An Overview on the F-35 as a Flying Combat System


2016-10-12 In this video produced by Lockheed Martin, a video overview on the F-35 as a game changer is discussed.

It is the synergy of the F-35 with evolving combat approaches which is shaping and will shape  transformational capabilities.

As Rear Admiral Manazir, N-9 for the US Navy has put it:

“For instance, when we talk about the F-35 we are focused not simply on the platform but how that F-35 empowers and fits into the distributed networks or kill webs.

“It is the outcome and effect we are focused on.

“If we’re going to fight next to each other, the force (as an evolving distributed capability) has to understand how to employ their weapons systems, including how to best leverage the F-35, rather than just relying on the pilot that is flying the F-35 understanding what it can do.”

Or as Group Captain Ian Townsend from the Royal Air Force has put it with regard to the synergy between the new British carrier and the F-35:

“As an airman, I like anything that enhances my ability to deliver air power, and the ship certainly does that.

“The ship has been tailor-made from first principles to deliver F-35 operational output.

“The ship is part of the F35 air system.

I think this is the key change to where we were in Joint Force Harrier where the ship was really just a delivery vehicle.

“The ship was just a runway.

“The Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are much more than that.

“They are right at the heart of the air system’s capability fundamentally enabling and supporting what the air vehicle is doing three, or four, or five hundred miles away from the ship. 

“And that wasn’t quite the same in Joint Force Harrier with the Invincible Class CVS carriers.

“So it’s very different for us.

“Everyone involved in embarked F-35 operations needs to understand what the air vehicle is going off to do because everybody on the ship is much closer to that end delivery of effect.

“This is a very different concept of operations from 15 years ago.

“When I launched from the CVS in 2005 to fly an operational misison in Afghanistan, once I left the deck, I was gone.

“The next contact I would have with the ship was when I called for recovery, several hours later.

“Whilst I was airborne the ship and I became very separate operational platforms.

“When a UK Lightning launches from the QUEEN ELIZABETH, the information link between the air vehicle and the ship now means that they remain connected during the operation greatly enhancing operational capability.

“In terms of being an information node or a C2 node, we’re in a much different place now.

“And I think that’s really quite interesting for us as air commanders in terms of our ability to control what is going on forward with the airplanes.

“I also think from a pilot’s perspective, being on the deck in my F-35, being able to see in my cockpit what is going on in the battle space, because my brothers in their F-35s already in the operational battlespace have sent information back to me, I think that’s really exciting as well.

“We are no longer launching into the unknown.

“We can see what’s happening.

“We understand what we’re going off to go and do, but we can see the real-time situation in the battle space before we launch off the deck. 

“This is a significant operational benefit.”

Or as Air Commodore Kitcher, Director General of Capability Planning in the RAAF has put it:

“The F35 introduction’s is catalyst for significant change.

“Although the jets don’t arrive in Australia until the end of 2018, and IOC is not until the end of 2020, believe me, we are right in the middle of introducing the F-35A into service.

“In addition to personnel we have embedded in the overall F-35 program in the US, we have two RAAF aircraft and four instructors at Luke AFB. Our first cadre of dedicated F-35 maintainers and engineers departs for the US in Jan 17, and will be gaining the necessary experience so we can operate the F-35 in Australia from the end of 2018.

“Operating the F-35 will be one thing, but we also need to be able to sustain it, and the methods of sustaining the F-35 are also different to older platforms. 

“We have been planning for a while now, and these plans will continue to evolve, but I’m not sure our system fully understands that this significant transition is well and truly underway.

“You can keep flying legacy aircraft forever if you want to spend enough money on them, but they all reach a point where they will become capability irrelevant. 

“Our Classsic Hornets are doing a great job in the Middle East right now, and due to the raft of Hornet upgrades we have completed, remain amongst the most capable Classic  Hornets anywhere.

“However, they will reach a point in the near future, especially in the higher end fight, where their utility  will be significantly diminished.

“The F-35 brings 5th generation qualities which will allow for a significant expansion across a raft of ADF capabilities. Air Maritime, Land and most importantly joint.

In short, the F-35 is being introduced as the US and key allies are renorming air power.

As the then head of the Air Combat Command, General Hostage put it in an interview with us:

“You mean the Re-norming air operations if I were to steal a term?

“Well, I was fortunate to fly the airplane, I learned what I didn’t know.

“I was writing war plans in my previous job as a three star using the F-22s in a manner that was not going to get the most out of them that I could’ve because I didn’t truly understand the radical difference that the fifth gen could bring.

