An arcane controversy has bubbled up in military circles about whether jamming aircraft will be needed in the future to support the combat operations of fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 Lightning II. The Air Force and Marine Corps apparently have no plans to buy new jammers, but the Navy says it needs more than the 138 it has already ordered — in part, presumably, to support its carrier based F-35s. However, all three variants of F-35 have integrated stealth designs that thoroughly disrupt the kill chains of enemy defenders plus on-board electronic-warfare systems that match or exceed the performance of rival jammers. Those systems are closely tied to other on-board equipment affording pilots unprecedented situational awareness and numerous tactical options, including non-kinetic attack on enemy networks. Besides, fourth-gen jammers can’t follow F-35s deep into hostile airspace so they have limited defensive utility, and their presence might tip off enemies as to the location of otherwise stealthy strike aircraft. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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