The tri-service F-35 fighter is proving to be the most versatile tactical aircraft ever, in part because it can survive in environments that might prove fatal to other aircraft. Now that survivability is lending credence to the idea that the F-35 might be useful in a mission the plane was never intended to execute: intercepting long-range ballistic missiles before or just after liftoff. Because the stealthy F-35 has the ability to penetrate hostile air space, it can potentially strike enemy missile sites before weapons are launched. In the immediate aftermath of launch, the missiles are highly vulnerable and have an easily detected “signature.” All this has planners thinking about how the F-35’s stealth, sensors, weapons and connectivity might be applied in defeating missiles beyond the reach of other aircraft. Lexington senior fellow Kris Osborn has written a commentary for Warrior Maven here.
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