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American Fighters IV: The planes put out of service by the F-35 program

A list by Series, showing top speed, range and any special characteristics that are removed through the use of the US F-35 as the mainstay of America’s air defense forces

The F-15 - one plane the F-35 is NOT replacing.

In our American Fighters series, we have discussed the strengths and weaknesses and areas of concern about the present strategy the American military and NATO are pursuing by creating a sort of “one size fits all” military aircraft around which to base air-based combat operations and defense. That Swiss Army Knife of a plane is the Lockheed F-35 Lightning, and while it is fair to say that it is an extremely advanced aircraft in many ways, the weaknesses surrounding its expense, its unreliability and what may be too great a reliance on stealth warfare are worthy topics of concern that echo through miltary discussions.

Here, we present the array of existing air-combat hardware that the Lightning is slated to replace in the near future. We will give very brief specs on each aircraft – mainly about speed, range and specialty. At the end of this piece will be a fairly detailed specs list on the F-35 for comparison and one’s own analysis.

If this turns out to be a concern, there is an action that one can take for it – call your state and US representatives and senators and tell them you want something better for your tax money. Considering the massive size of the US defense budget, it certainly ought to get its money’s worth.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon:

  • Top Speed: Mach 2 (1,320 mph / 2,120 km/h at altitude with clean configuration)
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000+ feet (15,240+m)
  • Combat Radius: 340 mi / 547 km with four 1,000 bombs loaded
  • Specialty: Supersonic, multirole fighter, air superiority day fighter, all weather multirole, capable of sustaining pilot through 9-g load acceleration in turns

The A-10 Thunderbolt:

  • Top Speed: 439 mph / 706 km/h (Never exceed speed of 518 mph / 833km/h at 5,000 ft with 18 Mk 82 bomb load)
  • Service Ceiling: 45,000 ft / 13,700 m
  • Combat Radius: 288 mi / 460 km
  • Specialty: Close air support, ground attack, quick action against ground based enemies, forward air controller support

The AV-8 Harrier:

  • Top Speed: Mach 0.9 (673 mph / 1,083 km/h)
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,170 m)
  • Combat Radius: 350 mi / 556 km
  • Specialty: Ground-attack, Vertical and Short Takeoff and landing( VTOL, VSTOL) capability makes for extremely versatile basing, air interdiction (Britain)
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet carrying a full load of air-to-air missiles during an Allied Force mission May, 22, 1999. Canadian Air Forces are flying NATO Combat Air Patrol missions to protect refueling tankers and other unarmed aircraft operating in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt Joe Cupido 4th Combat Camera)

F-18C Hornet:

  • Top Speed: Mach 1.8 (1,190 mph / 1,915 km/h at 40,000 feet)
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
  • Combat Radius: 460 mi / 741 km in an air-to-air mission
  • Specialty: Carrier-capable, multirole combat, fighter and attack aircraft
U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Aug. 20, 2013, while underway in the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ramon G. Go/Released)

F-18 Super Hornet:

  • Top Speed: Mach 1.6 (1,190mph / 1915 km/h) at 40,000 feet
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,000+ m)
  • Combat Radius: 449mi / 722km for interdiction mission
  • Specialty: Carrier-capable, multirole fighter.

The F-117 Nighthawk (already retired)

  • Top Speed: Mach 0.92 (617mph / 993 km/h)
  • Service Ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,716 m)
  • Range: 930 nmi (1720km)
  • Specialty: Stealth attack aircraft, bomber. Not a fighter at all.

The F-14 Tomcat (already retired)

  • Top Speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph / 2485 kh/h at high altitude
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,200m)
  • Combat Radius: 575 miles (926 km)
  • Specialty: (US NAvy) Air Superiority Fighter, Fleet defense interceptor, tactical aerial reconnaissance platform; carrier launch and landing capability

And as promised, the same comparative specs for the F-35 Lightning II:

  • Top Speed:  Mach 1.6 (1,200 mph / 1,930 km/h)
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,240+m)
  • Combat Radius:  669nmi / 1,239km on interdiction mission on internal fuel
  • Specialty: Ground attack, air superiority, STOL, and STOVL (short takeoff and vertical landing) for F-35B, stealth multirole fighter
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