Fighter Pilots Can’t Fight If They Can’t See
War Is Boring

Gotta be a little careful with this author. He’s clearly a member of the fighter mafia, with all of the good and bad baggage that comes with it. Some of it is solid — I would agree with him about the problems of not having self-sealing fuel tanks, something that has been standard on combat aircraft since WWII.

OTOH, some of his claims are suspect since they are supplied without context. “…an F-16 killed an F-22 within 20 minutes.” This in particular caught my eye. 20 minutes is an aeon in ACM. Most engagements are over in under 60 seconds.

How many F-16’s were killed before the first F-16 killed a F-35? If the F- 35’s killed 20 F-16’s before the first F-16 killed a F-35, is that a bad result for the F-35?

Was the F-16’s kill just luck? To allow for reasonable training without all kinds of shenanigans, ACM training flights generally use some sort of kill removal rule. Once an aircraft is “killed”, the pilot must fly to a particular point (e.g., home airfield) or for a fixed length of time, then he can return to the fight. It’s like an infinite supply of enemies in a video game. Maybe the F-16 was killed and the kill removal timer expired when an F-35 was directly in front of him.

Stevenson also harps on the bomber box debate from WWII. Low observable tech is in some ways similarly hyped, but LO has been in use for a couple of decades now and is a lot better understood than bomber defensive firepower was back then. LO means that the F-35 can operate in areas that would be a no-go for A-10’s due to air defenses.

The visibility argument is generally good, but Stevenson doesn’t mention the F-35’s ace in the hole, the Electro-Optical Targeting System. With this in place, you don’t need direct downward-looking visibility from the cockpit. The EOTS opens up a whole new set of capabilities over the base A-10. During Desert Storm, A-10’s were badly handicapped because they lacked night/all-weather attack capability. IIR Maverick missiles were used as poor-man’s targeting pods instead, despite the narrow FOV. Current A-10’s can use LITENING or Sniper pods, but add-on pods have their own disadvantages.

Overall this article is a decent read, but I have to wonder about what axes the author is grinding. He sure leaves out a lot of pertinent information.