Pentagon officials are advising that the plane will not go supersonic unless in short bursts. This will prevent the joint strike fighter to be fully utilized by the army or navy.
So what's the deal?
It comes with several variants such as the F-35A used by the US Air Force (USAF) and the F-35B, which can take off like a Harrier jump jet and land vertically for Marine Corps. The last is the C-variant with a different wing for carrier operation. All three variants of the stealth fighter are the same in and out, with similar components, reported Popular Mechanics.
Defense News indicates that the affected variants are the B and C variants. Variant A is not. The reason why the A variant can operate normally was not given by the source. In the affected variants, Pentagon will not have the improvements done.
The problem is that when the plane goes supersonic, the skin of the fighter gets hot when at higher altitudes. It causes the stealth coating to be damaged on the plane's surface. Another part that is compromised is the rear antennas. High speed and heat will lessen the stealth it will end up being detectable by radar. Antennas are at risk and will limit the reception of relevant information and data, cited by Flip Board.
Restrictions for flying with afterburners
With all these problems present, for the Navy and Marine, F-35 has a problem with going supersonic. As a rule, hitting Mach 1 will be so short, but the altitude or time in supersonic is not stated yet.
For the F-35 Joint Program Office, it said that creating a new coating that is more resilient will take too long.
The supersonic flying issue was initially designated as a "Category 1" deficiency, a most serious inadequacy that concerns the F-35 program. However, it will not be fixed. Compared to the F-22, the F-35 does not rely on speed. One air warfare expert says keeping a limit on the afterburners will be compromised, even for the best pilots using the plane.
It might be a concern as for the past 50 years or more, the military has never had a fighter capable of prolonged supersonic flight, which illustrates how essential supersonic flight is in a close dog fight.
While it's regrettable that a trillion-dollar fighter can't even fly supersonic, it was never intended to be among the stealth fighter's main characteristics.
The lightning II has avionics and sensors meant to best another fighter beyond visual range, fire, and shoot at them before they are aware of its presence. Getting into a dogfight like an F-22 Raptor is not one of its strengths.
How can it compromise the JSF?
It will be a concern when enemies know that it cannot go supersonic. It will affect what missions they are sent on with the Marines and Navy relying on its abilities. Forcing the stealth fighter into an unwanted dogfight will be dangerous, although if it's undetected it will be advantageous.
If the F-35 has a problem with going supersonic, then how it performs should be based on the actual performance that it was designed for.