Proponents for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have long insisted the aircraft would fundamentally transform air combat and ensure U.S. and allied dominance of the air domain for decades to come. The evidence from numerous exercises as well as initial operational deployments is proving the truth of this prophesy. Ongoing combat exercises and tests have demonstrated that the F-35’s combination of stealthiness, maneuverability, sophisticated electronics, active and passive sensors, battle management software, and advanced data links will make it a key enabler in emerging concepts of future high-end warfare. Major U.S. allies are acquiring this fifth- generation fighter. Australia, one of the original partners in the program, plans to buy 100 F-35As. Japan and South Korea have announced plans to acquire 42 and 40 F-35As, respectively. Other nations may soon see the wisdom of being part of the F-35 “family.” Together, the U.S. and its allies can use their F-35s to support a sensor-communications network for regional missile defenses reaching from the South China Sea to the Arctic. I have written about the role of the F-35 in a regional integrated air and missile defense for Defense News here.
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