If the F35 turns on its radar and plays AWACS, it gets detected. Active sensors negate stealth.I haven't read this whole thread and I'm only halfway through my first cup of coffee so if this has been addressed, I apologize.
The F-35 criticisms on budget are fair. F-35 criticisms with emphasis on foreign distribution are fair. However, I feel that F-35 criticism as a plane itself are misguided.
Judging it as a fighter jet is a 1980's mentality. It is stuck in the epoch of Top Gun and stories from Vietnam aces. This is the world the F16 and F15 came to know their development and fame in.
However, it didn't take long into the 90's to turn our champion dogfighter and interceptor into ground strike aircraft. The F16 grew to have a wider array of CAS weapons than it ever did Air to Air, and the F15E Strike Eagle is, in my opinion, the most successful variant of the aircraft.
Hyper-focused roles are a thing of the past. Large fleets of aircraft are no longer tenable by budget, resources, or even tactical necessity. Advanced multi-role jets are the new meta. And that's what the F-35 aims to accomplish.
Can it provide CAS as well as the A10? No, but it will do it 80% as good. Can it dogfight like the F16? No, but it can do it 80% as good. It can be stretched across to accomplish more goals with less resources. I'm going to stop this argument here because it falls victim to my own criticism that judging it as an airframe is an old mentality.
The beauty of the F35 is in it's sensor suite and it's stealth capability. Trial runs have already been completed to allow an F35 to datalink to a Drone and use it's cameras, sensors, and munitions. They're running trials right now to allow Gen 4 airframes like the F16 to launch munitions that are guided by the F35. Or even crazier, the F16 to launch a round that the F35 is painting from a datalink from a drone. Whoa.
The F35 is dispersing the need for large AWACS sort of forces. In the way that WWII divisional army mentality won't work in Afghanistan's special forces heavy roles, the idea of multiple bomber and fighter wings supported by AWACS and refueling ships won't work today. The name of the game overall is detection and early warning. The main mission of the air force right now is SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense). Namely, defeating SAM sites and their radars. This is not a mission for a dogfighting aircraft, or a fleet of jammers, or really anything we already have in our inventory.
However, if you can have one plane up that can operate stealthily at the edges of that SAM sighting range calling in precise strikes against those site from planes hovering well outside that sight range, then that's a huge win.
What used to be a large network of aircraft can now be completed by 3, maybe 4 jets. Think of the F35 as a mini AWACS that can defend itself and I think you'll be in a more proper perspective to understand the role and capabilities of the plane.
Oh, and visual range dogfights are won by the pilot, not the plane.