The F-35 is often considered a fast, stealthy 5th-gen fighter able to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. Yet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter also has a “beast mode” bomb truck capacity for larger attacks.
A Big Statement
Decreasing stealth properties does not render the F-35 ineffective in a variety of respects, given that the F-35 is built for heavy bombing as well as reconnaissance missions.
Thinking of these together, an F-35 could use its electro/optical-infrared (EO-IR) cameras and surrounding sensors to find far-away ground targets autonomously, and then attack them from the air with bombs.
The aircraft does have an internal weapons bay, intended to enable attacks while preserving a stealth configuration, yet a full-force attack will mean using the external pylons to enable what many call the F-35’s “beast mode.”
An interesting report from the Aviation Geek Club describes beast mode as arming an F-35 with “six inert 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, four loaded externally on the wings and two internally in the weapons bay, as well as an AIM-9 training air-to-air missile.”
Naturally, this means an F-35 would increase its radar signature and decrease the effectiveness of its stealth properties, however, such a configuration would be possible in combat environments wherein the United States has already achieved air supremacy.
Externally hanging weapons present contours and configurations likely to provide enemy radar with a more detailed radar return, therefore delivering a rendering of the aircraft to adversaries.
Longer Attack Missions for F-35
This kind of attack mode might also be needed, should a combat campaign need to extend mission dwell time, creating the opportunity for F-35s to hit more targets with a larger weapons load.
Laser-guided GBU-12s, a guided bomb unit, can pinpoint ground targets “lit up” by laser designators from the air or ground, enabling precision strikes.
The Air Force’s GBU-54, also a laser-guided bomb, also brings the ability for an aircraft to hit moving targets on the ground.
This would be a massive increase in efficiency, as the aircraft could respond to new intelligence information in real time, thereby greatly reducing latency and sensor-to-shooter time.
By extension, the F-35’s often-discussed “sensor fusion” could play a role here, as it relies upon computer automation and AI to gather otherwise separate sensor information, analyze and organize it to provide pilots with a single integrated picture.
Navigational, targeting, and electronic-related metrics can all be merged by the aircraft itself.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
April 26, 2023 at 7:57 pm
F-35 is overpriced garbage.
William C Lewis
April 28, 2023 at 12:06 am
I disagree with Al N. Air superiority does come with a priceI wonder what Al thinks of the B17 or the B 52My father was a bomber piolet who flew in World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam He served our country for 28 years. Air Superiority won World War II and ultimately The Cold WarI contend if we are able to train Ukrainians to make full use of the F-35 that Ru8ssia will lose the War with Ukraineshould Putin make the worst mistake of attacking a N.A.T.O. country with or without neclear weapons, He will lose. Currently Ukraine is fighting that war. It is essential that the Ukrainians win because in essense a loss for Russia is a win for the rest of tyhe world! And should Putin use neclear weapons and draw NATO into a War Russia willbecoe a wasteland. Putin is a bully ;however he is not stupid and he knows what will happen if he drags h world into World War III!
April 29, 2023 at 10:47 am
How stealthy does the F-35 become after discharging all external weapons? One could make use of firing and ‘disappearing’, making it possible to fight on into contested airspace.
April 29, 2023 at 1:52 pm
SKG I imagine the pylons would be reflective of radar…
May 2, 2023 at 4:07 pm
The B-2 Spirit is our large bomb truck, and it keeps it’s stealth capabilities with a MUCH larger bomb inventory than the F-35. Further, the F-18 Hornet and even the F-16 can carry as many as, and even more than the F-35 can, at a much cheaper price than the F-35. The F-35 seems to be just a super expensive replacement of the F-117 Night Hawk.
May 8, 2023 at 3:04 pm
First off War is not needed and defending the USA does not require
world domination and superior weapons !
The Airforce said the F-35 would replace the A-10 is the most ridiculous statement that shows they need any excuse to buy the F-35 !
If the classified technologies are unleashed the 6th Generation Fighter will not have wings or jet engines nor a heat signature !
We need the pentagon to be reigned in on spending as exotic weapons are not needed !
May 13, 2023 at 10:55 am
Before shooting off opinions, perhaps it would be sensible to ask and to listen to the military experts, including the uniformed USAF and civilians who have probably forgotten more than we, civilians, will ever know. Being skeptical about the entire USAF menu of weapons is prudent. There may be some redundancy and meddlesome Congressmen & women who use military appropriations to boost their re-election prospects = CIS = cynical, irresponsible, and selfish. I also recognize the most valuable asset in the US inventory is our personnel in all branches including the US Coast Guard. I suspect the $ spent in training and upgrading personnel skills will likely be the most effective and efficient use of our tax dollars. Having served in the USAF, I am inclined to put my $ on people skills before the equipment. One skilled mechanic who prepares, repairs, and keeps an aircraft in service and the flight crew in the action is worth how many aircraft? Or similarly, in the other branches… one skilled rifleman is worth how many pieces of artillery? Priceless! Remember, too what nation has the second largest airforce? Answer: We do ….The US Navy!