Here’s the rest:
- So, if the F-35/JSF is not a 5th generation fighter, what is it then? Where does it belong? That is a very important question and needs a definition before it can be answered properly.
A fighter is a combat aircraft whose aerodynamic characteristics, sensor suite and weapon capabilities are optimised to achieve the control of the air. Fighters actively look for and engage the opponent’s fighter force. Strike aircraft generally avoid engagements with other fighters. The fighter generations concept obviously applies and is restricted to fighters. It cannot apply to bombers, strike and attack aircraft, even if sometimesthese are inaccurately termed as fighters. Where does the good old A-4 Skyhawk or the Close Air Support A-10 belong in terms of fighter generations? Where does the F-117 fit? Certainly not in the fighter generation classes. The same is true also for the F-35/JSF.
So, the inclusion of a tactical strike and attack platform in the fighter generation concept is a mistake. Simply put, the JSF is not a fighter and the two classes are not comparable. The process of designing a combat aircraft will inevitably result in a number of trade-offs. Any fighter is a compromise between aircraft manoeuvrability; high specific excess power; weapon effectiveness; highoff bore sight; IR/RF missiles; gun; combat persistence; high fuel fraction; maximum firepower; aircraft systems/sensors; human machine interface; situational understanding; helmet mounted displays; threat warning; countermeasures; good cockpit visibility.
Survivability can beachieved by means other than Low Observability. For example thanks to layered information systems; mission definable preferences;automation of routine tasks; threat prioritisation; sensor fusion and inherent safety, you are able to avoid compromising the performance and flight characteristics of the aircraft and create a weapon system that does not suffer from the same inflexibility issues that the F-35 JSF appears to have. During the first Desert Storm attack against Iraq on the 17th January 1991, only 10 stealth aircraft from a total of 658 non stealth attack aircraft successfully hit targets in Iraq and Kuwait. That night there were no losses at all. So what is the lesson learnt? Clearly if you can hide an F-117, the primary stealth bomber of that time… you can also hide a B-52! However, if any air force is going to choose just one platform, they have to make sure it is fit for purpose. The main considerations should be: forget the generation labels and instead consider requirements & capabilities. Overall, military capability must meet a nation’s needs. If you cannot have the F-22, you need something of similar air-to-aircapability to support your attack aircraft at the same time. Survivability can be achieved by means other than stealthiness. A single platform designed only for strike missions is unlikely to satisfy all combat air power requirements. Today the Typhoon is the only aircraft capable of evolving ahead of the threat and in step with maturing technology.