 had absolutely no air to air capability - it only attacked ground targets). And the real designation for this aircraft should be the F/A-35X, in recognition that these are all multi-role aircraft.

I would even argue further that the Marine Corps should be the AV-35B, because it's primary role is not air combat at all but in supporting troops on the ground. The Marines would expect to have to face fighters in their F-35B about as much as they would expect to face fighters in their AV8B. This newer bird would do a better job of it than that old Vietnam era fossil, but still nowhere as good as a dedicated fighter would.

And for the Marines and Navy, that is one reason why they are still keeping the F/A-18 around. It is a dedicated fighter that was modified for ground attack roles, so it will always be a superior fighter in a dedicated air to air role than an aircraft designed from the ground up as multi-role.
I think in the F-35 case you are incorrect. While the primary role of the A is ground attack, it still has a kill rate right out of the gate at 20 to 1 in air to air. I suspect the Navy version will have the same ability. I haven't seen the B model's record against pure fighters but I have seen the A model. And outside of the lift fan of the B and the longer weapons bay of the A, they share enough to be not far off from each other. The A and the B share the same wings and basic fuselage.

Now let's look at the difference between the YF-17 and the F/A-18. The Northrup YF-17 shared many parts with the F-5E/F including the wings. It was a hotrodded F-5. McDonnell took that basic design and designed a swiss navy fighter for the navy. If you compare the wings, the YF-17 had the F-5 wings (enlarged) and the F-18 has a completely different wing.



1588019286413.png

It was more an upgrade for the F-5E than an entirely new bird. It was what the F-5 could have been.

Now, let's look at the F-18

The F/A-18 doesn't have any of the F-5 left. It's really a completely new bird. It was designed to be a jack of all trades and it's pretty damned good at it. And if you think it can't dog fight, it would be a fools bet. The difference is, the F-18 slows down and uses it's wing loading to it's advantage. It like rough terrain, low to the ground and tries to force the fight there. Unlike the F-14 and the F-15 that fights at either just under of over Mach and goes for altitude. Some countries use the F-18 for just a fighter roll because they like the down and dirty. And it's cheap compared to the pure Fighter. The disadvantage it has is that it's carrier based and carries a lot of excess weight for carrier duty. Same goes for the SU-33 versus the SU-30. Can it stand it's ground against a F-15? Each one will try and get the fight in it's own back yard. Chances are, there are going to be an exchange of missiles and both go home because neither pilot wants to give up the advantage. But, the F-18 is designed to replace the A-7 and A-6 and does a pretty damned good job of it. It was designed that way from the ground up. But it's still a decent fighter only not in the F-15 or SU-27s league. But for 4 Gen Fighters, what else is?

The F-35 is also designed for ground attack/support but it has the bite of a fighter. The F-4 started the thinking and the F-16 and F-18 both followed along those lines. Let's face it, the F-4 was really a lousy dog fighter compared to the F-8. The F-16/18/35 follow along in the F-4s footsteps in concept. Only they did it better.
 

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The F/A-18 doesn't have any of the F-5 left. It's really a completely new bird. It was designed to be a jack of all trades and it's pretty damned good at it. And if you think it can't dog fight, it would be a fools bet. The difference is, the F-18 slows down and uses it's wing loading to it's advantage. It like rough terrain, low to the ground and tries to force the fight there. Unlike the F-14 and the F-15 that fights at either just under of over Mach and goes for altitude.
Actually, as the name suggests the F-18 was designed purely as an air superiority fighter. Like in the F-15 the multi-role came much later. It is air attack, which can also do ground support. And that air attack capability will always show in it's capabilities compared to other aircraft.

Which is in contradiction to a pure "Attack" aircraft, like the AV8B or A-10. Those aircraft would never be good air to air fighters, that is simply not their design.

And I for one never try to compare Naval aircraft with ground based ones. A superb sea launch aircraft will almost always be inferior to that which is ground based, simply because of the compromises that must be made to launch and land them from carriers.

This is the kind of thing that far to many simply overlook when trying to compare different aircraft. They try to treat them as if they were all the same, and they are not. And it has not helped that even the Air Force and the rest of the DoD have confused issues by making a guide for naming aircraft, then for various reasons simply ignoring that convention (like the previously mentioned F-117).

And this happened many times. The A-5 Vigilante was designed as a heavy Naval bomber, and should have been the B-5. I think a lot of the designation naming of the F-35 is because of the Air Force. They tend to be more resistant to adding "A" to an aircraft than the Navy and Marines, and they were the hardest sell because they needed their A version far less than the Marines needed their "B" and "C" versions.

