The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), America's newest and most expensive warplane ever, has stirred fierce debate over its quality-price ratio and become an object of ridicule in US media.
The American military news satire organization Duffel Blog has recently reported that the F-35 ingloriously lost in a mock dogfight with a Fokker Dr.I Triplane, similar to that once piloted by famous German fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron.
"Meanwhile, according to a source close to the recent dogfight, the F-35 'turns like a garbage truck. It might be faster than the triplane, but that doesn't matter in a stall fight'," the satirical media outlet noted.
Curiously enough, the Pentagon's Office of Test & Evaluation (OT&E) is reportedly planning a series of head-to-head close air support tests between the 1970s Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-35A, as well as other missions, including air-to-air combat, according to James Hasik, a senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
"I think that would be a silly exercise," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said as quoted by the expert.
"Fairly, though, the general might have used an analogy from the 1920s. In a competitive gunnery exercise between a battleship and an aircraft carrier, the battleship will win. But that doesn't tell us to buy the battleship — just not to wind up like HMS Glorious. Unless designed carefully, such tests may not tell us much at all," Hasik pointed out in his article for the National Interest.
According to the expert, the truth of the matter is that even a well-designed test may leave a lot of questions open regarding which aircraft — drone, fighter-bomber or fixed wing gunship — can be considered a worthy opponent to a "dedicated, armored, manned, fixed-wing attack plane in different scenarios."
"So choose your test carefully, OT&E. Like the USMC, the USAF needs to fill the squadrons with planes that won't leave the guys on the ground in the doghouse, or leave General Welsh to shake a fist skyward," Hasik concluded and added with a touch of humor: "Curse you Red Baron!"