Pilots Say F-35 Superior Within Visual Range: Dogfight Criticisms Laid To Rest

Breaking Defense // June 19, 2017

After years of criticism that the F-35 would not fare well in a dogfight and analysis that the program had made a fundamental mistake relying on the plane’s ability to kill enemies beyond visual range, Air Force F-35As will fly a demonstration here this afternoon meant to put those doubts to rest.

You can read what the flight demo is intended to demonstrate on the handout below. I asked one of the Air Force pilots, Lt. Col. Scott “Cap” Gunn, here whether the F-35 would win when fighting close-up with an enemy fighter. His answer was simple: “Without a doubt.”

Gunn told reporters at a briefing here that he had gone up against a friend in an F-16 a few months ago. Though the F-35 “performed very well,” he made clear that it hadn’t been dominant. They flew again recently and the F-16 pilot was amazed by the improvement in the F-35’s performance. “What have they done to your jet?” the pilot said, according to Gunn. “The difference is we have learned how to fly the jet… and better understand where its advantages are.”

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