The F-35 was flying “clean,” with no weapons in its bomb bay or under its wings and fuselage. The F-16, by contrast, was hauling two bulky underwing drop tanks, putting the older jet at an aerodynamic disadvantage.
But the JSF’s advantage didn’t actually help in the end. The stealth fighter proved too sluggish to reliably defeat the F-16, even with the F-16 lugging extra fuel tanks. “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement,” the pilot reported.
Too good to fact-check, and both unfortunate and unsurprising if true. The test is somewhat unfair because despite its name, the F-35 design was heavily driven by ground-attack requirements at the expense of pure dogfighting ability. The F-35 should have been the A-35, except we don’t hand out the “A” designation anymore.
It is the F-22 that was designed for air superiority. Hopefully none of those ever get shot down, because we only have 185 left and can’t build them anymore.