How will the intended 2,443 F-35s JSF impose air dominance for the USA and its Allies? That is the question to ask.
Search the Internet for material on the JSF and you will find terabyte after terabyte of articles, pictures, Powerpoint presentations, PDFs, tables and laudatory Blogs. And how much relates to how the JSF will deliver this capability? You will find assertions and statement such as ‘six times better Relative Loss Exchange Ratio than legacy aircraft’ , or ‘The operational arguments focus on combat effectiveness against top foreign fighter aircraft such as the Russian Su-27 and MiG-29. Lockheed Martin and USAF analysts put the loss-exchange ratio at 30-1 for the F-22, 3-1 for the F-35 and 1-1 or less for the F-15, F/A-18 and F-16’[2
And how will the F-35 JSF perform, not against truly obsolete legacy aircraft like the Su-27SK and the MiG-29, but against modern fighters like the Su-35S? We can answer these questions with a head-to-head analysis of the two aircraft.
Air combat is a complex mix of art, science and engineering. Aircraft performance, weapons performance, networked sensors and pilot skill all contribute to the final Loss Exchange Ratio (LER). The only simplification is that aircraft approach, engage in combat and the survivors depart. This activity can be examined in a ‘kill-chain’ with the following stages: ‘Detect-Identify-Engage-Disengage-Destroy’ (DIED2).
Here is a scenario. In the ‘Blue’ corner, we have a flight of four F-35A JSFs, each armed with four AIM-120D Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles and the 25 mm GD ATP GAU-22/A cannon. No additional weapons or fuel are carried, because these would compromise the JSFs' “low observability” to X-Band radar. In the ‘Red’ corner, we have a flight of four Su-35S, each armed with four RVV-SD Active Radar Seeker BVR Missiles, four RVV-SD Infra-Red (IR) Seeker BVR missiles, two RVV-MD Within Visual Range (WVR) missiles, the 30mm GSh-301 cannon, KNIRTI SAP-518 jammers on the wingtips and a 6,000 litre conformal tank between the engines. Each aircraft has the full range of sensors and countermeasures.