Those of you who've read Red Cell know that the book ends with an aerial dogfight between US Navy F-35s and the Chinese Air Force over the Taiwan Strait. When I started writing that novel more than 10 years ago, stories about performance issues with the F-35 were already starting to crop up. At the time, I had faith that Lockheed Martin would be able to fix the problems and turn the F-35 into a first-rate fighter.
"Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement," the F-35 pilot reported. That means the F-35 constantly found itself flying slower and more sluggishly, unable to effectively maneuver to get the F-16 in its sights.
If this report is true, I'm not sure "debacle" is a strong enough word to describe this.