Stealth Fighter Vulnerabilities

With the horrific F-35 coming out in about 5 years, can anyone else point out that Stealth has some very bad weaknesses such as VHF and Heatmapping? This aircraft violates the principle of Occam's Razor.

I don't know about violating Occam's Razor, if you ask me not letting your opponent know you're in the sky is the simplest way not to get shot down.. but that's just me.

As for vulnerabilities, I recently read this (incredibly poorly written) article about F-22's in combat exercises finding themselves open to attack from previous generation fighters such as the eurofighter and rafael.


I think this line of thinking misses the point though.  The F-22 isn't meant to be a dogfighter.  Sure maneuverability was a large part of why it was chosen over the YF-23, but the main goal of these fighters was to be fast and stealthy.

The F-35 is a whole other kettle of fish though.  I fully agree that it's a rubbish plane and will get its ass handed to it by just about anything that comes it's way.  Notably the Russian PAK FA nearing readiness soon.

I too should repost my coments here, suffice to say the F35 itself as a plane and the concept are both flawed, and the plane itself interestingly enough has it's roots in a failed USSR plane which Lockhead entered into a partnership with it's designers.

The implications of 'stealth', and the the claimed 'stealth' capabilitiefs of the F35 are also both overstated, due largely to the intersting mathematical implication that RCS and detection range does not scale linearly, which gives a gross misrepresentation of how 'invisible' these planes actually are, when they reference frontal rcs figures for Xband radar, and compare them to foreign planes.

Furthermore the F35 actually does not have very good low-frequency stealth characteristics, which is important as it is very large, and extremely powerful (we are talking in some cases the size of large buildings, or kilometers of large radar stations) early-warning, ground based radar sensors use these frequencies. Additionally most Russian/Chinese SAM systems use very powerful low frequency radar systems. Additionally Major powers integrate EWACS planes with very powerful radar into their defense systems, which I have no doubt can detect these planes from very far away, co-ordinate their interception, and assist in guiding missiles onto them.

Meaning that the advantage of their stealth is minimized to a marginally better detection range vs other planes, although this can in-turn be offset to a degree, using targeting data from supporting Low-frequency radar, and through Electronic warfare, to jam links of BVRM missiles. F18 growlers have allegedly defeated F22s in combat by jamming their BVRM guidance links.

This is what the portable Radar systems look like, they are very large.. The fixed sites are even larger and even more powerful, and are backed up by large data centers that process enormous amounts of data. They can detect planes and boats and whatnot in some cases thousands of kilometers away. The russians gloat that their radars can detect planes taking of and landing in Europe, in a way similar to UK gloating that their astute submarines sonar can hear ships docking in New York.

The norinco one isn't really in this category, I think it is just a fire-control or smaller range higher frequency one for Medium Range air defence. However the picture is clear, that these radars are all very powerful and large nowadays.

I am an aircraft mechanic, I work on legacy F18s, so I'm really at home on this subject. I believe the F35 program is a black hole of funding for not just our government but several now. There is no need for the F35, and really the VSTOL variant is absolute rubbish. Every branch of military has their "Special Forces." Not all members can be a part of that group. That is what the F22 is today, the Special Forces of air superiority. However, The legacy F18 and the F18 Super Hornet are very good at multirole fighting. If we wanted to be smart about our military funding, we would start up production again on the F22s for our smaller yet able Special Forces Air Force, and use the Super Hornets as our main jet for all other missions. Hell, even the F/A-18G has the ability to jam radar. The F18s are a cost effective force that can be maintained, while we could have a smaller number of specialized F22s. The F35 has too many investors that are in it so far that they can't back out now. It will not be a successful platform comparably with other modern fighters. 

The FA/18's suitability is dependent on what it's going up against.  It's a difficult call for a country like Australia.  We already have F-18's, but we're faced with a very expensive centre-barrel replacement program at the same time as our F111's were also coming to the end of their useful service life.  The gov went looking for something to replace them both with, and the only options available to us were the eurofighter, rafael, F-35 and F/A-18 super hornets.  Only one of those ticks the box as a '5th generation fighter' (despite having to basically lie through it's teeth to do it). In the mean time we ended up picking up a bunch of super hornets to tide us over.

The F-22 was never an option for us, the US refuse to export it.  I don't think any of the 4th gen fighters were ever taken seriously, and we ended up signing up for the F-35 program with very little due consideration.  That leads me to believe there was a little under the table action going on somewhere, but it's not like anything can be done about that now.  Since then successive governments have just gone along with it.

