Operational Assessment of the F-35A Argues for Full Program Procurement and Concurrent Development Process

The F-35A Lightning II’s sensors, stealth, and overall capability have been defended by the government and industry, while pundits and politicians have concentrated on developmental issues, cost overruns, and maneuverability limitations. The F-35A is a generational leap beyond other multirole fighters, and thanks to concurrent development, its technology will be the freshest ever fielded. Its performance in an air-to-surface (attack) mode has been well accepted, but many have questioned the Lightning II’s performance in aerial combat. Only the pilots who have flown the fighter actually know how well the Air Force version of the F-35 can perform, and the 31 who were surveyed for this paper expressed a high degree of confidence in this extraordinary fighter. The U.S. government should fulfill the entire programmed acquisition of the F-35A on its current schedule and apply the lessons learned from its concurrent development to every other major acquisition program in the future.

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