Saturday, July 18, 2015

The F-35 Does Win in Air Combat. A Game Says So.

Over at War is Boring there's a new item about how Lockheed's immensely flawed F-35 will handily trounce an opposing force of Russia's pretty amazing Su-35s.

Apparently there's a computer game you can buy to run this simulation yourself and you can expect consistent results, time after time.  Lockheed's wunder plane - overdue, overpriced and underperforming - can wax those Russkie's tails every time.

Unfortunately the fellow who wrote the piece, Tim Robinson, overlooked how contrived the scenario had to be to achieve this remarkable turnaround.

For starters, the American force outnumbered the Russians.  It was four Su-35 Sukhois versus four F-35 strike fighters plus supporting electronic warfare aircraft such as AWACS, RC-135 Rivet Joint and, of course, the small armada of tankers that would be needed to support that force.

Folks, it only gets better.  It turns out those four F-35s are loaded for bear and nothing else.  Each has its two weapon bays stuffed with a pair of British MDMB Meteor air to air missiles, leaving room for nothing else.

In other words, you take the hours required to assemble this package of fighters, tankers and electronic warfare aircraft, launch them from several air bases, get them all formed up somehow knowing that you'll arrive at this time and point in space where you'll find four Russian Su-35s just waiting for you to shoot them down.

This might be plausible if it was the Russians entering our airspace to attack and giving us all the time in the world to assemble and coordinate that defensive armada but that is, of itself, implausible.

It's just as implausible if it is an American aerial armada going into Russian airspace.  That's because those tankers and support aircraft are slow and anything but stealthy.  They would easily be detected at very long ranges by even basic Russian air defence radars.  And, while those American F-35s are supposedly engaged in defeating those Russian Su-35s, the Russians would have a very nice greeting party en route for those big, lumbering converted 60s jetliners in the form of even more fighters and Russia's world-beating long range surface to air missiles.

Which would put those American F-35s in a bind. Do they proceed toward the Russian Su-35s, hoping their giant electronic warfare planes survive long enough for them to launch those Meteor missiles or do they turn and hightail it back to defend their defenceless flying lifelines?  Of course once those F-35s begin turning they're no longer stealthy and can be easily picked off by the Russian fighters, each armed with 10-long range and effective missiles.  Decisions, decisions.

And even if, for the sake of argument, those F-35s expended their missile loads to successfully take out those Russian fighters, how do they and their tankers and electronic warfare aircraft get out?  That's what you could call the "dead meat" segment of the F-35's mission profile.  It doesn't have much fuel.  It doesn't have supercruise (way too much drag for that).  So it can't go fast without fuel-guzzling afterburner which means it can't go very fast very far.  Those are limitations the Russians don't have.  Their Su-35 carries loads of fuel.  It has supercruise.  It can go very fast for very long distances, long enough to run down a bunch of fleeing American F-35s fresh out of missiles and fast running out of fuel.

This simulation reminds me of one of those American anti-ballistic missile missle tests where the target flies a predetermined course and all the parameters are preloaded into the test missile.  Miracle of miracles, every now and then one of them actually intercepts the target.

Reminds me of what my beloved, late Uncle Shy used to say: "Don't eat that, Charlie, it's horse shit."


ThinkingManNeil said...

Probably the same dumb ass game that has the dumb ass F-35 doing a dumb ass backflip. I don't know how many times I've had to tell how many people that this is from a video game and not real footage...


The Mound of Sound said...

It's a full court press for Lockheed's and the Pentagon's PR team, Neil. I read this entire article and I kept thinking "why would the Russians do that and what about this or that?" It was a horribly skewed premise crafted to produce a skewed result. Gee, I hope the Russians are that stupid but I wouldn't count on it.