F111s should have remained in service, the F18s are not a suitable replacement, they are not even the same category, the same class of plane. The F111 were very capable long-range bombers with plenty of upgrade potential, and there isn't really a direct replacement available. The closest there was, is probably the F15 or the SU34, but even those lack the weapons payload and range of the F111.

IMO Australia should have collaborated with other countries with their own domestic 5th gen fighter programs (turkey, south korea, india/russia, japan, china, etc..etc..), countries that are capable of building them but probably wouldn't without foreign collaboration to split the costs (i.e. Singapore, Sweden, etc..etc..), to design and produce replacement planes.

Either a highly capable, and fairly long-range plane like the pakfa, or two variants, a multirole/air-supremacy plane, and a second variant based on the same design, of a larger longer-range multirole-bomber. FYI IMHO the nation that is the best candidate for this is Japan, and maybe singapore as well, their ATD-X is very impressive, and the technology in the engines is very impressive (with very high power for size/weight, and extremely high thrust temperatrues which is important for high cruise speeds).

The F18s have gone a long-way towards solving their flaws, the latest version includes everything from the ASH + the radar detectors from the Growler, so that it is comparable to a SU35. Even a F15 with the engines from the F22 would be a very capable plane. Ofcourse as always the Australian variants are cut back and vastly inferior versions of the same plane.

It is true that the F111 and F35 are both bomber planes, and that they both have internal weapon stowage but the similarities ends there. The F111 is a variable sweep wing plane, that is optimized for supersonic as opposed to subsonic flight, it has a much higher combat radius, and a much greater throw weight (how many ordinance it can deliver at a certain range). The F35 is also much more expensive with a flyaway cost aproaching 200M each.

The F111 has a Cruise Speed:

  • Around Mach 1.2, comparing to the F35 of I think around 900Km (essentially 33% more)
  • Has a combat radius (I believe with 2 2000iB bombs) of over 2,100KMs (essentially 100% more) EDIT this is actually 6,000pounds out to 1,890 Kilometers.
  • It can also deliver substantially more payload (probably >double) at the maximum combat radius of the F35 (not sure on exact numbers, but it is much higher) 
  • If we assume that the F111 can only carry 2,25x the payload it can carry to its maximum combat radius at about half of its maximum, then we get a figure, that each plane is equivalent in throw weight/per unit of time to 3x F35s.

Yeah we have a habit of picking something that seems to tick the boxes, then spending less on it and not getting what we decided we needed i the first place.  Only this time around it seems we've signed up for a program where each plane was supposed to be 75million, and has now ballooned out to something ridiculous, nearly twice the original price last I looked.  And it won't come close to replacing the capabilities we had with our previous aircraft. 

A great example of us screwing up are the ANZAC class frigates we bought.  The original design had twin gas turbines to be used in conjunction with diesel engines.  We thought screw that, 1 GT thanks, and do away with those pesky harpoon missiles.  Like 5yrs down the track we instigate a program to ADD the missiles and are lamenting the fact that we're putting too many hours on the single GT because the ships don't go fast enough without it running.  Now the GT life is coming up short against hull life, and it can't be replaced without cutting a gaping big hole through the side of the ship.  Then just for fun we spent a billion dollars each retrofitting Adelaide class frigates (Perry class to you guys) to add vertical launch missiles and a sonar system that apparently doesn't work properly.  The vertical launch system and sonar added over 50tonne of weight to the bow, so we added 50tonne of lead weight to the stern so it wouldn't submarine on us, and rather unsurprisingly to anyone who heard that information, the damn thing snapped in half in dry dock!  They had to weld freakin huge big metal straps down the sides to hold it together.  On each subsequent ship they did they welded the straps in place first to stop the ship breaking.  Genius, right?

But possibly our best screw-up to date would have to be the seasprite program.  $1.4 billion dollars spent on.. nothing.  What you generally don't find in any of the articles is that New Zealand acquired seasprites as well at roughly the same time.  They bought current model G variants that did everything they wanted them to do.  They handed over money and got flying helicopters in return.  We decided to be 'smart' about it.  We bought older retired F variants with plans to rebuild them to G specifications (larger more powerful engines and up to date avionics) and zero airframe hours.  And there the fun began.  One of the greatest fubars was when we contracted a company to write software so the penguin missiles could talk to the warfare suite.  We didn't actually specify in the contract though that they ever had to finish...  So after a year of failing to actually get the missiles to work, and having other more lucrative contracts come up, some boffin noticed this discrepancy and they abandoned the project, leaving us to find someone else to do it.

