The West is in danger of losing the fight to operate effectively in contested airspace. Russia and China have developed and continue to improve their Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) that can engage hostile air threats at all altitudes and ranges out to 400 kilometers. There is only one near-term answer to the growing IADS threat. It is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Together with the limited fleet of U.S. F-22s, the F-35, once available in sufficient numbers, holds the promise of maintaining U.S. air superiority for decades to come. The JSF has already demonstrated that it has the potential to totally change the balance of air power vis-à-vis potential U.S. adversaries. In last year’s Red Flag combat exercises, the F-35 scored a stunning 20-1 kill ration. According to one experienced Air Force pilot, the F-35 totally dominates fourth generation aircraft. “The airplane has unbelievable maneuvering characteristics that make it completely undefeatable in an air-to-air environment.” I have written about the F-35 in RealClearDefense here.
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