Friday, July 1, 2016

U.S. Air Force officials for the first time said publicly how they’re planning to use the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a war with China.
The bottom line: a lot needs to change in the way the Air Force uses its warplanes in battle. 
“If you put a fourth-[generation F-15 or F-16 fighter] in there, they’re gonna die,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, who is finishing up a tour at the Pentagon where he has been building the plans for integrating the F-35 throughout the Air Force. He and Col. Max Marosko, the deputy director for air and cyberspace operations at Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii, detail how the F-35 would be unleashed in a new report published Thursday by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
“In our minds, what this comes down to is the ability to kill and survive,” Harrigian said.
Air Force officials frequently talk about how the advanced technology on the F-35 and other jets will give it an edge on the battlefield, but this report offers an unprecedented detail from a senior officer of how the plane could be used in war.
In the fictitious war of 2026 they present, the enemy tries to jam radar and radio signals, allowing only stealthy planes like F-22 and F-35 fighters and B-2 and B-21 bombers to fly safely and strike targets, which are guarded by mobile surface-to-air missiles.
The Pentagon would spread its fighter jets around the Pacific in small numbers to military and civilian airfields, some as far as 1,000 miles from the battlefield, to prevent enemy ballistic and cruise missiles from delivering a devastating knock-out blow to a base. Today, the Pentagon tends to concentrate the majority of its planes at regional super bases.
“During the initial days of the conflict, F-35s occasionally return to their bases - only to discover several are heavily damaged from enemy missile attacks,” Harrigian and Marosko write, in their warplay. Those F-35s must divert to civilian airfields. By this time, the F-22 and F-35 won’t need air traffic controllers as their high-tech computers will guide them to runways, even in bad weather.
Older fighter jets, like F-15 and F-16 fighters, which are more easily spotted by enemy radars, must fly at greater distances from the battlefield, out of the range of deadly, long-range surface-to-air missiles.