Aviation Week & Space Technology

Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 1

Jul 20, 2017

Pentagon Editor Lara Seligman leads a debate about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with two seasoned experts – retired Marine Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B and F-22 pilot and Pierre Sprey, who helped conceptualize the design of the F-16 and A-10 fighters. In this episode, they discuss whether the F-35 can fight in combat as advertised.

Listen to Part II: F-35 in the Crossfire

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Discuss this Video 93

on Jul 24, 2017

Sorry, but Col Berke wiped the floor with Sprey, who didn't design the F16 or anything else. He's never flown fighters, or any airplane as far as I can tell.

Berke brings the perspective of a Topgun Grad and Instructor, and flew Combat in the F18. He flew the F16N at Topgun, the F22 and was an F35 CO. He was also a USMC Ground FAC. I've never heard of such a broad operational career.

Listen to both parts, the second is even more revealing.

on Jul 21, 2017

Lockheed, JSF/JPO and Air Force Leadership Lied to POTUS. F-22, F-35, B-2, are all worthless and needs to be Cancelled! The only STEALTH platform was the F-117 that was retired to Davis-Mothan AFB Boneyard back in November 2008 because it was SHOT Down during the Yugoslavian Campaign. Pieces of the F-117 was exploited by Russian and China that allows them to Track Stealth Platforms. At that Point in 1998 the F-35 Should have been CANCELED. Since then IRST and other types of Infrared systems can (Find, Fix, Track, Target and Engage, ((F2T2EA)) each of these platforms and shoot them down utilizing Ground to Air or Air-Air CONOPS.
The POTUS needs to FIRE all Air Force Senior Leadership and hire WARRIORS in the Ranks. We have been lied to for over 20 years and are spending Billions and Trillions based complete bogus information. The entire Senior Leadership at the DoD needs to be FIRED by the POTUS. POTUS needs to STOP all prior Admiral and Generals from being Lobbyist or providing Acquisition information to any prime integrator or information biases following retirement except without permission of the POTUS.
These Retired General officers promote their Friends then go to work for a Major Integrator (LMCO) then go back to lobby the people they promoted. This is absurd and exactly why Wall Street and Feds, Big Pharma and FDA, Healthcare and Insurance. A Joke.
STEALTH IS DEAD, IRST, S-400, S-400 and other advisory Radar and Infrared Tracking. We are setting ourselves up for defeat while spending TRILLIONS FOR NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!

on Jul 21, 2017

Very strong comments. I have to agree on certain points. Stealth is dead. The platform themselves, however, are very good. Maneuverability are top notch in the hands of a competent pilot. The F-22 is so unbeatable on a dogfight. Given that, I still think the A-10 is still head and shoulders one of the best, purpose built aircraft ever built, right next to the Ç-130. Just my opinion.

on Jul 21, 2017

How many hours of combat time do you have this week? 8,000 or 10,000. Same tired arguments everytime the F-35 comes up. I wish AW&ST had an ignore button to hide this crap.

on Jul 21, 2017

After trying to decipher a couple of his incomplete sentences, I had to check again to make sure there wasn't a block or ignore user button somewhere that I'd missed. Shouting something over and over is no substitute for actually having some information to support your opinions.

on Jul 21, 2017

Maps Onburt. Then ignore & move on...pretty simple...click!

on Jul 21, 2017

"F-22, F-35, B-2, are all worthless and needs to be Cancelled!"

F-22 and B-2 production already ended years ago. Someone else pointed that out to you yesterday. Go back to your flight sims.

on Jul 22, 2017

Manned aircraft are in a death spiral and not just with stealth. In the 21st century swarms of UCAVs and smart missiles will predominate both in offense and defense. The human is just along for the ride at best, and an expensive handicap for the most part. Satellites, robots, missiles. The human is the weakest link.

on Jul 21, 2017

Why do people keep talking to Pierre Sprey? He was completely wrong about the F-22 and is shaping up to be completely wrong about the F-35.

on Jul 22, 2017

Sprey was the guy who hated the F15, said it was full of useless technology, too heavy, unmaneuverable. Same tripe you heard during this debate. He counts on everyone forgetting is comments about the F15 versus it's unequaled combat performance of over 100 kills with no losses.