From what I have read and heard, the main proponent for the F-35 was the Marines, which needed a newer aircraft to replace the antiquated Harrier. Then the Navy, which wanted to have at least one stealth aircraft. I believe the Air Force was really only brought in because they could buy enough to make the program functional.

And what resulted was about what was expected with a single basic design for 3 different services. Each had their own requirements and needs, but the Marines got the closest to what they really wanted. And for the first time since WWII finally got a first rate aircraft designed specifically for them, not something bought from somewhere else, or handed off to them because nobody else wanted it.

Even the F-18 started that way. It was a compromise aircraft that the Navy never really wanted. They wanted more of the new F_14 Tomcats, but they were expensive and high in maintenance. The Air Force suggested making a navalized variant of the F-15, but it was too heavy and after conversion cost almost as much as the F-14. So the F-18 was a cheaper aircraft, and early on used primarily by Marine fliers as a replacement for their aging A-4 and other aircraft.

For those of us old enough to remember the Cold War, the F-18 was never really considered the main fighter of the Navy. That was first and last the Tomcat. Even movies like Top Gun could almost be called "Aviation Porn" for the fans of that fighter. Whenever they sent aircraft out for risky missions like against Libya, it was the Tomcat and not the Hornet that did it.

It was only after many improvements and upgrades that the Navy really fell in love with it, and it became what we all know of today. Based on a rejected design originally made for the Air Force.
 

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The F/A-18 doesn't have any of the F-5 left. It's really a completely new bird. It was designed to be a jack of all trades and it's pretty damned good at it. And if you think it can't dog fight, it would be a fools bet. The difference is, the F-18 slows down and uses it's wing loading to it's advantage. It like rough terrain, low to the ground and tries to force the fight there. Unlike the F-14 and the F-15 that fights at either just under of over Mach and goes for altitude.
Actually, as the name suggests the F-18 was designed purely as an air superiority fighter. Like in the F-15 the multi-role came much later. It is air attack, which can also do ground support. And that air attack capability will always show in it's capabilities compared to other aircraft.

Which is in contradiction to a pure "Attack" aircraft, like the AV8B or A-10. Those aircraft would never be good air to air fighters, that is simply not their design.

And I for one never try to compare Naval aircraft with ground based ones. A superb sea launch aircraft will almost always be inferior to that which is ground based, simply because of the compromises that must be made to launch and land them from carriers.

This is the kind of thing that far to many simply overlook when trying to compare different aircraft. They try to treat them as if they were all the same, and they are not. And it has not helped that even the Air Force and the rest of the DoD have confused issues by making a guide for naming aircraft, then for various reasons simply ignoring that convention (like the previously mentioned F-117).

And this happened many times. The A-5 Vigilante was designed as a heavy Naval bomber, and should have been the B-5. I think a lot of the designation naming of the F-35 is because of the Air Force. They tend to be more resistant to adding "A" to an aircraft than the Navy and Marines, and they were the hardest sell because they needed their A version far less than the Marines needed their "B" and "C" versions.

From what I have read and heard, the main proponent for the F-35 was the Marines, which needed a newer aircraft to replace the antiquated Harrier. Then the Navy, which wanted to have at least one stealth aircraft. I believe the Air Force was really only brought in because they could buy enough to make the program functional.

And what resulted was about what was expected with a single basic design for 3 different services. Each had their own requirements and needs, but the Marines got the closest to what they really wanted. And for the first time since WWII finally got a first rate aircraft designed specifically for them, not something bought from somewhere else, or handed off to them because nobody else wanted it.

Even the F-18 started that way. It was a compromise aircraft that the Navy never really wanted. They wanted more of the new F_14 Tomcats, but they were expensive and high in maintenance. The Air Force suggested making a navalized variant of the F-15, but it was too heavy and after conversion cost almost as much as the F-14. So the F-18 was a cheaper aircraft, and early on used primarily by Marine fliers as a replacement for their aging A-4 and other aircraft.

For those of us old enough to remember the Cold War, the F-18 was never really considered the main fighter of the Navy. That was first and last the Tomcat. Even movies like Top Gun could almost be called "Aviation Porn" for the fans of that fighter. Whenever they sent aircraft out for risky missions like against Libya, it was the Tomcat and not the Hornet that did it.

