Rubber band launch?
I to worry a bit about the one size fits all dynamic here. I think the plane can be a huge asset, even a game changer with its ability to manage information but yes the collective record of " does everything" aircraft makes me a little nervous.A $1.5 trillion dollar program, 18 years of "development", a plane that costs $100 million per plane, VERY difficult to manufacture AT the factory with body panels that have to be VERY precisely aligned to maintain stealth (imagine combat field maintenance) and that radar absorbing coating is easily scratched.
IMHO the primary problem is/was the Pentagon's insistence on a "one size fits all" aircraft. The four services demanded features that were almost incompatible with each other.
History is littered with multi-mission aircraft that never quite measured up. Take Germany's WWII Junkers Ju-88, or the 1970s Panavia Tornado, or even the original F/A-18. Yea it's true. The Hornet is a mainstay of the American military, but when it first appeared it lacked the range and payload of the A-7 Corsair and acceleration and climb performance of the F-4 Phantom it was meant to replace.
The F-35A Strike Fighter carries no more than four air-to-air missiles in its internal bays. Less if it has to add air-to-ground weapons to that mix.
While the Lightning II can carry a much more extensive payload — including air-to-air missiles — under its wings, it does so at a significant cost: i.e., it loses its stealth ability.
Without that ability to hide in the skies, its relatively poorer maneuverability, acceleration and speed puts it at a disadvantage to most modern Russian and Chinese fighter aircraft designs.
Not a problem we just re-define the "combat" so that the F-35's concept relies upon all air-to-air combat being conducted 'beyond visual range', where it is not required to maneuver. But long-range missile attacks are generally regarded as having less chance of success than those at close range.
A study by the RAND Corporation showed that, even assuming a 50 per cent offensive missile success rate and a 100 per cent successful defensive missile evasion rate, F-35 Strike Fighters would run out of missiles long before they ran out of targets.
Stealth in not invisible and countries like China, are upgrading their defense systems to take these new radar-evading capabilities into account. There have also been secrets about the stealth technology stolen through espionage. One of the creators of the B-2 bomber was convicted of passing classified information to China and other countries. So the improved systems being developed by other countries will take into account the secrets of the stealth technology and reduce its effectiveness.
While something like 200 F-35s are flying worldwide they are really not "finished". The GAO has found almost 1000 "deficiencies" in the aircraft. Each aircraft will have to eventually be recalled and retrofitted upwards to the new 2019 standard. The degree and complexity of that retrofit depends on the age of the aircraft.