In today’s warfighting environment, the F-35 outperforms the F-22

Which is a better fighter – F-35 Lightning-II or F-22 Raptor? This question will continue to be asked for many years to come. You know, it’s not right to compare these two stealth because they are not in the same category. Some would immediately dispute this statement of mine. But the fact is this: the F-35 was designed for ground attack and air defense missions, while the F-22 was designed for air dominance.

In today's warfighting environment, the F-35 outperforms the F-22
Photo credit: via Twitter

Undoubtedly, both fighters are the pride of US combat aviation. Is it necessary in such a case to compare the two fighters? The short answer is yes. In today’s warfighting environment, we need to know which of the two fighters would do better. And my personal opinion is that based on my observations in various conflicts in recent years, the F-35 will outperform the F-22. Let’s start from the beginning.

We will look at two conflicts: one ongoing and the other a proxy conflict that is expected to become real. I.e. the war between Ukraine and Russia, and tensions along the China-Taiwan-USA axis. Of course, we will use data from other conflicts as well, but they will not be the leading ones.

Many years ago, even before the Second World War, very often the outcome of a conflict depended on the number of belligerents, the training of the troops, the tactics of waging war, and who had the courage to risk more. Today, however, neither numbers nor weaponry is a key factor. Consider the war between Ukraine and Russia. If we follow dry statistics, Russia would have won the war a long time ago. It has a larger army, it has more weapons, even better weapons than the army of Ukraine [not to mention the Western supplies], it has more experienced tacticians based on the conflict in Syria, Libya or Nagorno-Karabakh. In reality, Russia has fought many more battles than Ukraine.

F-22 Raptor has a suitability and cyber survivability issue
Photo credit: Pixabay

But the war is not over. Ukraine managed in the first months of the beginning of the war to hold off the Russian attacks. Then it began to receive Western weapons and gradually regained part of the temporarily occupied territories.

Why Ukraine does not lose? Why Russia continues to be unable to destroy the armed opposition in Syria for the eleventh year. Why does Iran still not see the F-35 when it flies in Iranian territory? Apparently it’s not about weapons, manpower, motivation, tactics. All countries have them. Then why?

Information is the power that drives, sustains, and ends war. Russia cannot “defeat Ukraine in three days” because Ukraine receives information from NATO and the US. What is the movement of Russian forces, where are the air defense systems supposed to be located, how long is the trench in the Zaporizhia region, what is the deployment and tactical maneuverability of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and much more.

Russia cannot defeat Ukraine because “its position is also illuminated by US satellites”. British infantry have been providing information to the Ukrainians [or have participated in missions], US satellites and early warning aircraft are telling the Ukrainians what is happening on the eastern front, spy drones are flying in close proximity to Crimea, NATO radars and data centers are located around Ukraine evaluate, process and provide the information to Kyiv.

Laser data beam will test US to deal with Russia and China
Photo credit: General Atomics

Even Ukraine is said to be using HIMARS after an order from the Pentagon, when the command in Washington provided the exact coordinates of the attacked target. In reality, the war in Ukraine continues because of information, because it is no longer one-way [only on the Russian side].

Air battles from the Korean War may be interesting, but they are no longer fought. Today, combat aircraft are found in the air, but much less often than the experts who set out to compare the capabilities of air platforms would like.

Today, Russian bombers and fighter jets use satellite information, GPS guidance and geolocation to strike a Ukrainian target. Ukrainian and Russian spy drones make 40-50 year old artillery so super accurate, it’s like it’s from the future.

10 Su-35s attack with bombs hidden beyond the range of air defenses
Photo credit: Twitter

Missiles fly at low altitude and hit Russian ships with pinpoint accuracy. Air bombs become cruise missiles with navigation and optics, fly 50 km and hit deep in the rear of the enemy. Air defense systems hunt down enemy air targets at 100-150 km, while kamikaze drones coming out of nowhere cause terror.

The sky over Ukraine today is not littered with combat low-flying attack aircraft to engage in a fierce battle with each other. Today, the sky over Ukraine is littered with data transfer.

Because of the information. You see, at the beginning of my analysis I mentioned what the two fighters were. It was a short description, so now we will do more in-depth.

If the F-22 faced off in a dogfight against the F-35, it would beat it. The F-22 has much greater stealth characteristics than the F-35, i.e. much lower radar signature. Raptor is also faster than the F-35, as well as more maneuverable. The F-22 can increase its speed to Mach 2.25, while the F-35 reaching Mach 1.6 would be an achievement, amid recent reports that this speed is causing problems in the F-35.

F-22 Raptor has a suitability and cyber survivability issue
Photo credit: Pixabay

The weapons systems of the F-22 are better. The Raptor climbs 62,000 feet per minute, while the F-35 only climbs 45,000 feet per minute. Sources say the F-22 has capabilities that are classified and the Pentagon has banned pilots from using them.

All the previous analysis had to be done to understand why the F-35 was better. Because of the information. The F-35 is a sensor fighter that in today’s warfighting conditions described previously would do better than the F-22. There are no fighter jets in the air, there are information flows.

The information capability of the F-35 makes it a fifth-generation fighter that deserves attention. In reality, the F-35 has a two-stage information capability.

There will now be six air-to-air missiles in the F-35 'belly'
Photo credit: Aviation Week

First, information from the radio frequency, electro-optical, infrared and laser spectrum, combined in a broad spectrum field, can easily be collected by the F-35. This alone is enough to understand that the F-35 already has a wider range of action compared to the F-22. Moreover, for sustained and long-term combat operations such as those in Ukraine, and in the ongoing proxy conflict between China and Taiwan, an aircraft designed as an air-to-ground strike is pre-defeatable.

Second – the F-35 shares the collected information. It offers a data network linked to multiple other F-35s, making a vast array of information available to warfighters. And not only that – today the F-35 can share information with almost any weapon system designed according to NATO standards. Whether it’s weapons on the ground, in the air or at sea.

But there is something that makes the F-35 unique. This is improving and increasing the accuracy of the information shared to sensors outside the aircraft. I.e. by managing the information, the F-35 not only becomes a platform capable of fighting, but also protecting other weapon systems that are connected to the aircraft’s information network. This means that the F-35 can make a very quick decision to change the situation.

F-35 Lightning II fighter jet
Photo by Lance cpl. Jose S.Guerrero Deleon

Today, the F-35 is flying near Ukraine. There is evidence of this from a pilot flying such an aircraft. The more the time of the war progresses, the more we realize the hidden role of the F-35 in it, even if it is not directly involved in combat actions. Here, a weapon that is not directly involved in combat affects the outcome of the battle. That’s how good the F-35 is, and that’s why it’s better than the F-22.

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