It was only after many improvements and upgrades that the Navy really fell in love with it, and it became what we all know of today. Based on a rejected design originally made for the Air Force.
The F-18 was never intended to be just an Air to Air asset. They were to replace the aging A-7 and A-6. And it did the very jobs that they did. With the exception of the ruggness of the A-7 being able to absorb hit after hit and still make it home. Comparing the F-18 to the old A-6 is the same as comparing the F-35B to the AV-8B. It didn't take them long to get rid of the old A birds out of the Navy. But the F-18 borrowed heavily from the F-4 in the beginning just like the F-16 did since the F-4 (all versions were about ready to fall out of the sky) Not all systems could be adapted. But in time, both the F-16 and 18 got their own systems and both became real bears and tigers in ground attack. Both were left with enough room to expand into whatever they wanted. Just like the F-15. Except, not one thing was able to be used by the F-15 from the F-4 days.

The F-15A was introduced in 1976 and became forward operating fighters with the F-16 not far behind it. And not long after that, the F-18 hit the decks. I know the Navy didn't want to get rid of their F-14Ds but the cost of operation (fuel, repairs, support, deck space) pretty well spelled it's doom. And the F-18 has been trying to fill that void. But they lost their long ranged Air to Air asset when the F-14 was taken. This is one reason the F-35C is so important. It doesn't replace the F-18 but it does supplement it. It does take over the long ranged Air Superiority role that the F-18 can't do. The F-18 is closer to an attack bird than the F-35C but it just so happens that with the F-35C it all depends on the load out. It's nice to know if the F-35C gets in a pinch, he drops his load and cleans up and just appears to disappear with only his internal weapons and fuel and he becomes either a light loaded Attack Bird or an Air Superiority without changing a thing once the externals are dropped.

The B model is playing havoc right now in Asia. They are a full fledged Gen 5 and can be almost anywhere anytime. Those baby carriers are priceless. You want pictures at the edge of your potential enemies territory, the B is very capable. You need a hard to detect escort for your F-18 Strike Group, he can do that. The Marines have really gotten their moneys worth out of the B.

The A-5C and A-3C were originally designed as nuclear payload bombers but the Navy never used the B designator that I am aware of so they call it an A. The real designator should have been RF not A. The AF had RF-111s for a short time until they dropped the R. And the F-105 was also mislabeled. It wasn't a conventional bomber at all. It was a Nuke carrier like the A-5 but the AF called it a F because it wasn't big enough to call it a bomber. It was successful as a conventional bomber that more than half of the Hanoi Hilton "Guests" were Nickel Drivers, they ran out of pilots and converted Cargo Pilots to fly the remaining Thunderpigs until they just ran out of F-105s and replaced them with the F-111 which, in a limited way, could defend themselves. This was a time when both services weren't sure of what to use what for and many Birds were misused. The F-111 ended up being a long ranged Strategic Bomber operating out of England until it was retired in favor of the long ranged F-15E. So the Navy didn't corner the market for stupity, the AF was even dumber and had even deeper pockets.

The F-18 never was designed just for Air Superiority. Note the longer, beefier wings it got from the onset with a ton of hard points. It's best feature today (with the F-35 B and C around) is that of a bomb and missile truck. Add in the EW and the Tanker versions and you have one hell of a halfback for the F-35B and C Quarterback. It's going to be a couple of decades before the Navy and Marines get rid of their F-18E/F and Gs since it was designed from the get go to be versatile.
The AF will be replacing their F-16s (long after the last A-10 lands in DM) with the F-35A. But they finally figured out that the F-15 ain't so simple to replace since there are no more F-22s to be had. And with the F-15EX, the Russians don't have a thing to compete with the new Eagles. There are only two birds in Air Superiority better than the F-15EX and they are the F-35 and the F-22. A F-15E with two drop tanks and full fuel internals has a range of almost 3500 miles carrying just his 6 Ammrams. And he'll do it as a speed of Mach .95 without afterburner. Those new engines at over 29K thrust sure did make a difference.

The time to call anything modern a Attack Bird is gone. It went with the DoDo bird. Today, All fighters have Air Superiority and with Ground Attack capablity. It's just the the F-35 has MORE for Ground attack.
 

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The F-15A was introduced in 1976 and became forward operating fighters with the F-16 not far behind it. And not long after that, the F-18 hit the decks. I know the Navy didn't want to get rid of their F-14Ds but the cost of operation (fuel, repairs, support, deck space) pretty well spelled it's doom.
That is often given as a reason, but it is more likely that the F-14 was killed because of Iran.

Even with all the sanctions in place, somehow Iran was still able to get hold of spare and replacement parts for their F-14s, their major fighter aircraft. It was more likely killed because doing so also eliminated all of the ways that Iran was able to "acquire" parts they needed from the contractor side of the supply chain.

