It's time to stop comparing the F-35 with other fifth generation fighters

Gen goldfeinScreen grab/PentagonUS Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein speaks during a Pentagon briefing on August 11, 2016.

On the heels of the Air Force’s decision to declare its F-35 variant ready for combat, the head of the sister-service branch was asked to compare America’s newest fighter jet to China’s J-20 on Wednesday.

“When I hear about an F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,”Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said during a Pentagon briefing.

“I would tell you that as a first generation low observable pilot who flew the F-117, that’s a more relevant comparison with first gen than fifth gen because the first generation low observable technology F-117 was a reasonable one for one comparison against a J-20 or other aircraft,” Gen. Goldfein said.

And while Lockheed Martin’s F-117 Nighthawk was arguably America’s first true stealth aircraft, it was a “single domain” and “a closed system,” Gen. Goldfein said.

“The F-35, now since you’re asking about it … starts talking in the network before the pilot even climbs the ladder. It starts comparing information, it starts placing symbology on the visor of the pilot. That symbology is replicated not only in the displays but across the network of everywhere it’s joined.”

Unlike any other fielded fighter jet, the F-35 can share what it sees in the battle space with counterparts, which creates a “family of systems.”

This thoMatt Cardy/Getty ImagesA F-35B aircraft approaches a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to re-fuel as it flies over the North Sea having taken off from RAF Fairford on July 1, 2016

“Fifth generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform, it’s about a family of systems and it’s about a network and that’s what gives us an asymmetric advantage,” Gen. Goldfein said.

“I think you’ll see us focusing far more on the family of systems and how we connect them together and far less on individual platforms.”

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