Recently, the Norwegian Defence Minister opened an F-35 partners meeting held in Norway by this comment with regard to the arrival of the F-35 for the US and the partners: “We’re turning the future into the present.”
This report looks at the services and the allies as they prepare to introduce the F-35 into service and look to transform their airpower capabilities appropriate to deal with 21st century threats.
The report is based on dozens of interviews with the services and partners, ranging from Italy, to the UK, to Australia and from Eglin, to Yuma, to Fallon.
21st century warfare technologies concepts of operations, technology, tactics and training are in evolution and revolution.
However, there is always the reactive enemy who gets a vote in combat.
Consequently the roll out of new approaches to execute a successful combat campaign being shaped by the impact of the F-35 is critical to understand.
The F-35 is at the heart of change for a very simple reason – it is a revolutionary platform, and when considered in terms of its fleet impact even more so. The F-35, Lightning II, has a revolutionary sensor fusion cockpit that makes it effective in AA, AG and EW. Allied and U.S. combat pilots will evolve and share new tactics and training, and over time this will drive changes that leaders must make for effective command and control to fight future battles.
An issue has been that the F-35 has been labeled a “fifth generation” aircraft, a sensible demarcation when the F-22 was being introduced. But the evolution of the combat systems on the aircraft, the role of the fusion engine, and the impact of a fleet of integrated F-35s operating as a foundational element will make the current term “5th Gen” obsolete.
The global fleet of F-35s will be the first generation for building a foundation for a fundamental change in the way air power operates in overall combat concepts of operations. It is not in and of itself a single aircraft platform; it is about what an integrated fleet of F-35s can deliver to TRANSFORM everything. The decade ahead will be very innovative if what the fleet brings to the fight is learned and applied. Combat warriors, at all ranks, can leverage what they learn and then apply those lessons to reshaping the force over and over.