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Video Above: Air War 2050: 5th & 6th Gen Stealth Fighter Attacks to Continue

By Kris Osborn, President, Center for Military Modernization

(Washington D.C.) Japan’s massive, multi-billion F-35 acquisition seems to be a development of enormous consequence when it comes to the question of deterring China or destroying any kind of fast-evolving People’s Liberation Army Navy attack on Taiwan.

The large Japanese buy, put in place earlier this year, will place large numbers of F-35Bs and F-35As within striking range of waters near Taiwan. These aircraft, particularly when combined with or networked to forward positioned US F-35s launching from amphibs or carriers, could “mass” a 5th-generation force of great consequence in the event of an attempted Chinese takeover.

Video Above: Air War 2050: 5th & 6th Gen Stealth Fighter Attacks to Continue

Indeed 5th-generation aircraft may be the best deterrent when it comes to China, given that F-35s from any country are engineered to quickly integrate with F-35s from another in a seamless, secure and interoperable way through the aircraft’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL). Large numbers of available Japanese F-35s, therefore, could instantly operate in several key respects as though they were part of a US force in the air.

F-35 Japan

F-35 Japan

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These factors are likely part of the reason why the US has now forward positioned 18 F-35s for training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Us and Japanese forces will soon be conducting extensive drills, war preparations and maritime-combat exercises to ensure readiness in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Interestingly, a report from the Air Force’s Indo Pacific Command was clear that the F-35 deployments indicate a “readiness to fulfill US obligations “under the mutual security treaty to defend Japan.”

The Air Force Indo-Pacific Command’s essay said the F-35s could be participating in a Agile Combat Employment, a series of training exercises intended to refine, strengthen and solidify existing tactics, techniques and procedures fundamental to any military operation in the region.

Video Above: Colonel Michael Stefanovic, Director of the Strategic Studies Institute for the Air Force sits down for an exclusive interview with Kris Osborn

“ACE is a scheme of maneuver to increase survivability and continue to generate combat power despite enemy attacks on forward airfields. These tactics complicate enemy targeting and enhance flexibility for friendly forces,” the Air Force report states

Much of the planned ACE collaborative training includes a multi-domain focus, as the Air Force F-35As will be operating alongside US Marine Corps ship-based F-35Bs.

“While here, the 354th AEW will integrate with U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Force to strengthen partnerships and enhance joint capabilities,” the Indo Pacific-Command paper said.

This kind of air-surface synergy would be of extreme value in any kind of military engagement in the Pacific, because while an America-class amphibious assault ship can operate as many as 13 F-35Bs, an ability to reinforce a maritime presence of 5th-generation platforms with land-launched F-35s would offer a combat multiplying for both US and Japanese forces. Using the well-known F-35 Multifunction Advanced Data Link, Japanese and US air and surface F-35s could coordinate missions, share data in real time and enable unprecedented attack interoperability.

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris