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Beast Mode: The F-35 Has a ‘Secret Weapon’ No Fighter Can Match

F-35 Beast Mode
F-35 image. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

What exactly is an F-35 going to ‘Beast Mode’ actually mean? Well, the fighter does loose its stealth capability, but it can carry a heck of a lot of weapons: A pair of Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters in service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operated in 2021 with a full weapons load – otherwise known as “beast mode” – during a recent training flight from RAAF Darwin, as part of the Arnhem Thunder 21 exercise. The two fifth-generation combat aircraft carried four inert GBU-12 bombs under their wings, along with unspecified weapons loaded internally.

The weapons were reportedly dropped on a range.

“This design feature allows Australian F-35As to be adapted to suit the threat environment and operational requirements,” said Mathew Harper, commanding officer of 35 Sqn. “This mode would most likely be used in less contested environments where rapid employment of ordnance is prioritized over maximizing the F-35A’s stealth capabilities.”

The Multi-roles of the F-35

The Lockheed Martin-built Joint Strike Fighter was developed to be a “multi-role” stealth fighter, which in essence means that it was specifically engineered with an ability to launch massive air attacks on air-to-air and air-to-ground targets. The aircraft employs an internal weapons bay intended to enable attacks against an adversary while preserving a stealth configuration, yet can be utilized in a full-force attack  by employing the external pylons as well – which has become known as its “beast mode” or “bomb truck.”

The different weapon layouts are meant to accommodate a range of tactical scenarios.

The “First Day of War” loadout would preserve the “stealth” configuration, and could consist of four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles for air-to-air missions, or a mixture of four AIM-120s/GBU-31 JDAM “smart bombs,” for air-to-ground missions, all of which would be loaded into the F-35’s internal armaments bay. As the name implies, stealth loadouts are designed to minimize radar cross-section and to maintain low observability (LO) when the enemy’s anti-air systems are operating at full capacity.

As an adversary’s hostile anti-air systems – including sensors, air defense missiles, gun systems, and even enemy aircraft – are eliminated, and the conflict enters into the “Third Day of War,” the loadout would change accordingly. When it is determined that the F-35 no longer needs to rely on its stealth and LO for survivability the “beast mode” comes into play as the F-35 then deploys externally-mounted weapons with a larger radar footprint.

The weapons loadout is significantly larger.

In stealth mode, the F-35 can carry 5,700 lbs internally, while in “beast mode” it can carry a full 22,000 lbs, of both air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

Advance Australia Fair

The RAAF’s F-35As achieved initial operational capability (IOC) in December 2020, and it had been a long-stated goal for the RAAF. The IOC milestone included the ability to employ weapons such as the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile, AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the Joint Direct Attack Munition, Small Diameter Bombs, and the type’s internal 25mm cannon.

According to Flight Global, Cirium fleets data shows that the RAAF has thirty-seven in-service F-35As out of a total planned seventy-two that had been ordered by the government in Canberra with the last one is projected to be delivered to Australia by 2024. The RAAF currently maintains a joint pilot training and maintenance presence at Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona where RAAF pilots can take part in joint training with the U.S. Air Force pilots.

U.S. Military China Beast Mode

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

F-35 Beast Mode F-35 Beast Mode

Australia announced in 2009 that it had selected the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A Lightning II to replace its F/A-18 Hornet fighter fleet.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Karl Milhon

    February 1, 2022 at 5:33 pm

    The mode assumes air superiority. The shortage of F22’s and advent of more advanced Russian/Chinese fighters made the air force build the beefed up F15 to compensate. So, this mode would only be used as the Aussies note or after air superiority is achieved. The potential emergence of unmanned fighter drones and the next gen fighter will once again impact the strategies as they come online.

  2. Paul dean

    February 2, 2022 at 8:12 am

    I’d like to know what the Australian airforce thinks of the felon and hunters about to come into full service , the felon is the most manoeuvring advanced AI multirole fighter . It’s already flown full multirole test missions by itself without pilot input . The US wingmans are half the machine and roles of hunters and not in service till 2030 . When you got drones that are hard to spot that can pick you up and felons not even close but taking action to take you out then the f35 is more terrier than beast .

  3. Clark T Schoening

    February 6, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    Theoretically. 😎

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