Currently, about 220 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are in service around the world. However, the areal display shown off at the Paris Air Show from the F-35A from Hill Air Force Base in Utah showed maneuvers never seen before. It showed the ability to square off against any fourth-generation aircraft.
The aircraft had been shown off on a static display with 24-hour armed security throughout most of the show. It also participated in a six-minute aerial demonstration daily. Two F-35As participated in the show, even though the final decision wasn’t made until a month before the show about whether the aircraft would even participate.
Lockheed Martin and test pilots designed the demonstration and it had been in the plans for over a year. The goal was to highlight the advanced capabilities of the aircraft. The demonstration included a slow-speed pass, square loop, steep vertical climb and a 360-degree minimum radius turn. This demonstration was put together to help the doubters see what the F-35 is really capable of.
Two years before this demonstration a leaked test pilot brief caused doubts because it documented internal doubts about the aircraft’s ability to dogfight. Even tests done in 2015 caused doubts as it was unable to climb or turn at necessary speeds for a dogfight.
However, the demonstrations in Paris put all the doubts to bed. It was capable of everything necessary for a dogfight and had the maneuverability it needed to handle combat. The F-35 even handled what is known as a pedal turn, which isn’t something many aircraft can do at high altitudes.
The F-35 wasn’t designed for close combat like the F-22, however. It was designed for close-air support and ordnance missions. It has the ability to destroy fourth-generation fighters before they even known it’s nearby due to the stealth profile.