It was 2006 when the USAF answered its critics by telling us that the F-35
Lightning II is not designed for air superiority. They believed that it
was superior as a multi-role aircraft. According to the USAF and
Lockheed, the aircraft will achieve multi-role aircraft superiority once
the code is completed so that its sensor suite and advanced radar
system are functional. These systems are supposed to enable the F-35 to
monitor air and ground threats simultaneously while well beyond the range of competing systems.
The USAF told us that the stealth capabilities of the F-35 are optimized
for head-on attack. In addition to a minimal head-on radar signature,
the aircraft is also optimized for minimal infrared emissions. Overall,
in 2006, the U.S. Air Force stated that the aircraft was "its most stealthy yet".
F-35C with external ordnance.
The USAF pointed out that when the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II does not have
to operate in a stealth mode, the amount of ordnance carried outside
the aircraft will make it "a formidable adversary".
The USAF argues that maneuverability, acceleration, and maximum air speed are "very small factors" when considering the overall performance of an
aircraft. They said that the F-35 exhibits a "high degree of stability" and can "nearly match the acceleration" of today's most modern fighters at sub sonic speeds, but is not able to react as quickly. At its maximum
speed, we were told that maneuverability of the aircraft "can almost match" that of the F-16.