For How Long Will the U.S. Use the F-35?

Credit: U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago

Credit: U.S. Air Force, Joely Santiago

A recently published test pilot’s report says the F-35 can’t outmaneuver the F-16 and would loose in a dogfight. The document, posted July 1 by David Axe in War is Boring, fueled critics’ arguments and frustrated supporters’ claims about the controversial aircraft.

Critics like Axe may ask, if the new jet can’t beat the old jet in close aerial combat, what good is it? Supports may respond, that the F-35 is not meant to get up close and personal; that’s the F-22’s job.

Whether or not the F-35 is a useful jet to have around, it is worth considering how long it will be in service and how long we will have other fighters like the F-16.

The answer: a long time. The life span of fighter aircraft has grown over the years.

Credit: U.S Air Force photo, Cheyenne Morigeau

Credit: U.S Air Force photo, Cheyenne Morigeau

In 1942, the U.S. Army Air Force received its first P-51 Mustangs. This WWII fighter flew with the U.S. military until it was phased out in 1957, according to the U.S. Air Force. That’s about 15 years of service.

Fans of Top Gun will be familiar with the F-14, which the U.S. Navy says was first deployed in 1970 and officially retired in 2006.  The F-14 Tomcat had a 36-year run.

Credit: U.S. Navy,Todd Frantom

Credit: U.S. Navy,Todd Frantom

Fighters like the F-18, F-16 and F-15 all began their careers in the 1970-80s. They will likely have longer careers than their predecessors. The Navy Times reported that the F-18 Super Hornets are destined to retire in 2035. The F-18 began active duty in 1983. That will be 52 years.

Bottom line: Assuming this trend continues, fifth generation fighters like the F-35 and F-22 will be around for a while, maybe more than half a century. But so will some of the fourth generation fighters.

The F-35 may not be as good a dogfighter as the F-16, but the F-16 isn’t in a hurry to leave any time soon.

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo, Donald R. Allen

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo, Donald R. Allen

The U.S. military is already planning sixth generation fighters. According to Defense News, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency is studying technologies going into aircraft that will start test flights in the 2030s.

Leave a Reply