This is definitely a pickle that the US Government has gotten itself into through nothing more than sheer stupidity. Have they not learned NEVER to trust something that some corporate salesman says? This whole premise of “one fighter to do everything better than everything else” isn’t possible when using stealth because you already have to make a ton of compromises for the stealth before getting into anything else.
If the US wanted a one-plane-does-all solution, the use of stealth and the STOVL capabilities make it impossible. Saab did a great job with the Gripen as a one-plane-does-all solution by making it primarily an A2A fighter with ground attack capability. Let’s face it, hitting an immobile ground target is not really as difficult as engaging an enemy fighter in A2A combat. That’s why ground missions aren’t really combat missions. The ground targets don’t hit back.
What Lockheed-Martin did was create a plane that was supposed to be the light bomber version of the F-22. It was never supposed to fly without F-22 escort and it DEFINITELY wasn’t supposed to engage in aerial combat. What I think happened is that the costs became too much for the US to bear.
Lockheed sucked way too much money out of the contract for its own use and the US is trying to get its allies to help shoulder the cost. They’re doing this by marketing the plane as a multirole fighter aircraft which it is NOT. They’re doing the same thing with the Super Hornet as it also can’t fight its way out of a paper bag.
RAND did a study of how the Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet, Lockheed F-22 Raptor, Lockheed F-35 Lightning II and Saab JAS-39E would fare against the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Super Flanker in aerial combat. Here’s a quote from Australian analyst David Archibald’s submission to the Australian parliament:
“Another restriction is a limit of Mach 0.8–0.9 at low altitude because the F-35 cannot dissipate its heat. Its competitors are limited to about Mach 1.2 at low altitude, so if there is a low-altitude engagement, ‘can’t run’ becomes a serious threat to its survival. In fact in battle simulations of the F-35 against the Su-35, 2.4 F-35s are lost for each Su-35 shot down. Pitting the Gripen against the Su-35 results in 1.6 of the Sukhois shot down for each Gripen lost. The loss exchange ratio of the Gripen against the F-35 is breathtaking. For each Gripen lost in a Gripen-on-F-35 exchange, 21 F-35s are shot down.”
Keep in mind that the F-35 costs about triple the price of the Gripen-E to buy and about quadruple the cost per flight hour.
It only gets worse for the F/A-18E:
“If the RAAF persists in buying F-18 Super Hornets in response to continuing delay in the F-35 program, the Indonesian Su-35s will slaughter the Australian F-18 Super Hornets at the rate of eight F-18 Super Hornets shot down for each Su-35 lost.”
We’ve hit a point in time that I knew would arrive sooner or later. With the USA’s relatively “laissez-faire” attitude towards industrial capitalism, the innate corruption in that system has weakened it as a country. Coupled with that is a neo-fascist level of national pride and arrogance that makes Americans believe that the US makes the best military aircraft in the world.
Unfortunately, right now, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Right now, the Western Europeans make the best fighters, followed by the Russians, then the Chinese and THEN the USA. Yes folks, by being overly ambitious with designs like the F-22 which is too expensive to use, the F-35 which just plain doesn’t work and by holding on to old designs like the F-15SE, F-16V and F/A18-E like the pushrod engine, the USA has found itself in last place.
If nothing changes, the USA will find itself in last place for a very long time. At this point, the USA will be dead last for at least the next forty to fifty years because political corruption in the US is so focused on giving more and more taxpayer money to large corporations while ignorant government officials give the green light on pretty much anything, working or not, as long as the payoff for them is big enough.