There is a growing belief in Russia that it could finally find a chink in the armor of the US’ ‘most advanced’ F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, which relies heavily on its stealth technology.
For decades, the US and Russia have produced the world’s most reliable and advanced fighter jets. While Russian aerospace firms like Mikoyan (MiG) and Sukhoi are trust-worthy brands, the US companies such as Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman have fielded advanced fighters for the country and its allies.
One such fighter is the fifth-generation F-35 stealth, arguably the most sought-after fighter jet in the world.
Developed after the F-22 Raptors, the single-seat, single-engine, all-weather multirole F-35 fighter is already in service with nine countries and boasts the ability to perform an array of roles, including air superiority and strike missions.
The stealthy jets that have been used by countries such as Israel, the UK, and few others, are part of the most expensive program in the world, costing taxpayers over $1 trillion over its 60-year lifespan.
Despite the astronomical costs involved, there are still many takers for the fighter jet — with the UAE being one of them.
However, a Russian military expert told state-owned Sputnik news agency, that the F-35 fighters remain too expensive and complicated.
Drozdenko says that the fighters, despite their advanced features, are plagued by technical problems that hamper the overall performance of the jets.
“The F-35 is a very complex system and, as such, it has lots of holes, bugs and other things, and it is very difficult to debug it. Like other problems, all this is because it is an excessively high-tech aircraft.” Dmitry Drozdenko told Sputnik News.
It’s true that since its inception, the F-35 has indeed been plagued with problems. Earlier this year, the Pentagon’s testing office revealed that F-35 continued to be marred by 871 software and hardware deficiencies, which invariably could undercut its readiness, missions, or maintenance in the future.
However, despite its flaws, the jets continue to enjoy strong support from its overseas clients as well as the US Congress. The most attractive feature of the aircraft is the stealth technology that helps it evade enemy radars and launch surprise attacks instead.
It is the most advanced technology and said to be qualitatively superior to the ones used in modern combat fighters such as the F-22 Raptors, Chinese J-20s, and even Russia’s Su-57 fighters.
Also termed as low observable technology (LO technology), stealth is a part of the military tactic to make fighter jets, ships, submarines, missiles, satellites as well as ground vehicles less visible or almost invisible to radar, infrared, sonar, and other detection methods.
The F-35s and F-22 Raptors are designed in a manner in order to reduce their radar cross-section (RCS), which is the electromagnetic signature of the object.
This is what makes these jets so different from others, as they can take advantage of the minutes or seconds that they are not detected by the enemy aircraft.
However, according to Drozdenko, the American fighter jets rely too much on stealth, which could become obsolete in the future.
“Unlike us, the Americans rely too much on stealth. However, radar technology is developing fast and invisibility is no longer a sure-fire guarantor of air supremacy,” said Drozdenko.
According to Drozdenko, a fighter’s dogfighting ability could yet again be the factor that decides the fate of an aerial duel between the most advanced of aircraft.
“Dogfights haven’t gone anywhere. They will fire from a distance the first day, but a couple of days later, we’ll be flying like we always did before,” said Drozdenko.
One such fighter which could give the F-35 a run for its money in a dogfight is the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter.
Unlike the fifth-generation F-35 fighter, the Su-35 is a real 4 ++ generation fighter; and the only thing that puts it in the fourth generation is its lack of stealth technology.
The F-35 may well be armed with ultra-modern technology and avionics, however, the Su-35s speed and maneuverability stand far superior to the American jet.
Since the stealth technology makes the F-35s becomes invisible to radar, the Su-35 can’t detect it from the air (it is possible to detect it from the ground), giving the Russian fighter a short reaction time.
However, the Su-35’s speed, maneuverability, combined with the capabilities of the pilot flying it can compensate for the lack of time.
Moreover, in an aerial dogfight, the F-35 fighter lacks the formidable maneuverability of even a Raptor or an F-16, making it a perfect prey for the Russian Su-35 fighter.