None of the kiddies yelling about F35 don't know what they don't know. None of the analysts commenting about F35 don't know what they don't know. None of the Aviation Journals know what they don't know. You are seeing dweebs and enthusiasts insisting that they know more than the combat experiences pilots are telling us. Berke is in a unique position of massive experience and impeccable integrity.

Sprey looked very, very small and irrelevant in the discussion.

on Jul 21, 2017

In my opinion Pierre Sprey won the debate. He gave a more realistic assessment of the severe problems of the multi-mission F-35 aircraft.
As an example of the problems in developing the F-35, although the first flight was in the year 2006 the F-35 is still not qualified to operate with a single weapon. A fighter aircraft that is not qualified to use weapons is useless. The F-35 has not even completed store separation of any of its weapons.

on Jul 21, 2017

That is incorrect. The F-35A and F-35B are both IOC and are cleared to fire the AIM-120C and drop the GBU-31. Maybe a couple other JDAMs. I forget.

on Jul 21, 2017

It has completed store separation tests. It is qualified to drop a few bombs and LM is finally working on qualifying the first batch of the rest. I assume that this is the 3F software test.

We saw an image recently of an F-35 firing a sidewinder upside down. Which is of course useless since the AIM-9X likes Russian flares better than Russian aircraft.

on Jul 25, 2017

Wrong. It has achieved initial operational capability. It's capable of firing the Amraam. Stupid.

on Jul 21, 2017

You think the USA has problems' the UK's latest, largest and most expensive aircraft carrier has no aircraft and will be using US Marine's F-35 aircraft and pilots. This is with the UK's national dept approaching two trillion!

on Jul 21, 2017

Sprey is simply not a credible witness. Clever and calculating , yes. But no seasoned judge would accept his testimony.

on Jul 21, 2017

Do you speak for "seasoned judges"? No judge in my experience would weigh anyone's evidence until it was presented. Maybe your judges are different.

on Jul 25, 2017

Sprey is a one note Charlie, wrong every time for 40 years.

on Jul 21, 2017

Mr. Wolkerstorfer is either a troll, or in urgent need of civil commitment.

on Jul 21, 2017

Nah. People like him can wander the street ranting to themselves about how the S400, the S400 and various other weapons can shoot down stealth aircraft without harming anyone.

As long as he still knows how to feed and bathe himself and doesn't attack anyone, there's no real need to lock him up.

For all we know, he holds down a productive job doing something like collecting tolls on a toll road somewhere.

on Jul 22, 2017

No way. He's been unemployed ever since toll-takers got replaced by robots. Now he just sprays invective.

on Jul 21, 2017

What we learned from Regan's SDI is that the faster Russia falls behind, the noisier and more panicky its mouthpieces become. We witness the same thing here, with plaintive foreign voices virtually begging America to halt the F35 program.

on Jul 21, 2017

You seem to say that any criticism of a new weapons program is a kind of treason.... "Helpin' them Russkies!". Well, is a cult-like devotion to new weapons, regardless of their faults, then tantamount to shilling for the MIC?

on Jul 25, 2017

You should try reading before responding .

on Jul 21, 2017

Any article or writer who gives any credence to Pierre Sprey is simply not worth paying any attention to. Pierre Sprey is a fake, a phoney.

He didn't design the F-16 nor the A-10. He has consistently exaggerated his role in the field of aircraft design, he is a statistician not an engineer.

He hated the F-15, the claims he now makes about the F-35 were first made about the Eagle. It was too expensive, too big, to complicated etc. It has a 100-0 kill ratio, proving how wrong he was.

He did not want the F-16 to have a radar. He wanted it armed with only a cannon and short range IR missiles. The modern F-16 is the antithesis of what he wanted and it is a highly successful aircraft in spite of Sprey not because of Sprey.

His ideas on the capabilities of medium and long range radar guided missiles are at least 30 years out of date. He seems to think we're still using Vietnam era AIM-7's.

I believe he is a dangerous man. He keeps spouting his outdated disinformation and people keep buying it. It is worthy to note that he is now in the music recording business because his opinion on aircraft design is not considered worthwhile by anyone who knows anything about modern combat aircraft.

on Jul 21, 2017

The F-15 was in its time known as the Hangar Queen. It took a lot of effort to make it what it is today.

What people forget is that the F-15, F-16 and the Hornet variety of the F-18 have really old avionics. It is the Antiques Roadshow. That is probably why the F-35 gets so good reviews from pilots. Never mind that it is not allowed to carry weapons when flying supersonic.

