• F-35 test pilots described how intense it is to fly the aircraft, The Jerusalem Post reported.
  • “It’s like an 800-pound gorilla sitting on your chest,” a pilot said in a Lockheed Martin webinar.
  • “After some training, pilots come out looking like they are 100 years old,” another test pilot said.

A US test pilot described the challenges of flying one of the world’s most advanced warplanes, the F-35 fighter jet, in a recent discussion in a webinar organized by Lockheed Martin.

Tony “Brick” Wilson, an F-35 test pilot for the American defense company who formerly served in the US Navy, described the “g-forces” — or gravitational force — must deal with when flying the hi-tech US fighter jets.

“It’s like an 800-pound gorilla sitting on your chest,” Wilson said earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The F-35 has a top speed of around Mach 1.6  or 1,228 mph.

Aircraft-to-aircraft “dog fighting” is like a full-body workout, and “you are wiped out” by the end, Wilson added.

The hi-tech, fifth-generation aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin is a multirole stealth aircraft that is intended for air superiority and strike missions, Insider previously reported.

Monessa “Siren” Balzhiser, another F-35 test pilot for the company, also addressed “g-forces” in the discussion.

An average roller coaster pulls about three to four “g-forces,” Balzhiser said, who, prior to joining Lockheed, served in the US Air Force.

“For a g-force, think about your weight. So if you were 100 pounds, pulling 9 g’s, you would be pulling 900 pounds of force on a person’s body. Imagine that much pressure on your body. It takes a lot of training and special training,” Balzhiser said.

Following a mission, “pilots come out looking like they are 100 years old,” she added.

F-35 jet fighter refueling mid-air.
F-35 jet fighter refueling mid-air. 

Wilson was later asked how far the jets could fly, per The Jerusalem Post, and he described the different fuel levels available in each variant of the jet.

An F-35A carries 18,000 pounds of fuel, the F-35B carries about 13,000 pounds of fuel, and the F-35C carries almost 20,000 pounds of fuel, the test pilot said.

Generally, on missions, pilots fly no more than “500 to 700 nautical miles, execute a mission, and then travel back” to base, Wilson said.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the US Air Force deployed F-35 fighter jets to NATO’s front line to patrol for Russian missiles that could threaten planes, Insider previously reported.

The F-35 joint strike fighter.
An F-35 taxis down the flight line. 

A multirole stealth aircraft, the F-35 is intended for air superiority and strike missions and is now flown by at least 17 airforces worldwide.

It is equipped with a powerful electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance suite. The capabilities, which allow the F-35 to gather and distribute real-time battlefield information to friendly forces, have earned it the nickname “the quarterback of the skies.”

In the webinar, Balzhiser said what she most valued about the warplanes is “the amount of information and situational awareness that the F-35 gave me in comparison to the F-16.”

The F-16 has three separate screens and displays, with each screen tied to a specific sensor,” she said, per The Jerusalem Post. “The pilots needed to do sensor fusion in their brain to take the information, think about it, and come up with a solution. The F-35’s large graphic display does that, provides that situational awareness faster than what I was able to do in the F-16.”

The weaponry carried by the F-35 varies. In a configuration known as “beast mode,” it carries four 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on its wings, two GBU-12 in its internal weapons bay, and an AIM-9 air-to-air heat-seeking missile. That configuration sacrifices stealth for firepower, according to a 2022 Insider report.