Video Above: Patriot Interceptor Missiles & F-35s Could Defend NATOs Eastern Flank Together
US Air Force F-35 5th-generation stealth aircraft are now seeking to keep Russian forces at bay with ongoing “Enhanced Air Policing” in high value areas such as the Baltics & Black Sea.
An interesting Air Force TV news report said eight new F-35As from the Vermont Air National Guard have been sent to NATO’s Eastern Flank for readiness and deterrence missions to include security operations and policing
“Rotating units maintains readiness across the force,” the Air Force TV report says.
Russian Military Held in Check
The abilities of the F-35, along with the fact that US Air Force 5th-generation jets greatly outnumber those operated by Russia, may be a large reason why Putin has been careful not to actually “confront” NATO. Certainly Putin’s rhetoric continues to be extremely hostile, threatening and inflammatory, yet thus far the Russian military has held itself in check when it comes to attacking NATO. Could the F-35 be a large part of this? It would make sense if it was.
Russia operates a large ground Army and sizeable arsenal of short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles, and could pose a significant threat to ground forces operating along NATO’s Eastern Flank, despite the questionable performance of the Russian Army thus far. Even considering its struggles and failures in Ukraine, the Russian Army does still operate a large amount of firepower, a fact often discussed by the Pentagon. A US-NATO-Russia ground confrontation would likely prove extremely costly, dangerous and ill advised, even if NATO forces are likely to prevail.
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Establishing Air Superiority, however, is an entirely different matter it seems. An ability to dominate the air would give NATO an ability to destroy advancing Russian armored units from the air, and there seem to be several variables informing why NATO’s 5th-generation air fleet would quickly achieve air superiority.
Russia’s fighter jet force is largely 4th-Generation fighters and a handful of emerging Su-57 5th-generation jets. Russian news reports in TASS say that there are plans currently underway to acquire 70-more Su-57s, any 5th-generation force size the Russian Air Force could put together would be massively outnumbered by a US fleet of several hundred F-35s. Even if the Russian Su-57 were comparable in some way to the F-35, and there is no assurance that it is, the sheer number of networked US and NATO F-35s in position to attack would likely overwhelm Russian air forces.
Video Above: With a Seemingly Massive Fighter Jet Advantage, Russia Can't Achieve Air Superiority over Ukraine
Sun Tzu’s famous “mass matters” concept seems applicable and relevant here, particularly with respect to the F-35 given that they are networked to one another with a secure Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL). F-35s operating together in formation can therefore cover a wider envelope, quickly share intelligence and targeting information and perform attack and surveillance missions simultaneously. A larger number of F-35s, and F-22s as well, would be much better positioned to overcome Russian air defenses as part of a rapid effort to establish air superiority.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and 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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.