HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — As investigators work to find the cause of an F-35 crash earlier this week, aviators are also trying to protect some vital technology.
While many of our US allies have the F-35, some of our enemies would still like to know what’s inside. China has even been accused of stealing plans of the F-35 to fit into their 5th generation fighter. Because of this, the US remains cautious about how much is shared about the stealth fighter.
The F-35 gets a lot of attention, not just for its performance, but also for the cost that its development has cost taxpayers – tens of billions over the years for a fighter jet that cost around $80 million per aircraft in its early stages has for the Luftwaffe variant.
“If we really demonstrated our capabilities, you would never hear or see us,” said Maj. Jay “Fast” Doerfler, an F-35 pilot.
The fighter’s combination of speed and stealth allows it to dominate the battlefield and give older jets a better idea of what to expect before they join the fight.
“The jet can use its radar to find a bad guy out there, and in my visor I see an arrow pointing to where he is and I know I can look and find him very easily,” Doerfler said.
And pilots say the helmet offers the greatest jump for them in many ways, even allowing them to look straight through the jet and get a full 360-degree view.
“From video on, video off, being able to turn night vision on or off, with all the symbology right in front of you to look anywhere, it’s that information that’s so much faster and so much better at your fingertips. That makes us that much deadlier,” said Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe of the 388th Fighter Wing.
All just an example of why this technology is so tightly guarded, why the crash site is kept secure and out of sight until all the parts are collected.
Even when reporting on the F-35, we as the media are asked to keep certain components of the fighter plane off camera.
“If we don’t have the F-35s, we’re irrelevant to today’s combat capabilities,” said Captain “Psycho” Hablützel of the 388th Fighter Squadron.
It’s about advantages we want to keep on the battlefield to protect this massive investment and allow our aviators to better protect ourselves and themselves.
Airmen also keep a close eye on the crash site to keep everything as close as possible to how it was after the crash for the investigation.
You won’t be able to collect all the parts of the wreckage until the investigators are done there.