The F-35 Can Unleash the Beast Mode – One of the main distinguishing features of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth capabilities.
However, the Lockheed Martin F-35, which remains the most capable multirole fighter in service today, was designed to accommodate different weapon load-outs to suit different missions.
In essence, that means it was specifically engineered with the ability to launch massive air attacks on air-to-air and air-to-ground targets depending on the situation at hand.
The different weapon layouts are meant to accommodate a range of tactical scenarios.
Its stealth capabilities – which include an exterior that has been precisely machined down to the ten-thousandth of an inch to baffle radars – make it ideally suited to penetrate defended airspaces and knock out defenses. The aircraft employs an internal weapons bay intended to enable attacks against an adversary while preserving a stealth configuration. Yet, even in this mode, it can still hold 5,700 pounds of bombs internally.
The “First Day of War” loadout is meant to preserve the “stealth” configuration. It could likely 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.
More than a fighter jet, the F-35 also has the ability to collect, analyze and share data, is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface, and ground-based assets in the battlespace.
Unleash the Beast Mode
Though the F-35 can still do considerable damage to an enemy’s ground forces, it also can be utilized in a full-force attack by employing the external pylons as well.
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 it operates via its “beast mode” or “bomb truck” mode. This is when it can deploy with externally-mounted weapons, and as a result, would have a larger radar footprint. In this case, it can carry a full 22,000 lbs, of both air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
The stealth is seen as ideal for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done, expect the F-35 to go full-on “beast.”
In addition, Lockheed Martin has been working with the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) hypersonic missile. The speed and range of hypersonic weapons give them an intrinsic stand-off capability, making this a less pressing issue.
Even without the hypersonic missiles, few would ever want to mess with an F-35 in beast mode.
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.