Let's see what happens when you saturate the airwaves with jammers and the AWACS can't fly anywhere close to the combat area. Then we will see that ALL single seat aircraft will loose situational awareness.

There is an image somewhere of a Growler with a F-22 kill painted on the side. Guess what that says about the value of stealth in an electronic warfare environment.

on Jul 21, 2017

Tarjei:
Having been involved with all the platforms you mentioned; F-16, F-16, all versions of F/A-18, (not to mention F-22 and F-35) I can state for a fact that all have had continuous avionics upgrades over time and by-and-large have better sensor performance than most of the worlds airforces.
What F-35 primarily IMO brings to the table is a new airframe, front aspect stealth, and situational awareness. All good things.
The real question is, at what cost?

on Jul 21, 2017

Tarjei

The avionics on (lets say) one of those new Saudi Eagles are arguably on par (if not outright more capable) with the latest LM birds.

on Jul 22, 2017

I wish we would put more effort into the likes of an X47B rendering all of this talk of the F35 vs. its predecessors moot....

on Jul 25, 2017

You have a lot of crazy ideas. The growler with the F-22 flag on its cockpit got it because the F-22 has been in simulated dogfights with literally thousands of opponents and a few have achieved simulated kills . The F-22's win-loss ratio is well in excess of 20 to 1. You have no idea what you're talking about.

Your comment about the AIM9x and Russian flares is particularly stupid. You have no idea what you're talking about. Go back to your video games.

on Jul 21, 2017

He does not need any credibility of his own to discredit F-35. Apparently, there are already some number of official reports that discredits what the developers and fanboy test pilots of F35 has to say. Spray simply reminded audience of what these reports say.

On the other hand, the retired pilot comes across like a teenager without any actual thoughts of himself. If the newer generation of US officers are of this caliber, they don't stand a chance against an enemy who actually can think in terms of abstract concepts.

on Jul 22, 2017

That is typical of those who have no experience in fighter cockpits, and who have never been tasked with a mission. They attempt, just as Sprey did, to impugn the character of those who have been there and done that.

Berke's qualifications and integrity are unassailable, and anyone who tries to impugn him is a brave from a distance coward.

He is quite easy to find. Maybe you should look him up, arrange a meeting, and tell him that he is wrong.

on Jul 21, 2017

ctrot35: Agree with most of what you say.
The lightweight fighter concept has been nulled by history.
USAF is largely an expeditionary air force and as such needs aircraft where range is a primary consideration. The F-15 has been the #1 fighter in the world for decades due primarily to range, loiter time, and sensor performance (large airframe allows better radar, etc).
In all the recent wars (GW I, GW II, Afghanistan, etc) which USAF fighter was the first on the scene, which one was the preferred platform? F-15.
The lightweight fighter (F-16) has over time tried to morph into something better but has been hamstrung by its basic airframe size.

on Jul 21, 2017

F35 definitely cannot dogfight. Just looking at the curves of the plane, one sees it has a much too high air resistance coefficient. So we can only hope the other functions e.g. radar, beyond visual, interception, precision bombing, emc, reconnaissance e.a. are all at level. I have serious doubts. This is an expensive lobby plane. This is not a fighter plane at all.

on Jul 21, 2017

chesini
What is a dogfight these days? With modern missiles, I doubt any fighter pilot will even see their opponent. Drones look like the logical next step in combat aircraft design....putting pilots at risk, especially in museum pieces like the A-10, is unjustified.

on Jul 21, 2017

How many times have we heard that dogfighting is obsolete? That it's all pushbutton warfare with electronics and missiles now? We paid for this nonsense in blood and treasure in Vietnam, where $2 million dollar F-4s littered the Vietnamese countryside at the hands of a gomer in a subsonic MiG-17 armed only with canons.

Electronics can be fooled. Missiles miss. A LOT. Our first missile fired in Syria at the Su-22 missed. And it was the latest and greatest, an AIM-9X.

If you can't dogfight, you cede air superiority. Period. FIGHTERS HAVE TO BE ABLE TO DOGFIGHT.

on Jul 21, 2017

des
Vietnam was half a century ago...modern sensor suites are very effective. Anyone trying to get close enough for a cannon kill in a modern war is going to walk back to base, if they're lucky. Drones are the future, like the X-47.

on Jul 21, 2017

Des is right that mistakes were made in the Vietnam era, but there has Ben a fair amount of air combat flown in the over 45 years since that war ended and I'm struggling to think of a dogfight flown in the last 35 years.

