The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter is still in development by the United States and could even be scrapped due to its massive development cost. Anyone who isn’t training to be a fighter pilot needn’t worry though, because Battlefield 3’s Back to Karkand DLC introduces the jet once again to the game’s wildly popular multiplayer.
Featured for the Conquest modes on the Wake Island and Gulf of Oman maps, the F-35’s unique hovering ability and set of weapons make it stand out instantly from the sea of vehicles in Battlefield 3. And while some message board users have panned it as a “flying coffin” for its shortcomings in dogfighting, there’s no denying that learning the plane’s basic functionalities can add a significant dimension to your team.
The F-35 is also referred to as a VSTOL (short for Vertical or Short Take-Off and Landing) fighter. That’s because, either during take-off or in flight – the aircraft is capable of hovering like a helicopter. This is activated simply by pressing the left trigger (L2 on PS3) to slow the plane below 280 mph. Afterwards, holding it will then let the plane climb in a hover, and releasing it will let the plane descend and even land should you need a repair.
Rearing up into a hover over a ground target like a tank or cluster of infantry is where the F-35 is at its deadliest, but the last thing you want to do is leave it exposed to a tank shell or rocket launcher for an extended period of time. Think of the plane as a helicopter when you’re hovering, and find a good spot with cover between a set of buildings or behind a hillside. Also make sure you don’t stay in one place for too long.
Controlling the F-35 in a hover is also similar to the helicopter in that there’s a slim margin of error for false moves. The jet’s responsiveness seems stiff at first, but steering too hard in any direction is a good way to lose control of the aircraft or even stall. As a general rule, it always helps to keep speed at a minimum and altitude in check before making further any further adjustments.
The F-35 is equipped with a standard 20mm Gatling gun and features the same additional weapon unlocks as any other jet in Battlefield 3:
By far, the best loadout is the IR flare / air-to-ground missile (aka rocket pods) combination. Get your team to spot targets on the ground, and the ability to unleash a flurry of net a vehicle destroy and/or an enemy kill just about every time out. Laser guided bombs or missiles do offer greater precision, but the time spent trying to lock a target turns the jet into a sitting duck longer than I’m comfortable with.
HUD (Heads Up Display)
The first person cockpit view in the F-35 is zoomed in a lot more than other jets in the game and will definitely take a few flights to get acquainted with. Yet the most interesting aspect of the cockpit HUD is the three separate indicators floating around at the same time. The one to focus on for targeting an enemy is the small cross-shaped reticle. This indicates the path of the Gatling gun’s bullets, while the larger circle indicates the direction of the nose and the small circles symbolizes the plane’s center of gravity.
There’s no getting around the fact that the F-35 is not designed for dogfights, and much like a spare tire on a brand new car, they should be treated as a last resort. That fact is made even more apparent when it’s pitted against the agile Su-35BM Flanker-E, a jet with almost twice the maneuverability of the F-35.
If you do find yourself with an enemy on your six, tapping the brakes before the point of hovering will help you turn faster, but it’s not likely to shake anyone off in the long run. It might also help to take a cue from Charlie Sheen in Hot Shots (10:25) and brake enough to let an enemy fly by. Just don’t count on Babaganoush being at the controls of every opposing fighter. Jet Gatling guns do deal greater damage to helicopters now, so if there’s one strength to the F-35’s sluggishness, it’s that the target acquisition window in front of an enemy chopper is long enough to take it down in one pass. The bottom line here is to pick your battles and don’t try to engage jets that are designed as pure dogfighters.
To wrap things up, here’s a helpful video from Youtube user theminimalisto showing off the F-35 in one of its natural habitats, Wake Island. You can see how the guided missiles work to perfection for acquiring and destroying unspotted ground targets, but then again, he doesn’t a Flanker bearing down on his ass either.