The F-35 is so Stealthy, it Produced Training Challenges, Pilot Says
The F-35 Lightning II is so stealthy, pilots are facing an unusual challenge. They're having difficulty participating in some types of training exercises, a squadron commander told reporters Wednesday.
During a recent exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, F-35 squadrons wanted to practice evading surface-to-air threats. There was just one problem: No one on the ground could track the plane.
“If they never saw us, they couldn’t target us,” said Lt. Col. George Watkins, the commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
The F-35s resorted to flipping on their transponders, used for FAA identification, so that simulated anti-air weapons could track the planes, Watkins said.
“We basically told them where we were at and said, ‘Hey, try to shoot at us,’ ” he said, adding that without the transponders on, “most likely we would not have suffered a single loss from any SAM threats while we were training at Mountain Home.”