NATO: For Russians, engaging an F-35 would be like fighting ‘an invisible Muhammad Ali’

An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501), flies near its base a MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. Lockheed Martin

NATIONAL HARBOUR, Maryland — When asked how the F-35 Lightning II would stack up against potential aggression from Moscow, NATO air chiefs said they are confident the fifth-generation jet would devalue Russian forces.

“What we are perfectly convinced of is the fact that when we do bring fifth-generation assets into the European region it is something that certainly serves as a deterrent,” Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told Business Insider.

“It forces the Russians to take a look at what we are doing and to realise that if they had to embrace us they might be in a position where they had to jump into a boxing ring and fight an invisible Muhammad Ali.”

Wolters comments, alongside Danish counterpart Maj. Gen. Max Nielsen and Dutch ally Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, came Monday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber conference.

“From our observations of their [Russian] activities in the area of command and control, they are extremely challenged. So our sense is, from a fifth generation standpoint that we would have great success,” Wolters said.

Luyt, whose country was the second international partner to receive Lockheed Martin’s “jack of all trades” jet, highlighted the F-35’s asymmetric advantage over any other fielded jet.

The F-35 flies above the famous windmills of Kinderdijk. Photo courtesy the Netherlands Ministry of Defence

“The unparalleled situational awareness in a platform like the F-35 brings to the fight I think something that any opponent would regard as a force to be reckoned with,” Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, told Business Insider.

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

During his opening remarks at the AFA conference, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein called NATO’s air command “the strongest alliance on the planet.”

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