It is not a secret that F-35 A is not and Air Superiority Fighter: It is a Joint Strike Fighter. This Defensive Counter Air scenario brings the “failings” of the F-35 A platform to fore: It is not speedy (1,6 Mach in height), it doesn’t carry a lot of missiles (4 AIM-120D and 2 AIM-9X). These failings make it impossible for F-35 A to capitalize on it’s strengths in environment where there is a lot of targets but they are quite far apart.
As you can see from the scorecard, F-35 As have to quite often resort into AIM-9X WVR missiles. That in itself is not bad: they will get the job done just as well, but the problem is that there were not enough AMRAAMS to take care of all the targets that came within the striking distance. This leads to more losses on FAF side. VVS had a quite of easy task of taking down Rangemaster and other radar sites. Also they got to try taking down runways. Rovaniemi was gotten to three times and Oulu once. Fortunately bases kept working just fine. (I suspect that Command Modern Warfare is not configured really well for dispersed basing). So in this scenario lack of speed and missiles transferred to more losses in Radar and basing department.
So even though A-50 was present, it never got a bead on the F-35 As. Only time F-35 got shot down was when they got really close to SU-27 closing from SE. That led into a little furball that led to one downed and one hit F-35. So as VVS playbook goes, maybe it would be better to saturate the Lapland aerospace so that you would get evetually bead on the Lightnings, but this would be rather costly exercise.
AIM-120 D is last iteration of AMRAAM family of missiles, and it doesn’t give some kind of performance as with METEOR missiles. At least British F-35 Bs would have METEROR available, but as Congressional permit to sell AA missiles didn’t include AMRAAMS or JATMS,I think it could have been fair to use METEORs as well, but I just don’t see Lightning IIs without US made missiles. I do suspect that the HX deal will in the end include JATM missiles, if Lockheed gets the nod.
AS the AMRAAMS were fired mostly from extreme range, it was not too difficult for the VVS fighters to manouver to avoid them. That of course leads to lower Kps. In many instances F-35s fired right after taking off. And as a rule of the thumb every 6000m of height doubles the missiles range, you can see that the kill probability was not that high.
As with Typhoon, VVS got lucky 1,5 times when Lightnings got too close to comfort with Suhois, and they managed to get bead on the FAF. (After I give FAF the initial target, I don’t meddle in to keep all things even) One splashed, the another could return to base.
VVS was not really succesfull in strikes on Air Force bases: BetAP anti runway bobmlets did not render the facilities unusable. So one might say no “harm done”, but this fact that VVS COULD get over the air basing and COULD drop ordnance on the fields higlights the fact as Air Superiority fighter/interceptor F-35 leaves a lot to be desired. So I fail, to some extend, to see the point in RAND publication of NATO/EU airforce development. Unless they are going to operate in hunter killer configuration with sensor platforms (F-35s) in front and killers (F-22, F-15, F/A-18, Typhoon) shoot from behind.
If F-35 is a pony, it is hardly an one trick pony, but it’s best trick is not air superiority. That was not the core mission of it, so F-35 is not optimized on it. It would be ludricous to expect othervice.
Next up will be Rafale later in the week.