So, the F-35 has had both its first USMC attack in anger and its first outright loss. Context needs to be considered with two of the claims I’ve heard floating around about it.
- “Why is it attacking targets in a low-intensity war?”
- “If it crashed, does that mean it’s unsafe?”
For the first, the answer is that it’s simply far easier for a high-end aircraft, especially one with the mega-sensors of the F-35, to do low-end activities than it is for a low-end aircraft to do high-end activities. That and it’s fresh, unlike the rest of the US’s very, very battered airframes.
For the second, it’s the first crash in the program’s entire history. This is astounding. Especially compared to say, the Harrier the F-35B in particular is replacing.
It’s been over a generation since the US has embarked on such a gigantic replacement of its fighter fleet. The “teen series” fighters break-in period was not the most efficient or pleasant either. This isn’t to say there’s never been any problem with the F-35’s development, but it needs to be viewed in the monumental context it’s in.