Modern warfare is undergoing a transformation as broad and complex as that which occurred in the first half of the twentieth century. To the three classic domains of warfare—land, sea, and air—space and cyber have been added. Military systems in all domains are evolving to be longer range, more precise, and highly lethal. The ability to integrate a wide range of sensors, computers, databases, and networks has resulted in the competition for military advantage shifting toward a fight to acquire, exploit, and move information. NATO faces an ever more lethal and disruptive battlefield, with forces combining across domains and operations conducted at increasing speed and reach, and with unprecedented situational awareness. The development of fifth-generation aircraft with low-observable features, commonly referred to as “stealthiness,” and an array of advanced sensors is intended not only to counter advanced air defenses but to extend the power of platforms and forces operating in that domain. The ability of fifth-generation aircraft, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to operate as a highly survivable and agile sensor platform is of nearly incalculable advantage to all networked land, air, and sea forces. I have co-authored a study for the Atlantic Council on the revolutionary impacts of fifth-generation aircraft that can be read here.
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