“People focus on stealth as the determining factor or delineator of the fifth generation, it isn’t, it’s fusion.  Fusion is what makes that platform so fundamentally different than anything else. And that’s why if anybody tries to tell you hey, I got a 4.5 airplane, a 4.8 airplane, don’t believe them.  All that they’re talking about is RCS (Radar Cross Section).

Fusion is the fundamental delineator.  

“And you’re not going to put fusion into a fourth gen airplane because their avionic suites are not set up to be a fused platform.  And fusion changes how you use the platform.

“What I figured out is I would tell my Raptors, I don’t want a single airplane firing a single piece of ordinance until every other fourth gen airplane is Winchester.  Because the SA right now that the fifth gen has is such a leveraging capability that I want my tactics set up to where my fourth gen expend their ordinance using the SA that the fifth gen provides, the fifth gen could then mop up, and then protect everybody coming in the next wave.

“It’s radically changing how we fight on the battlefield.

“We are fundamentally changing the tactical battlefield.  How a tactical platform operates with the fusion of fifth gen.

“What the aviators do is fundamentally different in a fifth gen platform versus fourth gen in the tactical fight.

“From an operational standpoint, there are some changes because there are now some things that we can do with fifth gen that I might not have been able to do before.

“But the fundamental mechanism of producing air superiority, to enable ground operations, to enable deep strike, to enable all these other things; those fundamental things, those tasks are the same.

“I have got the command embarked on a full-court press to get a fourth to fifth, fifth to fourth capability that will need a combat cloud to be fully empowered, but it will then allow us to fundamentally change how the fourth generation platforms fight in addition to the fifth gen.

“Without that back and forth communication, machine-to-machine, the fourth gen’s going to have to do what they already do, they’ll just leverage some of the capability that fifth gen — the SA the fifth gen can provide.

“If I can get that machine-to-machine, now the fourth gen platform will begin to realize some of the benefits inherently at the tactical level that the fusion engines of the fifth generation aircraft provide.”

Recently, The Cyber Brief interviewed the Marines leading expert on fifth generation aircraft, who is an F-22 and F-35 pilot among many other things.

Lt. Col. “Chip” Berke had these choice words for the F-35 critics:

The question of “Is it worth it?” has to be put into context. You can only determine the worth of this airplane if the capability is understood. If you want to define the capability along 4th generation standards and say it’s not worth the price of the program, that’s a pretty flawed argument to me.

For someone who is pretty familiar with the role and the impact of tactical aviation in a joint warfight – and I’ve been in combat in the F-18 numerous times – I’m very comfortable saying that the F-35 is a much more capable aircraft in terms of missions. It gives us a qualitative advantage, but more importantly, it has, inherent in its existence, an ability to adapt to missions we’re not even familiar with right now. It’s going to create an ecosystem, and it’s going to facilitate a whole host of other contributors to a network of warfighting information without which we would be at a huge disadvantage.

A lot of people either underestimate or misunderstand the actual capabilities of the F-35. It’s almost impossible to overstate how significant the emergence of this airplane is for the Marine Corps and the joint war force in general. Then you start to incorporate concepts like the F-35B and how expeditionary it is, and where it can operate. It can contribute to joint force missions and provide combatant commanders with a specialized aircraft that offers a persistent capability that may not represent 100 percent of what they need, but it’s available to them all the time.

It’s really difficult for me to say how good the airplane is because it’s so much better than anything we even thought of building, let alone have actually built. And part of the reason why it’s delayed is because the technology is so complex and what we’re asking it to do is so significant that it’s going to take some time and a little bit of patience, but ultimately, it’s in the hands of the war fighter now.

And that’s the best place for it to be because people that are using this to support Marines and to support the joint forces are going to figure out what they need out of it and what it can do.

And that’s part of the reason why the program is doing so well lately and why the news is getting better –  we’ve got it in the hands of the people that are going to use it.

I’ve always said this: the greatest advocates of the F-35 are the people closest to the program. The biggest skeptics and critics are the people farthest away from the program. The less you know about it, the less you understand it, and the more critical you are of it. If you ever hear someone pining away for the F-16 of 1979 or the F-18 of 1983 or the F-15 of the mid 70’s, you’re talking to a someone who’s so far behind the technology and what the airplane can do that to me, his criticisms are just totally unwarranted.

The people that know the most about the jet are the people who are the biggest advocates for it. And keep in mind these are people with experience in other airplanes and other warfighting assets. I didn’t grow up on the F-35.  I had three previous operational experiences with amazing airplanes prior to the Joint Strike Fighter. 

My opinion of the F-35 is vastly higher than that of anything else, and that’s just because I understand it.

For the full interview, see the following: