What’s it like to fly an F-35 fighter jet? Test pilot answers questions


How does it feel to fly the F-35, the fifth-generation combat and intelligence collection platform which is currently the best aircraft on the planet and the tip of the spear for both the US and Israeli air forces?

Tony “Brick” Wilson is an F-35 test pilot for Lockheed Martin, which produces the F-35.

Previously, he served in the US Navy and was the first F-35 pilot to land an F-35C on an aircraft carrier.

Flying the F-35: The best aircraft on Earth

Questioned in a webinar on Wednesday organized by Lockheed Martin about what it is like to cope with the G-forces [gravitational forces] which hit the pilot while flying the F-35, he responded, “It’s like an 800-pound gorilla sitting on your chest!”

He added that aircraft-to-aircraft “dogfighting” is like a full body workout – “you are wiped out” at the end.

An Israeli Air Force F-35 during Operation Breaking Dawn, August 2022 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Next, he was asked about how far the F-35 could fly.

Wilson said that each of the F-35’s three variants carries different fuel levels, with the F-35A (closest to the version which Israel uses) carrying 18,000 pounds of fuel, the F-35B carrying around 13,000 pounds of fuel, and the F-35C carrying almost 20,000 pounds of fuel.

Further, he said that aircraft can burn fuel faster “depending on the mission and how much after-burner you are using.”

As a general rule, he said plans would be to fly not more than “500 to 700 nautical miles, execute a mission and then travel back” to base.

Monessa “Siren” Balzhiser is also an F-35 test pilot for Lockheed Martin and has flown more than 1,800 flying hours in the T-6, T-38C, L-39, F-16, and F-35, with over 320 combat hours. Prior to joining Lockheed, she served in the US Air Force. 

In the webinar, Balzhiser also addressed the questions of dealing with G-forces, saying, “Your average rollercoaster pulls about three to four Gs [G-forces] max [maximum]. For a G-force, think about your weight. So if you were 100 pounds, pulling 9Gs, you would be pulling 900 pounds of force on a person’s body!”

“Imagine that much pressure on your body. It takes a lot of training and special training,” adding that after some training, pilots come out looking like they are 100 years old!”

Describing what she most valued about the F-35, having flown many other aircraft, she said, “the amount of information and situational awareness that the F-35 gave me in comparison to the F-16.”

“The F-16 has three separate screens and displays, with each screen tied to a specific sensor. The pilot needed to do sensor fusion in their brain, to take the information, think about it, and come up with a solution. The F-35’s large graphic display does that, provides that situational awareness faster than what I was able to do in the F-16,” she said.

Likewise, Wilson said that the F-35’s advanced sensors which remove the need for the pilot to perform various calculations, “allows us to be tacticians in the cockpit.”

Moreover, he said the F-35 is not only great at “legacy missions” of air offensives and counter-air defense and suppression and destruction of enemy defenses, but that it is “outstanding at intelligence and reconnaissance” collection regarding enemy forces.

The pilots did not answer more specific operational questions, such as how the F-35 might handle challenges from the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

There are concerns that Russia may send the system to Iran which could complicate any future potential strike by Israel’s F-35s on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *