(Washington, D.C.) The British carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth reached a new milestone by exchanging F-35B airplanes with the USS America, a first in class high-tech U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship.
As a vertical take off and landing stealth fighter, the F-35B can take off from amphibs as it does not need a runway, something which brings new tactical advantages to joint warfare operations.
Instead of needing to exchange 5th-generation aircraft from carrier to carrier, the U.S. and UK can operate F-35s in tandem with one another to share target data and, perhaps most of all, massively increase interoperability between the two Naval forces.
A key immediate advantage to having this ability, apart from interoperability, is that it could enable multi-national dual-carrier operations and increase attack optempo. Of possibly even greater importance, it could introduce vastly expanded attack range options, removing the need for as many tankers to extend attacks and dwell time over targets.
One ship, such as the British carrier, could be positioned much farther away while a more heavily armed amphib operated closer to shore or an enemy force. F-35s could take off from one ship before landing on the other to refuel, re-arm and prepare for additional attacks.
Yet another thing we hear a lot about is that, despite the advent of long-range sensors, AI and other new technologies, Sun Tzu’s principle of “mass” still very much matters, according to modern war planners.
F-35 Air Power Doubles
This means that an amphibious attack could close in on enemy shores with more than twice the amount of 5th-gen F-35 air power to reinforce landing operations with Marines and Amphibious Assault Vehicles able to advance onto a beachhead for land attack.
Delivering air superiority, particularly across a wider geographical expanse enabled by greater numbers of F-35s, can bring an entirely new dimension to amphibious attack. More specifically, this could greatly support the current Navy strategy to operate in a more dispersed or disaggregated fashion to leverage unmanned systems, long-range sensing and networking and of course reduce vulnerability to incoming enemy fire.
Joint, multinational F-35 support, in greater numbers, could bring needed air superiority across a greatly dispersed amphibious attack force, thus favoring the prospects for success.
F-35 Increased Communications
There is also a communications advantage, something of crucial importance given how much NATO continues to work on multinational information sharing. The number of allied countries with F-35s, particularly the U.S. and UK in this case, enables stronger, more secure data sharing and networking between otherwise separated forces.
The F-35 operates with a common data link called Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), a technology which seamlessly connects all F-35s to one another in real time. This could enable cross fleet cooperative operations, target sharing and key communications as new intelligence information arrives during warfare.
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.