It probably wouldn't be fair to end this rant without mentioning manoura and kanimbla though...  Those we again acquired as handoffs from the US, Newport class amphibious tank landers.  By the time we acquired them they were so riddled with rust that they were deemed unsafe to board and ended up sitting alongside for a few years until someone figured we may as well do something with them.  $400million in refitting later...  One of my favourite expenditures on those was an obscene amount of money to have an incinerator installed on one ship, just so it would be the same as the other.  The incinerator was never functional and never used.  One or both of them eventually broke down leaving Sydney harbour, nearly ran aground, was towed back to the wharf and never sailed again.  They're both now being cut down for scrap. 

Unfortunately the Australian military is grossly mismanaged (and nz similarly), particularly pertaining to procurement decisions and has a rather bad habit of being overly dependent on grossly overpriced cut back versions of US military equipment.

I cant even attribute this to civilian oversight, their are plenty of militaries with civilian oversight which are far better ran and provide far more value for the money, i.e. russia, singapore, ROC, even japan and korea is not that bad, some of the Scandinavian militaries have been particularly good (although not as much recently). And many of these countries have fairly high wage levels so that is no excuse.



The main problem stems from procurement, which poorly thought out, for instance the procurement of 4 hobbart class naval vassals for 4.6bn, which given the 1/3rd rule (which states 1/3rd at station, 1/3rd in refit/port/maintenance, 1/3rd in transit) as a rough guide leaves a total of 1.33 on station (clearly not enough given how big australia is!). Keep in mind this is only one variant of ship, the future RAN entails more than 4 ships so there is a plethora (maybe a dozen or so) lower capable ships that lack any proper missile systems (and are therefore pointless).

It boggles my mind why they can't settle on a single type of ship (for NZ as well, maybe singapore as well), a flexible, cost efficent, optimally designed, missile carrying frigate (with 32+ VLS stations), modern propulsion systems (IEP which has the electrical room for systems growth), and built-in room for weight growth, like the Iver Huitfeldt, or type 54 frigates from china, they are both very good examples of cheap yet still capable systems that can be mass produced in smaller shipyards, in large scales very effectively. And then just mass produce it, in the numbers required to protect a country as large as australia, in a new modern shipyard.

A iver huitfeldt cost around 300Mn to build (then with the weapon systems, munitions and helicopters I can see the costs climbing to 500Mn). This compares favourably to anything else proposed for the RAN. For the price of the Hobbart program's 4 ships, you could realistically get something like 8-10 ships comparable to the Iver Huitfeldt, which would only be marginally less capable! It is clear these are a far better deal, and would allow australia  to have the number of hulls required to defend its large territory (I would say around 30).

The F-22 are ment to air superiority, not planing it to visual engagement and only for long/radar based fithgting is either a missunderstanding of the role this plane is meant to have or a brutal misconception of what air superiority means, right now the most manuevareble (idk if this is the right spelling) planes are the russians and europeans, US planes rely on high tech weaponry (in this sense russians are very agile tank planes with inmense load of weapons but not as precise as US (or israelians)).... the f-15 is still today the best choice for air superiority they might want to make an "insisible version" it would be better than the f-35...


I'd love to be able to make sense of it all, but it just can't be done.  If this topic had come up a few months ago I'd have argued that one of our mistakes is attempting to be self reliant in an industry we have no experience in.  Building submarines, warships, whatever.  But now in that several months we've contracted Japan and Vietnam of all countries!? to build us new hardware.  Since leaving the services I haven't really kept up on current projects like the Hobart class, but was not at all surprised when they popped up in the news with massive cost over runs

oh and now that's somehow related...   take a look at this!

F35 was/is a horrible idea, thats all I can say for now.

(Credibility: I worked as a systems engineer for Lockheed Martin from 2011-2012)

This is an interesting thread.

I think the definition of "5th generation jet" is the main issue. I think that IF you're going to put a jet up there that runs on software, might as well make it a UAV.

I also think that UAV's are not a solution to everything.

The military should learn from video games: what is the best CS:GO player: a really good player with a good PC and a good connection, a player with aimbots and wallhacks, or a BOT? Time in time again, players have proven that nothing is as effective as a human player with highly developed skills. Cheaters may be hard to beat, but in the end, they get beaten all the same. BOT Gabe on very hard might be a tough cookie for a total noob, but even a semi-noob has no problem defeating it. Now think of UAV's as BOT Gabe, think of the F-35 as the player with wallhacks and aimbots, and think of the Eurofighter as the Global with a good PC and connection...

The Eurofighter is a very pilot-centric plane. It's the ONLY fighter that has a specialized anti-G suit that comes with and is specifically made for the aircraft and the pilot. It allows standard trained pilots to fly the Eurofighter to spec, without having to be some special training ace.

