"A group of Internet aviation fans once debated the subject of the worst fighter of World War II. Their hands-down favorite: the Brewster Buffalo. . . The Royal Air Force fobbed the Brewster fighter onto the Fleet Air Arm and British Commonwealth squadrons; the U.S. Navy gave it to the Marines. Pilots thought it was a sweet plane to fly, but noticed that the wheel struts sometimes broke, that the engine leaked oil, and that the guns sometimes didn’t fire. And when they flew it against the nimble fighters of Japan, too often they didn’t come back.
“The F-35 is double-inferior,” Stillion and Perdue moaned in their written summary of the war game, later leaked to the press. The analysts railed against the new plane, which to be fair played only a small role in the overall simulation. “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn capability,” they wrote. “Also has lower top speed. Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” Once missiles and guns had been fired and avoiding detection was no longer an option—in all but the first few seconds of combat, in other words—the F-35 was unable to keep pace with rival planes. And partly as a result, the U.S. lost the simulated war. Hundreds of computer-code American air crew perished. Taiwan fell to the 1s and 0s representing Chinese troops in Stillion and Perdue’s virtual world. Nearly a century of American air superiority ended among the wreckage of simulated warplanes, scattered across the Pacific.