I think it is probably about time for Stevenson and Sprey to don their leisure suits and retire to the smoking room… and maybe put something a little stronger in the ole’ tobaccy pipe this time around.
First sight doesn’t mean you actually have to lay your eyeballs on an adversary. Just think how crappy our attack subs would be if that were an important criteria. First sight means you have to be able to identify and track an adversary and move into attack position before he can counter it or better yet, before he is even aware that you are there. That’s just what the f-35 is designed to do and it does it pretty damn well. It isn’t just its stealth, it is the fact that the plane has the most advanced flying super computer on the planet with an incredibly robust EW suite, radar, data links, sensor fusion, etc. As a recent test just proved, it doesn’t even need to fire its own missiles, it can guide ship launced SM-6's on to target from 250 miles away.
As for specific claim about visibility (as if that were actually the most important thing), the f-35 is designed so that you can look through the friggin’ plane with enhanced visual accuity. The F-35 isn’t a swiss army knife… It is a ruck sack with lots of very useful and awesome equipment in it… including a machete, a knife, some cordage, a fire starting kit, some rations, some water purification tablets, and some fishing hooks… Etc. If you were stuck in the jungle would you rather have that, or a machete. Just a machete. The answer is pretty clear.
As for the A-10… a cool plane that is pretty much obsolete. Manpads are simply too advanced and ubiquitous in modern armies at this point and the A-10’s would be decimated by them when facing any semi-competent foe. For those places without competent militaries where we tend to spend all of our time actually fighting, we can get by with something cheaper than an A-10 like an armed trainer or super tucano. Namely an asset that once we’ve done the majority of the heavy lifting we can leave behind for whatever puppet government we install and train their pilots how to use in order to give them a competent and affordable platform that’s cheap to maintain, cheap to replace, and easy to use. In the near future, the real CAS mission is going to be done by spotting drones (in constant aerial support of and likely operated by deployed ground units) coupled with precision guided artillery strikes. CAS is becoming a mission for disposable aircraft. Manned planes in a CAS profile are really going to be confined to attack and bombing missions (a subtle, but important distinction). So no, the F-35 won’t be a great CAS plane… but it isn’t likely that any other plane can do any better at an acceptable loss rate.
As for the F-16 vs. F-22 why don’t you ask the F-16 pilot which plane he would rather be in?