F-35 in Beast Mode: Air Dominance with full Arsenal

The F-35, with its combat configuration known as Beast Mode, deploys an impressive arsenal of up to 22,000 pounds (9,980 kg) in internal and external weapons. This modality is activated in scenarios of less conflict, where attack speed prevails over stealth.

Unique Features and Training of the F-35 in Beast Mode

When flying fully armed, the F-35 drastically changes its flight characteristics, presenting a tactical challenge and a crucial training opportunity for flight cadets. Developed by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is hailed as the world’s most advanced combat platform, replacing multiple models with its mission versatility.
F-35 in Beast Mode: Air Dominance with full Arsenal

The term “Beast Mode” was coined in a 2017 Lockheed Martin graphic, contrasting this configuration with stealth mode, where the F-35 equips itself with only internal weaponry to minimize its radar signature. This dual capability offers unprecedented tactical versatility on the battlefield.

Cargo Capacity of the F-35 in Beast Mode and Stealth Mode

In stealth mode, the F-35 can internally carry up to 5,700 pounds, while in Beast Mode, its capacity rises to 22,000 pounds of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. Mathew Harper, commander of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 35th Squadron, highlights that this configuration adapts perfectly to threat scenarios and operational needs, prioritizing rapid attack over stealth.



This mode is typically activated after air superiority is assured when radar detection is no longer a critical concern. The exact configuration of the arsenal depends on the specific mission and aircraft operator requirements. Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 970 F-35s  to ten nations, each tailoring their missions to the fighter’s capabilities.

Beast Mode Training: Combat Preparation

To simulate real combat conditions, the F-35 is loaded with inert bombs and missiles in training exercises. This practice prepares the crews for the differentiated handling of the fighter when fully loaded. Lt. Col. Peter Cossette, director of operations for the USAF 63rd Fighter Squadron, emphasizes the importance of this Beast Mode training experience for pilots in training.
F-35 in Beast Mode: Air Dominance with full Arsenal

Pilots learn to operate the F-35 in a configuration similar to what they will face in real combat situations. Cossette points out that the flight of the fighter, when loaded with six laser-guided bombs and missiles, is radically transformed, presenting a unique tactical challenge that strengthens the pilots’ skill.

F-35: A Flying Arsenal in Beast Mode

The F-35 in Beast Mode can carry ammunition via six external pylons on its wings and in its internal bay. Under normal conditions, internal loading is privileged to keep the radar signature low. In addition to its built-in cannon, the fighter has the capacity for four internal weapons, including air-to-air missiles and precision-guided bombs, configuring a true flying arsenal.