be called liberalism's attempt to build a combat aircraft. Though intended as a fighter, the production F-111 was a monster aircraft the size of a medium airliner, and just about asmaneuverable. Though the F-111 eventually found its role as a precision bomber, a largehole remained where the USAF's future fighter aircraft was supposed to be. Boyd's jobwas to fill that hole.At first, it appeared that Boyd would be presiding over F-111: The Sequel. GeneralDynamics sent him a proposal for a plane weighing no less than 60,000 lbs. Boyd sent it back outlining exactly what he expected: half the weight, powered by engines that hadn'teven reached the test stage yet, and with electronics and weapons systems that nobodycould quite comprehend. It was a sure formula for failure in other hands, but everything broke the Mad Major's way, with advanced engines and avionics becoming available at just the right moment. The result was the F-15 Eagle.
But Boyd was not quite satisfied. He was perfectly aware of the benefits of the high-lowmix, and on his own, without permission from anyone, began development of thenecessary "low"-end aircraft. Working out the design parameters to match a series of "Energy Maneuverability" curves he had formulated (in large part from reinterpreting theaircraft as a thermodynamic system), Boyd coaxed several aircraft companies to produce prototypes to compete in a flyoff. Unusually, both prototypes were successful. One became the Navy's standard fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet. The other became theF-16 Falcon (though most pilots call it the "Viper").Together, the F-15 and F-16 stand as the most effective fighter team on record. The F-15compiled a kill ratio of 105 kills to zero losses. While the F-16's record was only half that, it more than effectively filled the swing role as the primary high-speed attack aircraft in theaters including Serbia and Iraq. Neither aircraft ever suffered a loss in air-to-air combat.It would appear that the high-low thesis is as well established as any military conceptever gets. All the same, we're in the process of dumping it in pursuit of false economy.To the battle cry of "who needs two fighters anyway!" the U.S. is dropping the high endof the equation -- theF-22 Raptor -- in the mistaken conviction that the low end -- the F-
35 Lightning II-- can cover all the bases.The F-22 is the most effective air-superiority weapon ever devised -- the sole currentoperational example of the fifth-generation fighter. With its full stealth, supersonic cruisecapability, and electronics that make the Starship
look like a birchbark canoe,it is utterly unmatched as a fighter aircraft. Its kill/loss ratio is estimated at 100 to 1 and is probably much higher.The F-35 is a good little airplane, well-fitted for the swing role. It possesses partialstealthing ("forward stealthing," which prevents an enemy from knowing it's coming), performance matching most operational fighters, and a good electronics suite. It hasseveral minor failings -- among them limited a internal weapons carriage, renderingunderwing carriage necessary (thus negating most of its stealth advantages), along withan inability to fire its air-to-air weapons at maximum speed. All the same, when matchedagainst current fighter designs, it would probably come out on top.