Someone help me out. When was the last time a US fighter engaged in a dogfight or used a cannon against another aircraft that was in the air (strafing a plane on the ground doesn't count)?

**Edited because autocorrect blows.

on Jul 21, 2017

You seem to indicate that it's not a dogfight unless guns are used. But most dogfighting uses heat seakers up close since Vietnam. We haven't used guns in a dogfight in awhile, but we've had lots of dogfights with AIM-9s since the 80's. Two incidents with F-14's vs the Libyans in the 80's, several post-Gulf War shootdowns in the no-fly zone, and at least one Balkans incident where an F-16 splashed a Serbian aircraft up close. None of this is including all of the dogfights of the Gulf War, where F-18's and F-15's both made close-in Sidewinder kills. All of these were in visual range, not BVR.

Speaking of the Gulf War, referencing my earlier point that missiles miss in combat a lot, in one particular engagement, a pair of F-15's fired a total of 10 missiles in pursuit of Iraqi MiG's... mostly AIM-7's.... and all of them missed, with the MiG's getting away. You gotta be able to get in close and kill them. That's dogfighting, whether by heat seeker or by gun.

on Jul 21, 2017

des
IMO your idea of the need for dogfighting is based on past ROE and past tactics and political situations. I could be wrong, but I recall that visual ID is no longer required in most cases.
In addition to the sidewinder kills you mentioned there have been a number of AMRAAM kills as well at varying ranges, dating to 1992.
Please don't compare AIM-120 to AIM-7.
That's like comparing an F-4 to an F-22. Time marches on and technology marches on.
And any discussion of missile Pk has to include firing aspect. Chasing someone out of a no-fly zone with a long range tail shot is the very definition of low Pk and it's an unfair comparison.

on Jul 22, 2017

None of your comments on "dog fight" scenarios are correct.

on Jul 21, 2017

123dcp the more correct question is who has the US fought that had the capability and will to dogfight in the last 35 years? No one. Iraq, nope - they all ran away the first night of GW I. Afghanistan - did not have an air force. Same with the Serbs and Libya. The Isreali on the other hand has seen a lot of air to air combat in that time, and they have used both missiles and guns in dogfights flying everything from F-4's to F-15/16. So yes dogfights can occur when an opponent believes that they have a chance against you. Until the F-35 proves it can dogfight, no one is going to run from it. more importantly, if an enemy believes his only chance is to close with and get into a turning fight with an F-35, the chances are even greater for a dogfight.

on Jul 25, 2017

Actually, quite a few Iraqi birds tried to engage us aircraft but almost all were shot down without success. Then the survivors started to run. But that was later. The Serbs tried it with minimal success too.

on Jul 21, 2017

Modern countermeasures are very effective. The AIM-9X likes Russian flares. The AMRAAM has a BWR kill probability of 7%. If you add jamming, it could be 0%

on Jul 25, 2017

Lol. Stupid Russian fanboy nonsense. Bet your life on it, idiot. : )

on Jul 22, 2017

100% agree. The X47B is the way to go. it uses a well developed engine, and doesn't have the biggest limiting factor when it comes to maneuverability- the pilot.

on Jul 23, 2017

Move on... the X47B isn't the answer to every question!!! You must have it tattoo'd on your entire family and your forehead.

on Jul 21, 2017

What is a dogfight these days? With modern missiles, I doubt any fighter pilot will even see their opponent.

That's exactly what they told us when we deployed to Vietnam with the F4B! Boy were they wrong!

on Jul 21, 2017

The JSF is rife with tradeoffs that start from the genesis of the idea - The same aircraft design to withstand G-Forces for aircraft that must land and take off on pavement must also support aircraft that must land on a pitching aircraft carrier with tail hook based deceleration, and catapult assisted takeoffs. The idea was initially based on saving acquisition costs for all the military Services but winds up costing significantly more and offering less than if these were separate designs. Targeted narrow designs are always more effective than broad based solutions to a family of problems.

on Jul 21, 2017

Prakash, would you consider the F-4 Phantom II an exception to your contention that a pan-service aircraft is not an effective approach? I am not a historian of aircraft, but perhaps there is at least this one example that "proves" your rule?

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