When the Air Force announced that its first squadron of F-35A fighters was operational last week, that was good news for the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program. The Air Force will buy over 40% of the 4,000 or so F-35s that are built, and most of the foreign customers for the plane will buy the Air Force variant too (there are also Navy and Marine variants). It is hard to concisely capture all the ways in which the F-35A transforms air warfare, but here is how I would frame a five-sentence “elevator speech” for a key legislator or policymaker: F-35A gets the first shot in every fight thanks to advanced stealth features; it sees everything thanks to the fusion of on-board and off-board sensors; it shares what it sees over secure data links that facilitate tight synchronization of operations; it can execute several missions at the same time because it is highly automated; and it is affordable. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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