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    Unleashing the F-35’s ‘Enhanced Mode’: Amplifying Firepower Amidst Reduced Stealth Focus

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    The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stands as a pinnacle in contemporary aerial warfare, celebrated for its cutting-edge stealth features and advanced technology.

    However, beyond its renowned stealth capabilities lies another facet that underscores its formidable power and adaptability—its capacity to engage ‘Beast Mode.’

    In this configuration, the F-35 can astonishingly bear up to 22,000 pounds of munitions, showcasing its sheer versatility.

    The concept of ‘Beast Mode’ is not merely an informal term but a strategic capability of the F-35.

    When in stealth mode, the aircraft carries its weapons internally, maintaining a low radar signature with a payload limit of 5,700 pounds.

    Electro-optical target sensor (EOTS) on the F-35 12-5054

    This configuration typically comprises four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles for air-to-air combat or a combination of two AMRAAMs and two GBU-31 JDAM bombs for mixed missions.

    However, when stealth is no longer a primary requirement—usually when enemy air defenses have been neutralized—the F-35 can load up its external hardpoints in addition to its internal weapons bay. This multiplies its payload to nearly four times the stealth mode capacity, hence ‘Beast Mode.’

    Such a dramatic increase in firepower allows the F-35 to carry up to 14 AMRAAMs and two Sidewinder missiles for air-to-air combat in ‘Beast Mode’.

    For air-to-ground missions, it can be outfitted with two AMRAAMs, two Sidewinders, and six JDAM 2,000-pound bombs. While ‘Beast Mode’ offers significant firepower, it does come at the expense of reduced operational range, cutting down the distance the F-35 can travel without refueling to approximately 1,400 kilometers.

    This deployment of the F-35’s ‘Beast Mode’ is not just theoretical. Allied forces from countries such as the Netherlands, Italy, and Australia have adopted this configuration when required, showcasing the global recognition of the F-35’s expanded combat role beyond just stealth operations.

    As one Lockheed Martin graphic from 2017 illustrated, ‘Beast Mode’ is fully activated once air superiority is achieved, allowing rapid deployment of ordnance without the need for radar evasion.

    Training for ‘Beast Mode’ is an integral part of a pilot’s preparation, as it requires them to handle the aircraft under significantly different flight characteristics.

    Lieutenant Colonel Peter Cossette, Director of Operations at the USAF’s 63rd Fighter Squadron, emphasized the importance of exposing student pilots to this configuration, stating, “It’s important for our student pilots to have some exposure to flying this really unique configuration because when they are in a combat situation, they will fly a very similar configuration to the one they’re doing right now.”

    Moreover, engaging ‘Beast Mode’ involves not just a change in the weapons load but also a shift in tactical approach.

    Its utilization is part of a carefully considered strategy that follows the notion of “Day 3” combat, wherein the first two days involve achieving air dominance through stealth and precision, clearing the way for the third day when the F-35 can unleash its full arsenal without concern for enemy radar.

    Relevant articles:
    Beast Mode: The F-35 Has a Secret Weapon, The National Interest
    The F-35 Can Drop Its Stealth and Transform Into a Terrifying ‘Beast Mode’, The National Interest
    What Is ‘Beast Mode’ On The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II?, Simple Flying
    What Is ‘Beast Mode’ On The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II?, Simple Flying, Dec 8, 2023

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