Understanding the “z-axis” that the authors of the Joint Forces Quarterly article “The F-35 and the Future of Power Projection” explain leads them to this conclusion as it concerns the deployment of the 5th generation fighter:
By building on the F-35 and leveraging its capabilities, the United States and its allies can build the next phase of power projection within affordable limits. U.S. forces need to become more agile, flexible, and global in order to work with allies and partners to deal with evolving global realities. Protecting access points (the global conveyer of goods and services), ensuring an ability to work with global partners in having access to commodities, shaping insertion forces that can pursue terrorist elements wherever necessary, and partnering with global players all require a reinforced maritime and air capability. This is thus a priority for all Services in the reconfiguring effort. Balanced force structure reduction makes no sense because the force structure was redesigned for land wars that the Nation will not take on in the decade ahead. The U.S. Army can be recast by the overall effort to shape new power projection capabilities and competencies.
Retiring older Service systems, which are logistical money hogs and high maintenance, can shape affordability. Core new systems can be leveraged to shape a pull rather than a push transition strategy. Fortunately, the country is already building these new systems and is in a position to shape an effective transition to a more affordable power projection capability. At the heart of the approach is to move from the platform-centric focus, where the cost of a new product is considered the debate point, to the inherent value of new systems and their ability to be conjoined. “No platform fights alone” is the mantra, and core recognition of how the new platforms work with one another to shape the collaborative concept of operations and capabilities is central to a strategic redesign of U.S. forces.
The primary point here is that with the adaptation of the new national strategy “Air-Sea Battle”, and the advent of such systems as the F-35, an entirely new approach to deployment and use of these assets has to be realized.
It also means the death-knell for the aging and now obsolete 4th generation fleet.
This “sea change” in strategy and capability will not only change the pilot culture, but the operational culture as well (see the author’s discussion of the Libya operation for a limited example). Systems like the F-35 bring unprecedented capabilities to the operations field that must be integrated fully and carefully to ensure maximum synergy is achieved. The F-35, for instance, promises a degree of interoperability with our allies that we’ve never even approached to this point. Add to that the capabilities of the aircraft’s sensor suite and suddenly numbers take a back seat to extensive capabilities.
The old culture that is indeed “platform-centric” in focus will have to be discarded and a new culture which maximizes the interoperability these new systems provide must take it’s place.
The entire focus of the new strategy is one of deterrence rather than war. The point is to put a force so capable in the field that any possible aggressor would understand that going to war would be both a long and costly endeavor. The F-35’s capabilities help make that case quite well. And unlike it’s critics, those nations which would likely face the US understand those capabilities and their promise all too well.