After spending a dozen years fighting enemies that lacked air forces and air defenses, the Pentagon is beginning to focus again on state-based adversaries possessing sizable arsenals. Syria could be an early test case, because influential members of Congress favor creating a no-fly zone over the country, and that would require dealing with its dense air defense network. If Syria takes delivery of state-of-the-art Russian S-300 air defenses next Spring as currently planned, it is not clear most NATO fighters could safely transit the country’s airspace, much less control it. What the joint force needs is fifth-generation fighters like the F-35, that combine advanced stealth with the situational awareness provided by sensor fusion and secure, high-capacity datalinks. Countries like China, Iran and North Korea are expected to get similarly sophisticated defenses in the near future, so there is no time to lose. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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