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F-35: The Best Stealth Fighter Jet on Earth?

F-35 Lighting II
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Zackery Hendrix, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, directs a pilot to the runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, July 30, 2020. Crew chiefs ensure the aircraft is ready to fly at a moment’s notice so pilots can safely and effectively complete their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Heather Leveille)

The F-35 Stealth Fighter: The Best Fighter On the Planet? Lots of ink has been spilled on why the F-35 isn’t worth the astounding money the Pentagon has spent or is planning to spend on it. To be sure, when an aircraft program ends up costing approximately $1.7 trillion, any concerns are justified, and expectations should be sky-high. But it is also worth exploring what makes the F-35 different and why it is so popular around the world despite its big price tag.

The F-35: A Popular Aircraft 

5th generation multi-role fighter jet, the F-35 Lighting II is the most advanced plane in the world. The aircraft comes in three different variants, each designed for a different operating environment.

The F-35A is the conventional version that can take off and land normally from a runway. This is the most widely used or purchased iteration.

With a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) design, the F-35B was designed to take off and land like a helicopter before transitioning to jet mode in the air. This version can take off from extremely small surfaces and is a great option to put on helicopter carriers or small islands.

Lastly, the F-35C was designed to operate from aircraft carriers and has a more robust structure and landing mechanism.

In total, the Pentagon alone plans to purchase more than 2,500 F-35s of all versions, with the Air Force taking the lead with an intended target of about 1,700 F-35As, followed by the Marine Corps with about 410 F-35Bs and F-35Cs, with the Navy bringing up the rear with about 270 F-35Cs.

Today, 14 countries fly or intend to fly it (the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Japan, Israel, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Singapore, Belgium, South Korea, and the Netherlands). Most of these countries are NATO member states, and by 2035, there will be more than 500 NATO F-35s in Europe to deter and deal with Russian aggression.

Despite its troubled technical past and high purchase and maintenance price tag, the F-35 is the most advanced fighter jet on the plant and a quite desirable aircraft. In addition to the 14 countries that already operate and will be flying it in the future, Spain, Finland, Greece, and the Czech Republic are also looking into getting some F-35s.

The F-35: A Capable Aircraft 

According to Lockheed Martin, the aircraft manufacturer, the F-35 is capable of six mission sets.

Strategic Attack: For example, taking out Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems in Crimea so follow on aircraft can dominate the battlefield and achieve crucial air superiority.

Close Air Support: for instance, supporting a Navy SEAL platoon in danger of being overrun by al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia.

Air Superiority: for example, shooting down a Chinese J-10 fighter jet over the South China Sea and clearing the way for B-52 bombers to hit targets.

Electronic Warfare: for instance, jamming a Russian radar station close to the Baltics to allow older U.S. fighter jets to bomb it undetected.

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR): for example, flying above a compound that contains a high-value target in Tehran and providing a special operations element on the ground with an accurate picture of what is going in there and in the surrounding area.

Suppression Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and Destruction Enemy Air Defense(DEAD): for instance, taking out a North Korean radar station outside of Pyongyang to allow for an incoming flight of F-15s that is targeting a military airfield in the vicinity.

But what makes the F-35 unique isn’t its ability to perform the above missions, which other older aircraft can do too, although each with a varying degree of effectiveness, but its ability to play “captain” and organize and dominate the tactical fight.

F-35

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning ll aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 prepare for takeoff from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, April 8, 2021. VMFA-121 is the first forward deployed Marine F-35B squadron, capable of providing close air support and conducting strike missions in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jackson Ricker)

F-35

U.S. Air Force Maj. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, performs an aerial demonstration during the 2021 Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona Air Show and Open House at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 5, 2021. The last air show and open house DM held showcasing U.S. military capabilities was in 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kaitlyn Ergish)

The F-35’s groundbreaking sensors and data link capabilities allow the aircraft to be an airborne quarterback that can quickly take data from several different sources, such as the ground, sea, space, or air, and pass them along to other aircraft or units in the battlefield.

For example, an F-35’s sensors can receive radar indications from a U.S. Navy ship in the South China Sea and guide older aircraft, such as the F-15E or F-16D, to approaching Chinese J-10 fighters. This ability to make older platforms deadlier by showing them where targets are that otherwise, the 4th generation fighters wouldn’t have picked up so easily, makes the F-35 a force multiplier.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Michael Osborne

    December 28, 2021 at 11:58 am

    How can this article be taken for real after the UFO report site them as stealth beyond our technology flying around earth!

  2. patrico

    December 28, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    D accord pour le titre du reportage, F 35 The Best en 2022 ! mais warning le CheckMate dans 2 ans sera the Best et le Tempest dans 5 ans the Best… à suivre,
    Merci Thank you merci a Tous.

  3. Vince

    December 28, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    The F-35 is the Tom Brady of ALL fighter jets.
    I didn’t like the F-35 initially but after watching and reading much about it, I can see why our fighter pilots love the aircraft.
    Information, situatuonal awareness, sensor fusion – no wonder the Chinese and Russians are afraid of the F-35. And with our allies acquiring it also, all the more they should worry.

  4. Joe blow

    December 28, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    The Chinese will copy it and blow our cover

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