F-35 Fighter: Defining Air Dominance in the 21st Century
Suppliers Struggle To Match Demand
In a month filled with accomplishments and new orders, the F-35 fighter continues to solidify its status as the most sought-after tactical aircraft in the world.
With Greece expressing interest in purchasing 20, and potentially double that number, and the Czech Republic looking to acquire 24, it’s clear that the F-35 is in high demand. Productions lines struggle to match demand, Air and Space Forces magazine reported.
South Korea also announced plans to increase its fleet size by 50%, bringing their total to 60 aircraft. These developments come on the heels of the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin reaching an agreement on the next three production lots of F-35, with a goal of purchasing 375 fighters in three different versions for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners.
As F-35 pilots, who now number more than 1,700, continue to accumulate flight hours, they have been involved in various training and operational missions. In the Baltic region, F-35s from Estonia have supported regional air defense, while in the Mediterranean, they have trained alongside Greece’s air force.
In Northeast Asia, joint exercises have taken place with South Korea’s F-35s. Elsewhere in the Pacific, sea-based F-35s participated in Pacific Rim exercises off Hawaii. Additionally, Australia has opened the first full-service F-35 engine depot in the Indo-Pacific, to support the 100 F-35s they are acquiring, as well as those of Japan, South Korea, and U.S. services operating in the region.
With over 830 fighters already delivered and plans to acquire thousands more, the F-35 is poised to shape air dominance well into the future. The U.S. alone intends to purchase 2,456 F-35s, and the Pentagon plans to operate them until 2070.
Plans are underway to upgrade the technology in order to maintain superiority over adversaries. Even without these upgrades, the F-35 outperforms other fighters in the U.S. fleet. In exercises, it consistently defeats adversary aircraft by a 20-to-1 margin, and it is more versatile and easier to maintain. It is even considered the most reliable tactical aircraft in the joint fleet, according to some measures.
However, success for the F-35 was not always guaranteed. The program was initially developed during the early years of the Clinton Administration, when there was a lack of urgency to invest in military technology following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In an effort to reduce spending on new fighter aircraft, the F-35 was burdened with numerous performance requirements.
It had to be stealthy, provide unmatched situational awareness to pilots, collect and process vast amounts of intelligence, integrate seamlessly with other military aircraft, and meet the unique needs of three different military services. On top of all this, it had to be affordable, breaking the trend of escalating costs with each new generation of fighters.
Despite these challenges, the F-35 has exceeded expectations and has become the benchmark for air dominance in the 21st century.
With ongoing orders and an increase in fleet size by international partners, the F-35 is poised to cement its status as the fighter that friends desire and enemies fear.