By Bijan Razzaghi
The air superiority gap within the US Air Force came about with the F-22s production being cut to 188 aircraft in 2009 as a result of that development the F-35A will have to function in the air superiority role alongside the F-22. The F-35A has the performance, situational awareness and low observability to effectively support the F-22 in the air superiority role.
In the stealth configuration the F-35A can employ 4x AIM-120 AMRAAM air to air missiles internally reducing the aircrafts drag significantly enhancing the aircrafts maneuverability. In the stealth configuration the F-35A will have a first shot first kill advantage over adversary aircraft. The F-35As EOTS combines infrared search and track with forward looking infrared allowing F-35s to detect low observable aircraft by its heat source. The EOTs can also assist the F-22 which does not have an optical sensor.
The F-35As maneuverability is competitive for modern visual air to air combat. The g load factor of the F-35A is 9 with a thrust to weight ratio of 1.07 with 50% fuel. The HMDs also provides the pilot with 360 degrees of situational awareness and the ability to shoot at the bore site. In the non stealth configuration the F-35A can carry 14x AIM-120s and 2x AIM-9Xs.
The US Air Force plans on purchasing 1,763 F-35As. These aircraft will replace all 900+ F-16C/Ds currently in service while providing the US Air Force with additional platforms to fulfil the role of the F-15C and F-15E as they retire post 2030.
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