When operating in “Beast Mode”, the total weight that the F-35 can carry in the abdominal and the maximum of two wings will reach nearly 10,000kg, nearly four times the stealth mode.

As we know, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built, with stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground-attack and air-superiority missions. It has three main models: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C carrier-based catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery variant. The F-35 descends from the Lockheed Martin X-35, the winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter program. It is built by Lockheed Martin and many subcontractors, including Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems.

F-35 ‘Beast Mode’ review

To minimize the F-35’s radar signature, Lockheed designed the plane to carry weapons internally. But the fighter’s dense internal layout doesn’t leave a lot of space for munitions.

The Air Force’s F-35A and the Navy’s F-35C internally can carry no more than four AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, although Lockheed is developing a special rack that could boost this number to six.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ vertical-landing F-35B, which features a downward-blasting lift engine that the other variants lack, has a smaller weapons bay and internally can carry only two AIM-120s.

But all the F-35 variants also come with underwing hardpoints. Crews can hang tons of missiles and bombs from the wings, albeit at the cost of the F-35’s radar stealth. The U.S. military even has a nickname for this configuration: “beast mode.”

The F-35As the Air Force in May 2019 deployed to the Middle East for operations targeting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria frequently fly in beast mode. Islamic State forces lack significant air defenses.

The fifth-generation fighters sacrificed their high-end stealth to fly with a full loadout of weaponry on their wings.

“Beast mode,” the carrying of weapons internally and externally to boost the overall firepower of the aircraft, is also known as the “Third Day of War” configuration. At the start of a fight, the F-35 would store all of its weapons internally to maintain low observability, as the external weapons would likely increase the surfaces that an enemy radar could detect.

When operating in “Beast Mode”, the fighters carried 6 GBU-49 Paveway laser-guided precision bombs and 2 AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-tracking short-range air-to-air missiles externally. The total weight that the F-35 can carry in the abdominal and the maximum of two wings will reach nearly 10,000kg, nearly four times the stealth mode.

Carrying such a tremendous amount of weapons but hanging on either side of the wing is primarily make the F-35’s shell lose its seamlessness, making it no longer capable of stealth with enemy air defense systems.

However, with such a large number of weapons, the F-35 will appear extremely dangerous and capable of crushing enemy defenses before being shot down. In other words, beast mode is a very risky way to play for expensive F-35 fighters, either it will be defeated, or it will destroy the enemy’s air defense first.

According to the usual US tactics, F-35 fighters will be in stealth mode when the US air force has not gained absolute superiority. However, after having established this advantage, the F-35 will comfortably carry full load into enemy airspace like going to the market.


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