I find it no coincidence that in less than a year after the F-14 was retired, all spare parts were scrubbed from contractor and Navy inventories and destroyed. I have been to Moffit many times over the years, and seen even Vietnam era aircraft still sitting on the ground decades after they were retired. Yet for some reason the entire inventory of the F-14 was turned into razor blades in a year.

And of the 80 F-14 fighters purchased by Iran, by 2007 the number operational has fallen to around 45-50. Today, it is believed to be 26 operational aircraft. And they do not seem to be able to manufacture their own replacement parts for many key components, so as that number drops they just scrap them and reuse the avionics in other aircraft.

There was still a lot of good life left in the old Tomcat, and both the Navy and Marines were pushing hard for the Bombcat upgrades. But the decision was made high up to kill and quickly destroy all but a few static display aircraft, and to me that is something much deeper than simply maintenance.
 

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The F-15A was introduced in 1976 and became forward operating fighters with the F-16 not far behind it. And not long after that, the F-18 hit the decks. I know the Navy didn't want to get rid of their F-14Ds but the cost of operation (fuel, repairs, support, deck space) pretty well spelled it's doom.
That is often given as a reason, but it is more likely that the F-14 was killed because of Iran.

Even with all the sanctions in place, somehow Iran was still able to get hold of spare and replacement parts for their F-14s, their major fighter aircraft. It was more likely killed because doing so also eliminated all of the ways that Iran was able to "acquire" parts they needed from the contractor side of the supply chain.

I find it no coincidence that in less than a year after the F-14 was retired, all spare parts were scrubbed from contractor and Navy inventories and destroyed. I have been to Moffit many times over the years, and seen even Vietnam era aircraft still sitting on the ground decades after they were retired. Yet for some reason the entire inventory of the F-14 was turned into razor blades in a year.

And of the 80 F-14 fighters purchased by Iran, by 2007 the number operational has fallen to around 45-50. Today, it is believed to be 26 operational aircraft. And they do not seem to be able to manufacture their own replacement parts for many key components, so as that number drops they just scrap them and reuse the avionics in other aircraft.

There was still a lot of good life left in the old Tomcat, and both the Navy and Marines were pushing hard for the Bombcat upgrades. But the decision was made high up to kill and quickly destroy all but a few static display aircraft, and to me that is something much deeper than simply maintenance.
Does make one wonder. But the F-14 was on it's way out. But the Navy never really worked on a suitable replacement. The A-12 was a bust and defunded. Great idea and fantastic concept just too early for it's time. Technology hadn't caught up just yet. In all it's wonders, the Phoenix System could be defeated. We used to do war games against the Navy's F-14. It took the F-15 and the F-16 working in tandem. The problem with the Phoenix system was, yes, it had a huge range. If all things were perfect, it would follow you home and cook you dinner. But things were never perfect and not a single Phoenix System ever recorded a kill. The Phoenix was designed for large bombers ate extreme ranges. Other systems took over that role for the Navy and do a much better job. And If I had to put a number to it, if you pitted a flight of F-14Ds against a flight of F-18Es you would have about a 1 to 1.3 kill rate in the F-14s favor. But you can park twice as many F-18s in the same space you can the F-14s at half the cost on your limited space carriers. It all really came down to money which the Navy was short on at the time.

But you may be correct. Just one of the reasons may have been Iran's F-14 collection. But that may be more of a conspiracy than not.
 

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Far too much is spent on far too many weapons.
 

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I live 2 miles from where they're built and the guys who make them say the pilots love them.
A few years ago I talked to a Marine Pilot that absolutely adored his F-35B. He had been an AV8B pilot before, and he said the difference between the two was like night and day.

He said the Harrier was more like a big helicopter, that could fly kind of like a fighter, but it was in no way capable of fighting other fighters. If they were ever to encounter a Soviet made fighter, their doctrine was to fire any air to air missiles they had and to run like crazy. They simply lacked the speed to out run them, and other than at low speed were not maneuverable enough to fight them at high speed.

He said the F-35B in comparison really was a fighter jet. It could still do the same ground support missions that were their reason for existing in the first place, but now if at sea on their amphibious carriers at least had a damned good chance of blunting if not destroying a ground based force intent on sinking the ships they were supposed to defend.
..I was in the USMC for 8 years and saw the Harriers up close.....
1. I would hope [ hahahaha ] the F35 is better --like '''night and day'' [ hahahah ] ..McDonnell Douglas has been history for a long time....first flight for the Harrier around late 70s
2. the Harriers, F/A18s, etc could take out ground forces ''intent on sinking ships''
3. the Harrier defeated superior fighters...in WW2, the Zero was superior in performance/etc to the Wildcat, but the Wildcat still did fine
---it also depends on the pilot---also, the US uses a system of air battle--not just the plane itself
 

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Still not rdy for prime-time
It's not? It flies where it wants to fly. Iran bitches about the Israelis overflying inside of Iran. The picture that posted showed the Beriut Airport in the background of the photo of an Israeli F-35. Even when a country scrambles because one does an overfly, the F-35 is long gone by the time they get to altitude because even the ground control doesn't know what direction, speed of altitude they ended up at. The same goes if they choose to stay and fight. You won't know that anything is there until some of your flight goes boom in the night. And when you vector in where they fired from, they just aren't there anymore. Talk about the heebie jeebies.
 

