Wednesday, September 18, 2013

F-35: A look into the future

Rebecca Grant has an article in "The Hill" which brings out some important points about the F-35 that are often neglected or ignored by the critics.  But she first quotes USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh:
“Whether you are competing against a single airplane or competing against a system on the ground, [the F-35] allows us to operate in places we could not before and complete the mission we’ve been assigned,” says General Mark Welsh, who should know. He flew combat missions in Operation Desert Storm and is now Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, says of the F-35: “we need its stealth, we need the advanced electronic warfare sensors, the weapons and perhaps more importantly, the command and control capability that this aircraft brings.”
Consider this scenario:
You are flying combat air patrol near the South China Sea in the 2020s. Suddenly your GPS goes out. Your favorite datalink to other aircraft and ships floods with confusing signals. Your cockpit radar is a grey blur. The air operations center drops offline in a cyber attack.

You are experiencing a first-wave information attack, probably by China.

A RAND report warned China’s military is on track to be far more sophisticated than the Soviet Union ever was. Chinese military doctrine promotes a broad information warfare assault that could yank away traditional American advantages. Cyberspace attacks are part of that, but expect megawatt power jamming, fried satellite communications and disruption of sensors, networks and command and control also. China’s information warfare strategy aims to blind and confuse, stripping U.S. forces of the tremendous information advantage they’ve enjoyed for so long.

Only the F-35 can deal with all of this.

F-16s and F-18s and all the other 1970s-design fighters are marvelous aircraft, but they don’t bring enough advantages to cope with the problems from here on out. Back to you, in the future cockpit. What you need is the F-35’s mix of electronic warfare capability, sensors in the infrared, protected communications and in-flight data links that can’t be hijacked, and other tools to comb through the haze that adversaries will throw at you.
And that is the critical point so many critics want to brush past with their "upgrade cheap '70s era aircraft" argument.  With the technology being developed by ourselves and our potential adversaries, future combat will not at all be the same as what we have experienced to date.  The scenario outlined here is not only probable, but likely should we ever have to go to war with China.  '70s era aircraft are not going to be up to the task.

Certainly if we were the only power in the world developing advanced technology, an argument could be made for the critic's choice - at least for a while.   But we're not.  We know Russia and China are developing 5th generation aircraft.  We also know that China is hip deep in developing an advanced cyber-warfare capability.  Budget-wise, we are indeed in an era where it might seem to be "penny wise" to cut this program - at least in the short run.  But in the long run, we would find out, in a most horrifying way, that it was extraordinarily"pound foolish" to do so.  


No comments:

Post a Comment