8 Reasons Why The F-35 Lightning II Is Misunderstood And Underrated

The F-35 is a worthy successor to its forebears and is single-handedly making the United States’ power projection much more potent.

The F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter jet is hands down one of the most capable planes ever built. Developing all new technology is always a lengthy and costly endeavor, and the F-35 has taken some 27 years to develop.

The F-35 is the most expensive weapon system ever developed by America — which makes it the most expensive in history. But the F-35 has become something of a wiping boy in the media, with so many news outlets claiming it underperforms and should be canceled.

Here are the reasons why the F-35 Lightning II is misunderstood, picked on, and underrated in the media.

8. Jack Of All Trades

The F-35 Lightning II was designed to be a jack of all trades. A single platform for the Marine Corp, the Navy, and the Air Force. This has made it very expensive as perhaps it did bite off too much. But still being the one platform with its three variants, the cost of that needs to be measured up against the cost of building three separate aircraft.

Designing one plane to be able to fulfill all these requirements as well as the vertical take-off and landings for the carriers was a very ambitious undertaking. And it has succeeded in fulling all these capabilities. It was meant to save money on designing three separate aircraft, that part of the planning may have failed, but it is still an extremely capable fighter.

7. Export Aircraft

Unlike the F-22 Raptor, which is only for the United States Air Force, the F-35 is available for export to all the United States’ allies. This export means that much of the cost of developing the aircraft is shared with other countries around the world.

The F-22 Raptor program was killed by its huge costs and its limiting single-use as an air superiority fighter — a role in which it excels and quite likely is unrivaled in the world today.

6. Vertical Take-Off And Landing

The Sea Harrier was always extremely dangerous and difficult to take off and land vertically, with the pilot having to make a lot of adjustments manually. Boeing’s demonstrator, the X-32, didn’t improve much on the Sea Harrier’s design. But the F-35 did. It used advanced and a resigned configuration that made it much safer and easier to operate.

Compared to the (completely awesome by the way) older Sea Harrier it is replacing and Boeing’s counter bid, the experimental Boeing X-32, the F-35 (or X-35 as it was then called) was much better at vertical take-off and landing.

5. Capable Of Both Vertical Landings And Supersonic Flight

The F-35 is capable of both supersonic flight and vertical landings. This was exactly what the planners were looking for. The Boeing X-32 by contrast produced two aircraft, with one capable of supersonic flight and the other of vertical landings.

In short, the F-35 won the competition in the first place because it was the more capable aircraft. Those capabilities have of course proven both difficult and expensive. The F-35 has a much greater take-off weight and generates much more thrust than the Sea Harrier. This was the weakness of the Sea Harrier, its thrust was very limited and therefore the weapons it could carry.

4. Many Pilots Praised The F-35

The F-35 has become a favorite whipping boy of the media and many of the news stories reported have only reported on the perceived shortcomings of the aircraft.

But there have been many pilots around the world utterly praising the F-35 and its incredible performance, but these have largely gone unreported.

3. Media Claimed It Underperformed In Simulations

The media claimed that the F-35 failed in simulations and even proved inferior to current fourth-generation fighter jets. However, the media misread and overplayed the simulations. For example, the pilot hadn’t been trained properly to effectively fight with the F-35.

Other media claimed that the F-35 is less maneuverable than other fighter jets like the MiG-29. However, the F-35 is a stealthy plane. It may not perform admirably in a classic dogfight, but that’s not what it is designed for. It is designed to be stealthy and engage and destroy the MiG-29 with its super-advanced avionics long before the MiG-29 even knew a fight was coming.

2. It Has Performed Incredibly In Simulations

Since the pilots have been retrained in flying this fifth-generation fighter and have moved away from the fourth-generation training that they were used to, the F-35 has performed very well in simulations.

There are reports it has achieved impressive kill to death ratios of an impressive 21:1 as the pilots are now playing to its strengths.

1. US Building A Cheaper Fighter

The US Air Force has said recently that it is going to develop a cheaper, less capable airplane than the F-35. The media around the world jumped on this and said, “the U.S. Air Force just admitted the F-35 stealth fighter has failed.”

But this is a hyperbolic reaction. The F-35 has not failed. Requirements are constantly changing, and the US still needs the advanced abilities of the F-35. It is common around the world to have a premium version and a cheaper version. Think of the Soviet T-72 and T-80 tanks or the British Type 26 and Type 31 frigates.

In summary, the F-35 is a worthy successor to its forebears and even if it doesn’t fulfill all the original intended roles it was meant for, it is still single-handedly making the US’s power projection much more potent.