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Still not rdy for prime-time
It's not? It flies where it wants to fly. Iran bitches about the Israelis overflying inside of Iran. The picture that posted showed the Beriut Airport in the background of the photo of an Israeli F-35. Even when a country scrambles because one does an overfly, the F-35 is long gone by the time they get to altitude because even the ground control doesn't know what direction, speed of altitude they ended up at. The same goes if they choose to stay and fight. You won't know that anything is there until some of your flight goes boom in the night. And when you vector in where they fired from, they just aren't there anymore. Talk about the heebie jeebies.
Yeah then why dont they go full production if its so combat tested
 

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Still not rdy for prime-time
It's not? It flies where it wants to fly. Iran bitches about the Israelis overflying inside of Iran. The picture that posted showed the Beriut Airport in the background of the photo of an Israeli F-35. Even when a country scrambles because one does an overfly, the F-35 is long gone by the time they get to altitude because even the ground control doesn't know what direction, speed of altitude they ended up at. The same goes if they choose to stay and fight. You won't know that anything is there until some of your flight goes boom in the night. And when you vector in where they fired from, they just aren't there anymore. Talk about the heebie jeebies.
Yeah then why dont they go full production if its so combat tested
Okay, I am going to produce a swiss Army knife. All the blades work as advertised except the cork screw. Now, it's not just any corkscrew. It's a corkscrew that requires a billion lines of code. The Corkscrew gets delayed and the Swiss Army Knife gets produced without that corkscrew. But the Military wants their fancy Corkscrew. So the corkscrew gets delayed and production is kept at a lower level. It's not stopped, it's not even slowed down. It's just not expanded. Meanwhile, everyone that is approved to buy that Swiss Army Knife can still buy them or they can wait until the fantastic corkscrew goes through combat testing. So we stay at the Mark 4 version with the Mark 4 production rate.

Does this mean that the Fantastic Swiss Army Knife isn't the best in the world? No. It still is. But like every other swiss army version, you can't ever say you are through. And much of the F-35 is being introduced into the 6th Gen fighter today. The F-22 is a 5 gen while the F-35 is a 5+ fighter.
 

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Still not rdy for prime-time
It's not? It flies where it wants to fly. Iran bitches about the Israelis overflying inside of Iran. The picture that posted showed the Beriut Airport in the background of the photo of an Israeli F-35. Even when a country scrambles because one does an overfly, the F-35 is long gone by the time they get to altitude because even the ground control doesn't know what direction, speed of altitude they ended up at. The same goes if they choose to stay and fight. You won't know that anything is there until some of your flight goes boom in the night. And when you vector in where they fired from, they just aren't there anymore. Talk about the heebie jeebies.
Yeah then why dont they go full production if its so combat tested
Okay, I am going to produce a swiss Army knife. All the blades work as advertised except the cork screw. Now, it's not just any corkscrew. It's a corkscrew that requires a billion lines of code. The Corkscrew gets delayed and the Swiss Army Knife gets produced without that corkscrew. But the Military wants their fancy Corkscrew. So the corkscrew gets delayed and production is kept at a lower level. It's not stopped, it's not even slowed down. It's just not expanded. Meanwhile, everyone that is approved to buy that Swiss Army Knife can still buy them or they can wait until the fantastic corkscrew goes through combat testing. So we stay at the Mark 4 version with the Mark 4 production rate.

Does this mean that the Fantastic Swiss Army Knife isn't the best in the world? No. It still is. But like every other swiss army version, you can't ever say you are through. And much of the F-35 is being introduced into the 6th Gen fighter today. The F-22 is a 5 gen while the F-35 is a 5+ fighter.
You see, a duck can fly, swim, run and even dive. But it do nothing of it really good. A penguin is better diver, ostrich - is better runner, a martin is better flyer.
The attempt to create a sort of the "universal plane" was doomed before it was started. F-35 is not a weapon for the fair combat. F-35 is just a ticket to the club.
 

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