Another thing is stealth. Stealth is like a wallhack, it's nice, but it isn't that nice. Only an absolute minority of fighters get shot down by surface to air missiles (they are very easy to defeat by fighters), and less than half of all air-to-air missiles that are launched, are effective. Guided weapons are relatively low on the threat level for a plane. What really does some damage, is AA guns and machine gun fire.

Hitler made the mistake of wanting the Schwalbe to be a bomber, and it made him lose air superiority, because he didn't have planes that could both survive a dogfight AND strafe enemy assets on the ground to support ground troops. There is no need for half-arsed bombers, period. Hitler could have turned the war around by making the first jet-powered fighter, but he didn't, in fact, he stubbornly forbade the development of such an aircraft, and insisted on it being a fighter-bomber, so that he could strike London before they knew what was happening. Hitler wanted to defeat the British radar systems and intercept patrols by speed. The F-35 is exactly that, a half-arsed bomber, made to defeat radar: it's not suitabel as a fighter, because it is not a platform a standard pilot can fly to specs, it has a very bad wing surface to fuselage volume ratio (read: it flies like a brick), and because it can't carry enough weapons, it's not suitable as a ground support plane, because it only has one engine (no redundancy), loses it's main feature (stealth) when hit by a single AK round, and again, can't carry enough ordnance, and it's not suitable as a bomber, because it can't carry enough ordnance. So what is it? Well, it's a long range intercept plane. The favorite plane type of the USAF since the beginning of the cold war... because we've got to have planes to intercept those Ruski nuclear bombers you know... except, those are stealth too nowadays, and good luck intercepting ICBM's with an F-35... so where does that leave you... with an ineffective long range intercept with serious problems: it isn't all that long range, because it can't carry external tanks, because that ruins the stealth thingy, and it's useless when it gets to the intercept, because it can't carry enough missiles to really do a long range intercept job.

The whole F-22 (which has been terminated, Boeing realized they had to get rid of it before it was too late) and F-35 debacle is a disgrace of bad strategic decisionmaking. The only thing is, now that it's already cost a trillion dollars, they won't let it go, because they would lose face, and obviously it's better to lose wars and pilots than to lose face right...

The F-18 is exactly what it is: it was made to be an economic multi-role fighter. It's the first generation of that idea, so it's getting a bit old, and it isn't the best in class by a long shot, but hey, it's a decent plane that has a high operational availability, which often is just what wins wars, the ability to patch up quickly and come back with a vengeance. The F-18 is a plane that can be used to win wars.

The Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon are the reference implementations for the moment, of course the Rafale is smaller, it's a dogfighting unit but still a very capable weapons platform, but it's not as pilot centric, so it requires a lot of selection and training for pilots. The Eurofighter is larger, it's a great universal weapons platform, it's very advanced, and very realistic. It can be flown to spec by a much larger number of pilots, and pilots can focus on training fighting strategy and combat skills rather than flying skills, because the anti-G capabilities are way ahead of any other flying craft.

The Eurofighter, the Rafale, the Saab Gripen, all share the "canard" configuration, which is much more effective than vectored thrust in combat situations, because it is not nearly as software-dependent as vectored thrust, and it will work in all circumstances, even when the software system gets false environmental readings or if the engine is damaged.

The sad reality is, that there is no place in modern warfare for flying dinosaurs like the F-35. Modern combat aircraft need high availability, need to be able to take a beating, and need to be able to be flown by a great variety of pilots. Why, simply because of one single thing: the enemy doesn't use modern aircraft, they just use masses of people with AK's and RPG's hiding in and under stuff, and technicals with large calibre machine/AA guns. The most likely mission of a modern combat aircraft is precision strikes on ground targets and air support missions. Both of these missions require aircraft that can take punishment, both operational and combat punishment, carry a lot of ordnance and weapons, and can be flown almost 24/7 by a wide variety of pilots. The F-35 fits none of those descriptions, in fact, it's useless close to the ground, it's made to be way high up there in the sky lurking and taking crap shots at other planes... that aren't even there...

If there would come a situation of war between heavily armed modern militaries, for instance the Russian Federation against the US, or the US against the EU or China, which is highly unlikely, the F-35 would still not perform very well, because it sucks at dogfighting and doesn't carry enough missiles to even defend itself. The whole fleet of F-35's (well, there hardly are any on order, so probably not a lot anyway) would probably be shot down or incapacitated in less than two days.

I think the whole F-35 project is a disgrace, and that servicemen should protest against the waste of money. At a time where budget cuts are the order of the day, wasting a trillion dollars on a useless prestige project that just doesn't seem to even lead to an actual product, is quite painful in my opinion. It would be far better spent on a better retirement fund for veterans...

EMP gun.