One of the most noteworthy features of Top Gun: Maverick is the absence (beyond a few seconds at the beginning of the movie) of the F-35C, the Navy’s premier, and only, fifth-generation aircraft. If the F-35 had been the centerpiece of Top Gun, it would have made for an entirely different and possibly boring movie. There are three good reasons why F-35 was not employed. The first is that with the F-35 there would be no heart-stopping, adrenaline-pumping dogfighting scenes. The F-35 was designed to employ a combination of stealthiness, advanced sensing, and long-range weapons to engage aircraft from outside their sensor ranges. The second reason is that with the F-35 leading the way for a combination of manned and unmanned systems, there would have been no dramatic flights into the Valley of Death lined with air defense systems. The third reason is that in the future, there will be alternative ways for the Joint Force to address ground-based air defenses. In the future, joint and coalition operations will employ the F-35 and its airborne adjuncts as passive, stealthy sensors providing precise targeting data for long-range precision fire systems. I have written more on this subject here.
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