Recently the Air Force ran its Red Flag 17-1 exercise and for the first time the F-35 took part.
The upshot as I read it is this. The F-35 is a stealth strike aircraft, with unparalleled ability to hide while giving a God’s eye view to ALL American and allied pilots in the real time data network with the F-35, giving overwhelming advantage to the ‘BLUE’ forces.
The F-35 is a sensor and networking platform. In order to yield this advantage it needs tankers (KC-135s, KC-10s, and KC-46s and F-18’s configured as tankers), AEW (the E-3 AWACS and Navy’s E2D Advanced Hawkeye and P-8 Poseidon, and I will guess the Global Hawk and it’s maritime derivative), and strong air superiority backup, the F-22, F-15, and F-18.
Sooner or later the F-35 is going to get into a visual range fight with an enemy 4th or 4++ gen fighter, or even the J-20, 31, or PAKFA-50 and will be in real trouble if alone.
The Air Force, caught short when the Obama admin cancelled the F-22 program at 189 out of 749 aircraft (there are/were 751 dedicated air superiority F-15A’s and B’s at that time) has now announced they are going ahead with a rather novel upgrade for 400+ F-15 C and D’s, so that each can carry SIXTEEN air to air missiles, and be equipped new new much more powerful and versatile phased array radars and the world’s fastest airborne CPU’s.
Thus the arsenal force of F-15’s can, I suppose, linger back and fire their huge load of missiles with data from the invisible F-35’s which are all linking the F-22, AEW, Drone and all F-35 sensor info.
I’d love to know what the plans are to make safe the AWACs, and tankers without which the entire strategic idea (which sounds pretty complex, which is usually BAD) is an #EPICFAIL