At a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies conference, US Air Force General and Chief of Staff
David L. Goldfein laid out how the US would use F-35s to fight against high-end threats like China’s J-31 or J-20 — and he made it clear that the F-35 could dominate.
At the conference where Goldfein touched on everything from space assets, to nuclear deterrence, to budgeting, a reporter from a Hong Kong publication and a reporter from a Japanese publication both asked questions about the F-35’s role in the Pacific, where China has increasingly wielded its military might.
Asked specifically how the F-35 stacks up to China’s J-31, Goldfein balked.
“I hope over time we can actually evolve our discussion from platform vs. platform … to a network vs. network,” said Goldfein, who denied that a single Chinese jet would ever face off against a single US jet.
“It’s not about what the F-35, or the J-20, or the F-22, or the J-31 can actually do in a one vs. one. It’s an interesting dialogue to have, but it’s not very compelling because we’re not going to ever have the F-35 in there by itself — ever. We do family of systems,” said Goldfein.
Asked more generally about how the F-35 would perform in the Pacific, Goldfein gave an example of how an F-35B led 100 aircraft into battle at 2 a.m. at Red Flag, the Air Force’s top-tier training event at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
According to Goldfein, the battle doesn’t start when planes see or detect each other as they did in generations past.
“The cyber campaign had been raging … The space campaign has been raging” before the F-35 even gets into position, and the pilot is tuned into every development along the way.
By the time the F-35 pushes across the line and meets “the most robust enemy integrated air defence system we could put up against him,” the F-35 has absolutely unparalleled situational awareness, and is primed to shape the fight to his liking from the outset, according to Goldfein.
The F-35 can manoeuvre forces against high-value targets, coordinate search-and-rescue for downed aircraft, and slam enemy air defences all at once.
“He’s calling audibles as the quarterback of the entire joint force based on the displays he’s got in his cockpit and the fusion of information that he’s getting from both in his cockpit and every other aspect of the network — that’s the F-35.”
At Red Flag, the F-35 absolutely slaughtered the competition, achieving a 15-1 kill ratio on other planes and elevating every single squadron it worked with.
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