F-35A Debuts Dogfight Capabilities at Paris Air Show (video)

By Faye Higbee

Critics of the F-35A Lightning II had doubts that it could perform in a dogfight. So Lockheed Martin sent the plane to the Paris Air Show on June 19, 2017. According to the test pilot, Alan Norman, it accomplished things other jets could not do. The 5th generation aircraft should be able to do even more after a software upgrade to its G-force envelope.

“Most likely that [Russian-made] Su-35 you see performing at an air show has been cleaned off; it is in an air show profile. So probably doesn’t have any pylons, doesn’t have any weapons, it is in a configuration that will not fight in combat. The F-35 in its configuration is how it will fight in combat. It carries weapons internally; it would fly just the way it was flying in this demo if it was out there fighting an SU-35.” Alan Norman

This is a 5th generation fighter. Originally it could only handle 3 G, which made pilots nervous about its capabilities. The plane at the Paris show was restricted to 7 G. But with the addition of a new software (3F) it should be able to handle 9 G, according to Alan Norman.

The F-22 was designed for close air combat, but the F-35A was not. It was specifically designed for close air support and ordnance missions. But Lockheed-Martin created the jet with a stealth profile that makes it difficult to see.

“If you see it up there, if that airplane impresses you, just imagine the real special part of an F-35 is what you’ll never ever see out there. It’s like fighting Mr. Invisible.” Billie Flynn, Lockheed test pilot

The F-35A plane’s demonstration at the Air Show laid to rest many of the criticisms of the aircraft for dogfighting. Lockheed Martin plans to sell 440 of the aircraft worth $37 Billion to 11 countries, including the United States.

Hypoxia episodes

But there have been concerns of a more personal nature: five instances of physiological oxygen problems (hypoxia) grounded the flights for a period of 11 days.

The flights of the F-35A are set to resume after scrutiny by engineers and officials failed to locate a problem.

Pilots at the Strike fighter Wing 37 have been authorized to wear an over-the-counter Garmin wristwatch that has a built in altimeter and barometric sensors that can be set to sound an alarm when certain thresholds are reached.

“Five criteria are temporarily applied to local flights as technical and human performance data continues to be gathered:
1. Avoid the altitudes in which all five physiological events occurred.
2. Modify ground procedures to mitigate physiological risks to pilots.
3. Expand physiological training to increase understanding between pilot and medical communities.
4. Increase minimum levels for backup oxygen systems for each flight.
5. Offer pilots the option of wearing sensors during flight to collect airborne human performance data.” F-35 website